“All I really need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt!” –Lucy Van Pelt (from Peanuts) I bring this up today on the day of the year that focuses on “love” more than anything else: St. Valentine’s Day. You can usually tell when the day is drawing near even without the benefit of a calendar–just check out the sweat accumulating on the brow of most married men who are clueless about what they are going to do for the big day. It’s truly a Maalox moment for a Hallmark day. The truth is, most people have no idea what they are celebrating when they talk of St. Valentine’s Day. In fact, there is lots of confusion about the history of the holiday itself. We do know that there were two early Christian martyrs–both named Valentine–who were killed in Rome, supposedly on Feb. 14. In AD 496, Pope Galasius I named Feb. 14 as St. Valentine’s Day.
Actually, like many other “Christian” holidays, Valentine’s Day was probably a replacement for a pagan festival already in place on that date; it was called Lupercalia. That festival was intended to ensure protection from wolves. During the celebration, young men struck people with strips of animal hide. Women took the blows because they thought that the whipping made them more fertile. Now that’s romantic!
So in 15 centuries, we’ve moved from that…..to this. Obligatory cards, flowers, candy, dinner reservations, and romantic weekend getaways, all for a price. I think some of us would just as well go back to the Lupercalia festival and make sure we keep the wolves away. Except for that part about the fertility. The point here is–and yes, there is a point–that we shouldn’t have to have a special day to celebrate and remember the love we have for one another, either sweetheart-to-sweetheart, or Christian-to-Christian. Jesus even said that it would be love that would be the distinguishing mark of His followers. “They will know you are My disciples by your love for one another,” He said. Well, do they? May I suggest that in all of your Valentine’s celebrations (and yes, guys, it’s time to start preparing!), you remember first how Jesus showed love, and that was by giving of Himself. That’s what real love is all about. So, have a blessed, love-filled St. Valentine’s Day–and the other 364 days of the year as well. I’m praying for you, and I look forward to seeing you Sunday.