Passing around cards, heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, little boxes of “conversation hearts” candies and flowers, particularly red roses, is older than I am. The date we celebrate each year, February 14th, was to commemorate Valentine, a Third Century Christian clergyman martyred by the Emperor. Whether one disciple of Jesus, or others so named, stories that he was performing weddings, or serving the persecuted, or helping imprisoned Christians to escape, the Emperor was murdering the clergy. While history is a little murky, by the Fifth Century, Emperor Constantine had ended persecution of Christians. One of the first Popes, Gelasius, may have declared a remembrance of Saint Valentine on the day we now know, to replace an outlawed though popular pagan festival which sacrificed dogs and goats. That festival, Luperci, remembered the mythical founding of Rome by Romulus and Remus, children nursed by wolves. It seems to have been an original “free love” dating excuse. Bloody strips of hide from the animals was then used like a lottery by single men to mark a candidate for matchmaking. Associating romance with Valentine’s Day, for the modern world does not seem to be that much of a stretch over the following fifteen hundred years. Thankfully, dogs, goats, and the confection industry thank you for your calorie-earning (and burning) expressions of true love this and every Valentine’s Day.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4 - 8
This Sunday, I’d like to harken back to the Jesus that the original Valentine, circa 270 AD lived out. If we all remember that we should love our neighbor as ourselves, the world will be a whole lot better.