So, where are you going for Valentine’s Day? For those of you who are stumped, trying to come up with a unique way to celebrate it, why not come to church for our Ash Wednesday services?
That’s right – this year St. Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday are on the same day, so this gives you the perfect opportunity to show your honey how much you love them by sharing a romantic meal of soup and bread? Oh, and of course come to the noon or 7 pm service where you will get ashes and Holy Communion too! Think of the ashes that form the sign of the cross on your forehead as God’s ultimate Valentine card to you. They’ll remind you of why, in your baptism when the cross was first signed on your forehead, God said to each of us forever, “Be Mine!”
Now, for those of you who enjoy history, here’s why it actually makes total sense that these two holidays are on the same day:
First, St. Valentine was in fact a real person, a bishop of Terni, an important town in Umbria in central Italy in the third century. Valentinus (his Latin name) was under house arrest, being guarded by Judge Asterius. They were discussing faith, and Valentinus tried to persuade him to believe in Christ. Asterius said he would if Valentinus could restore his blind daughter’s sight. Valentinus prayed and God restored her sight. This led to the judge and his household being baptized.
The judge released him, but Valentinus was later arrested because he continued to evangelize. The Emperor Claudius Gothicus (Claudius II) condemned Valentinus to death because of his evangelizing. He offered Valentinus a chance to renounce his faith or else be beaten to death and beheaded. Valentine refused, and so he was martyred on February 14, 269.
So as you can see, from the very start, Valentine’s day had a lot to do with death. The connection with love actually came much later, in the Middle Ages, when legends began to pop up about him. One legend recounts that before his execution, Valentinus wrote a letter to the judge’s daughter, the one he healed, and signed it, “from your Valentine.” Hence the greeting card industry was born. Another legend, based in the fact that Valentinus supported persecuted Christians in Rome, is that one of the things he did was to secretly perform Christian weddings. This allowed the husbands to avoid conscription into the pagan army. Of course, Claudius II wouldn’t have liked having fewer soldiers, so this contributed to Valentine’s death sentence. But Valentinus wished to remind these husbands that their real allegiance was to their marital vows and to God’s love, and to do that he cut hearts from parchment and gave them to these couples.
So, come to church on Valentine’s Day. The ashes on your forehead will remind you of why, in your baptism when the cross was first signed on your forehead, God said to each of us forever, “Be Mine!”