R4E130809 – Valentine’s Day (Special Days Study Lesson) by Douglas Jacoby
Each month in this series examines one special day or holiday. For February, naturally the day is Valentine’s Day.
Where does Valentine’s Day come from? Why is it sometimes called “St.” Valentine’s Day? Is it okay for Christians to take part on February 14th?
- As there emerged a widening gap between “clergy” and “laity,” between believers who in time of persecution compromised and those who stood their ground, especially virtuous or courageous Christians were honored with the title “saint” (even though in the N.T. we see that all Christians are saints — e.g. Ephesians 1:1).
- There is a multitude of saints in medieval Christianity.
- St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals and ecology (late 12th and early 13th century)
- St. Elmo (Erasmus Formiae), patron saint of sailors, martyred in 303 AD.
- St. Patrick (hear the podcast on this eminent saint, whose day is 17 March). You will learn that he was neither Catholic nor Irish…
- St. Teresa of Avila, Spanish mystic of the Counter Reformation.
- St. Rufus, St. Catherine, St. Joseph, and thousands more…
- Three St. Valentines
- Valentine (Rome), martyred 269 AD, buried 14 February.
- Valentine (Termi), martyred 197 AD.
- Valentine (Africa), little else known.
- Their relics may be found in France, Scotland, Britain, Ireland, and Austria!
- Typical source for these stories: Golden Legend (c.1260 AD)
- Saint legends for every day of the year
- St. Valentine refused to deny Christ before Claudius, 280 AD. Before decapitated, restored sight and hearing to daughter of his jailer.
Observation of the day
- Ancient Roman celebrations
- Lupercalia: fertility rites, 13-15 February
- Juno Februa: Juno the chaste, 13-14 February
- Many ancient pagan celebrations were “baptized” to become Christian events.
- Medieval Christian tradition
- Established by the Pope in 496 AD.
- Removed from official celebrations in 1969, though still considered a saint.
- Orthodox: July 6 and July 30 (two different Valentines, though saint name days are still 14 February).
- Modern times
- Paper valentines become common in 19th century, eventually replacing hand-made cards.
- Valentine’s Day becomes a major commercial event in the U.S. after 1950.
- Banned in such nations as Iran and Saudi Arabia for its Christian connections.
- Famous second-century heretic, Valentinus (or Valentinius), father of the Valentinians. Hardly a saint, as he was a Gnostic and false teacher.
- Valentine’s Day Massacre: Southside Italians under Al Capone v. Northside Irish under Bugs Moran. A day of bloody gangland executions, on 14 February 1929.
Is it okay for Christians to take part in Valentine’s Day?
- The day undoubtedly has pagan origins.
- But then so do all 7 days of our week, as well as Christmas and many other special Christian days.
- It seems this is a matter of opinion (Romans 14-15).
- As long as there is no idolatry or licentiousness, the custom is morally neutral.
- Admittedly, this is hardly the case among most who celebrate the day, for the standards of the world are not the standards of our Lord.
- We need to be careful not to pressure others to “go with the flow” of the world, since sexual sin is not far from many celebrations of Valentine’s Day. Yet the same could be said of many birthday celebrations, parties, and so forth. We are not called to stop living in the world, but to live differently. Whatever we decide about Valentine’s Day, we must remember Jesus’ words. We may be in the world, but we are not to be of the world (John 17:14-19).
- Christians are under no obligation to observe the day, though if you want to do something special for your sweetheart, by all means….