Valentine's Day: An Invitation To Non-Violence and Loving Our Enemies
Valentine’s Day is a beautiful day to stop and be intentional about showing love. Nothing says “I love you” more than a box of stale chocolates and a well selected card from Hallmark, right? Here in Detroit we show our undying love by doing a 5k in our underwear hosted by “Cupid” himself. For most, Valentine’s Day is nothing to lose our heads over. There’s only one problem, Valentine’s Day is exactly a day to lose our heads over. It’s the day that we commemorate Saint Valentine who was beheaded for his confession of faith and commitment to love over war.
Saint Valentine is somewhat of an ambiguous figure. There’s a lot of legend around his martyrdom but, we aren’t exactly sure who he really even was. We know that he was in Rome during the reign of Claudius II and history shows us that Christians were under persecution during his lifetime. Saint Valentine in one of his many legends was attributed to restoring sight to the emperor’s blind daughter. This miracle allowed Valentine to walk free from his imprisonment. Upon his release he went after the very foundation of Rome, its military.
Valentine being a committed Christian was dedicated to peace and non-violence. In one of the most subversive displays he started marrying off Roman soldiers. This might not seem like a big deal today however, ancient Roman soldiers were not allowed to be married. Any lay historian will understand that the might of Rome was in its highly efficient and skilled military. Any acts to reduce that might would surely cost you something. In this case, it cost Saint Valentine his life.
In 269 AD the now famous Saint Valentine was arrested and sentenced to death for his crimes against the Roman Empire. Some legends even say that he tried to convert the Emperor himself to Christianity on the day of his arrest. While awaiting his execution our humble Saint wrote a note and signed it “Your Valentine”. That same day he was executed and joined the martyrs that had before him.
What can we learn from these stories surrounding this mysterious Saint Valentine?
At a time where war was the way of the world we see a Christian doing his part to rescue people from its horrors with love. Violence does not have the final say to those who reside in the Kingdom of God. Violence is a result of fear and the perfect love of God casts out fear. Saint Valentine was committed to the healing and restoration of the daughter of the one who placed him in chains. We can see that love is freeing when we extend it to our enemies. We are released from our imprisonments of our ego when we let go of our desire to be self-righteous instead of treat our enemies with kindness. Lastly, we see that love counts the cost and is committed to seeing life flourish where death is possible. Saint Valentine having been martyred for the sake of preserving love through the sacrament of marriage is incredible. Not only was a man spared from war but, imagine the lives that we conceived by those marriages? Truly, Valentine’s Day is a day to remember that love in its truest form is self-sacrificial.
May the next time that we sign “Your Valentine” be a moment of reverence. May we make it a reflection of a commitment to laying down our lives for others in the name of love. Amen.