Saturday, February 13, 2010
Valentine's Day is about much more than candy hearts, roses, and chocolates. The root of this romantic holyday is all about martyrs to the Christian faith. The stories have faded over the centuries, much now classed in the realm of legend rather than fact. However, the archeological discovery of a church in the Roman catacombs dedicated to Saint Valentine demonstrates that indeed a Saint Valentine existed in third century and was well-known enough to have a church dedicated to his memory.
Wikipedia tells us: "The name 'Valentine' (Priest Valentio) does not occur in the earliest list of Roman martyrs, compiled by the Chronographer of 354. The feast of St. Valentine was first established in 496 by Pope Gelasius I, who included Valentine among those '... whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose acts are known only to God.' As Gelasius implied, nothing was known, even then, about the lives of any of these martyrs. The Saint Valentine that appears in various martyrologies in connection with February 14 is described either as:
A priest in Rome,
A bishop of Interamna (modern Terni), or
A martyr in the Roman province of Africa.
The first representation of Saint Valentine appeared in the Nuremberg Chronicle, (1493); alongside the woodcut portrait of Valentine the text states that he was a Roman priest martyred during the reign of Claudius II, known as Claudius Gothicus. He was arrested and imprisoned upon being caught marrying Christian couples and otherwise aiding Christians who were at the time being persecuted by Claudius in Rome. Helping Christians at this time was considered a crime. Claudius took a liking to this prisoner -- until Valentinus tried to convert the Emperor -- whereupon this priest was condemned to death. He was beaten with clubs and stoned; when that didn't finish him, he was beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate. Various dates are given for the martyrdom or martyrdoms: 269, 270, or 273.
Another source relates, "But there is no doubt that one St. Valentine really did exist because archaeologists have extricated from the forgotten ruins, a Roman catacomb and a church dedicated to this saint."
So I wish you all a blessed memory of Saint Valentine on this coming day dedicated to romance and love, remembering that Christ indeed is the true Lover of Our Souls and loves us with an eternal, unchanging love that we can no nothing to increase or decrease. God loves us just the way we are, but, as Pastor Stephen reminds us often, He loves us too much to let us stay that way. The pilgrim pathway we travel has been trod hard by the footsteps of the saints who have preceeded us, and their histories can encourage us along the way.
Happy Saint Valentine's Day, all!