Valentine's Day is an American phenomenon which has grown in Australia over recent years, but the origins of the day are obscure, as is its relationship to St Valentine, who was actually two different people who were martyred at different times in church history. One story I read has it that the 3rd Century St Valentine was martyred for disobeying an edict from Emperor Claudius II to not marry anyone during wartime (so that young soldiers would not be distracted).
Another stream of thought is that Valentine's Day is linked to an early European belief that the second week of February was when birds begin to mate, and lovers were encouraged to exchange notes and gifts on February 14 in line with what nature practiced.
A third notion stems from Roman culture, in which Gamelion was called the month of marriage (ending in mid-Feb) and it ended with a celebration of the marriage of Zeus and Hera. This also marked the end of the year and a time of preparation for the new. The word "February" is derived from a word meaning purification, so abstinence was the order of the day until the Ides of February.
Another legend has it that a persecuted Valentine (the later martyr) had secret correspondence to which he signed his name "your Valentine".
All this demonstrates how history can be used to justify the present.
And yet there is a truth about Valentine's Day that we do well to heed. If we take a moment to remember people special to us, and express our appreciation, if we speak words of encouragement that we would otherwise forget, if we do something for another to make them feel special - without any thought of receiving in return, we are sharing the love of God. As the bible (1 John) reminds us: "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for others." And, "God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him." This is not romantic, trivial, mushy love, but an expression of great commitment. That is the love that we share this - and every - day.
February 14, 1999