"For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life."
Over the last year things have been very different, and the way we have celebrated has had to be different too, not always being able to meet with friends or the people that we love, but we have been reminded how much we do love our loved ones. Even though we may still be apart we still can show that love, and February gives us a chance to do this.
February 14th is a day we can show how much we love someone. Many will send cards, chocolate, flowers, and gifts to show how much they love someone, all in the name of St. Valentine. But who is this mysterious saint? And why do we celebrate this holiday? The history of Valentine's Day and its patron saint is shrouded in mystery.
St. Valentine's Day, as we know it today, contains a mixture of both Christian and ancient Roman traditions. So, who was Saint Valentine and how did he become associated with this ancient practice? Today, the Roman Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine all of whom were martyred. And parts of their bodies seem to be in many different Churches around the world.
One legend says that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men, his crop of potential soldiers. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.
Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they were often beaten and tortured.
According to one legend, Valentine actually sent the first 'valentine' greeting himself. While in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young lady who may have been his jailor's daughter who visited him during his imprisonment. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed 'From your Valentine,' which is how many cards are still signed today. The truth behind the Valentine legends are murky, the stories certainly emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and even a romantic figure, by the Middle Ages, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England and France.
However, we view the stories of St Valentine, the stories all have the common theme of sacrifice and love running through them. This reminds us of the narrative of Christ's journey to the cross, the love of God to send his Son to be sacrificed for us on the Cross. God has intervened through out human history, and this was the greatest.
As a human race God has given us freewill to do and think what we want, but God is always there guiding and sustaining. God shows this and his Love by the sacrifice of his Son, just as St Valentine was prepared to sacrifice himself for the love of others, truly living in the way of Christ.
Rev'd Robert Sheard
United Reformed Church Minister of Stowmarket, Debenham, Stowupland, Mendlesham & Haughley