Summary: Well today is Valentines Day. And tonight we will have a valentine's banquet. But just where does this holiday come from?
Well today is Valentines Day. And tonight we will have a valentine’s banquet. But just where does this holiday come from? Well I am glad you asked.
It is widely believed that Valentine’s Day, originated as a liturgical feast to celebrate the decapitation of a third-century Christian martyr, or perhaps two. So, how did we get from beheading to betrothing on Valentine’s Day?
Ancient sources reveal that there were several St. Valentines who died on Feb. 14. Two of them were executed during the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius Gothicus in 269-270 A.D., at a time when persecution of Christians was common. We know this because of the study done by the Belgian monks known as the Bollandists.
Here is what they have found. The earliest Valentinus is said to have died in Africa, along with 24 soldiers. Unfortunately, even the Bollandists could not find any more information about him. As the monks knew, sometimes all that the saints left behind was a name and day of death.
We know only a little more about the other two Valentines.
According to a late medieval legend reprinted in the “Acta,” a Roman priest named Valentinus was arrested during the reign of Emperor Gothicus and put into the custody of an aristocrat named Asterius.
As the story goes, Asterius made the mistake of letting the preacher talk. Father Valentinus went on and on about Christ leading pagans out of the shadow of darkness and into the light of truth and salvation. Asterius made a bargain with Valentinus: If the Christian could cure Asterius’s foster-daughter of blindness, he would convert. Valentinus put his hands over the girl’s eyes and chanted: “Lord Jesus Christ, en-lighten your handmaid, because you are God, the True Light.”
And just like that the child could see. Asterius and his whole family were baptized. But when Emperor Gothicus heard the news, he ordered them all to be executed.
But Valentinus was the only one to be beheaded. A pious widow, though, made off with his body and had it buried at the site of his martyrdom on the Via Flaminia, the ancient highway stretching from Rome to present-day Rimini. Later, a chapel was built over the saint’s remains.
The third third-century Valentinus was a bishop of Terni in the province of Umbria, Italy.
Much like our earlier Valentinus we saw he also got into a situation like the other Valentinus by debating a potential convert and afterward healing his son. The rest of story is quite similar as well: He too, was beheaded on the orders of Emperor Gothicus and his body buried along the Via Flaminia.
So as you can see weather it was the African, Roman or Umbrian, none of the Valentines seems to have been a romantic. So how did we end up celebrating a day of love and happiness?
So how did end up being about gushy mushy love. Well if you ever took English lit you would find the answer in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.
It was he who decreed the February feast of St. Valentinus to the mating of birds. He wrote in his “Parlement of Foules”: “For this was on seynt Volantynys day. Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.” It seems that, in Chaucer’s day, English birds paired off to produce eggs in February.
It wasn’t long after that the European nobility began sending love notes during bird-mating season. For example, the French Duke of Orléans, who spent some years as a prisoner in the Tower of London, wrote to his wife in February 1415 that he was “already sick of love” (by which he meant lovesick.) And he called her his “very gentle Valentine.”
English audiences embraced the idea of February mating. Shakespeare’s love struck Ophelia spoke of herself as Hamlet’s Valentine.
Now there is also the story that St. Valentine says "remind Christians of God's love and to encourage them to remain faithful Christians," Saint Valentine is said to have cut hearts from parchment, giving them to the soldiers and persecuted Christians, a possible origin of the widespread use of hearts on Saint Valentine's Day.
In the following centuries, Englishmen and women began using Feb. 14 as an excuse to pen verses to the ones they loved. Industrialization made it easier with mass-produced illustrated cards with poems of love. Then along came Cadbury, Hershey’s, and other chocolate manufacturers marketing sweets for one’s sweetheart on Valentine’s Day. And there we are today.
But today let us look at love from a Biblical view. There are so many passages of scripture that we could choose from but this morning our text will come from 1 John 4:19. It is very short but full of so meaning that we have to look at it. Again our test will come from 1 John 4:19. If you have your bibles please turn there and in a moment we will look at it.