Monday, February 14, 2011

From Your Valentine

"No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends."

~ John 15:13

With so many commemorative days on our calendars, it is only fair to set aside a day to celebrate LOVE. We are all seeking love because it is part of our purpose of life.

All Kinds of Love

There are basically three types of love: love of parents (vertical), love of brothers and sister (horizontal), and children’s love (vertical). And then there is romantic love (horizontal), the love between spouses, lovers, and friends.

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."
~ 1 Corinthians 13:4

When I was researching the history of Valentine’s Day  I came across some interesting stories. Some are historical, some are more legendary, but one of them intrigued me.

Story of St. Valentine

One legend tells of a priest named Valentine who lived in the 3rd century A.D. He was jailed because he married young people against the wishes of the Roman Emperor Claudius II. While the ruler was gathering large armies of young men to fight conquering battles in Northern Europe and Asia, he decided to outlaw marriage in the country. It was his idea that the single men could be more focused on fighting the war rather than their romantic pursues. Everyone was opposed to this decree but didn’t dare to protest against the mighty Emperor. Priest Valentine did not agree with these orders either, and continued to marry young couples in secret. That went on for a while, but finally his doing was discovered. He was thrown in jail for his defiance and ordered to be put to death.

While waiting for his sentence, he befriended the daughter of his jailer, Asterius. The daughter was blind, and her father had heard that Valentine had performed miracles. The daughter was very kind and visited often. They became good friends and may have even fallen in love. Just before Valentine’s execution she experienced a healing and regained her eyesight. Asterius was so grateful for the gift of sight for his daughter that he spoke highly to the Emperor about Valentine. Claudius may have pardoned him was is not for the priest’s efforts to defend his faith and even trying to convert the ruler. He left a letter with the guards, signed “From Your Valentine.” The day of the execution was February 14, 269 A.D. and ever since, people have remembered him as the saint of love.

Tradition of Valentine’s Cards

The holiday evolved over the centuries. By the 18th century, it became popular in England to make cards and send small gifts to loved ones. By 1850, a woman named Esther Howland, started printing and selling Valentine cards on a larger scale.

According to the card industry, 25% of all cards are sent on Valentine’s Day, second only to Christmas cards.

What about Cupid?

In Roman mythology, Cupid  is the god of desire, affection and erotic love. He was the son of Mercury and Venus. Nobody knows when the boy with the bow and arrow (representing desire and the emotion of love) first entered into the Valentine’s tradition. Cupid has long played a role in the celebrations of love and lovers. There is even a story where Cupid was befriending Psyche who was a mortal, while Cupid was the son of Gods. His mother Venus was jealous of the beauty of Psyche and ordered her son to punish the mortal. But the mischievous Cupid fell in love with Psyche and married her.

As with many ancient stories they kind of take a life of their own. I hope that I could shine some light on the origin of Valentine’s Day. It amazes me that the sacrificial deed of an otherwise unknown priest, could develop such a following over the years. It must be the power of that kind of unconditional love which is so attractive to all of us.

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