Feb 13, 2009

St. Valentine - A Brief History

By Chuck Missler

Saturday, February 14 is St. Valentine's Day. This day has come to mean flowers and candle light for lovebirds, crunchy little hearts and cards for gradeschoolers, and bitterness for those left behind.

However, the name behind the mushy cards and flower sales belonged to one or more legendary Christian men who were executed under Roman Emperor Claudius II (AD 268 - 270).

Claudius II is best known for his sound beating of the Goths. The majority of his reign was spent at war and fighting rebellion and opposition. His devotion to conquest led the Emperor to declare that no young men of fighting age could be married; they needed to focus on being soldiers. Yet according to tradition, a Christian priest named Valentine opposed Claudius' decree and secretly married young Roman soldiers to their brides. When this illegal activity was discovered, Valentine was killed.

Another tradition tells of a young man named Valentine who was imprisoned when Claudius II outlawed Christianity. The Emperor declared Christianity treasonous by definition, since no Christians would worship Caesar as Lord. Valentine was imprisoned for his faith, but while in prison, he continued to minister the Gospel of Christ even to his jailors. He befriended one jailor, who asked him to pray for his blind adopted daughter. Valentine prayed for the girl and she gained her eyesight. Valentine had the opportunity to witness to the jailor and his whole family, and a large number of them believed in Jesus. When the news reached the Emperor that Valentine was making converts even while in prison, he had Valentine beheaded on February 14, AD 269.

According to the story, young Valentine sent a note to the healed girl just before his execution. They may or may not have been in love, but he signed it, "from your Valentine" forever changing February 14th for Christianity.

St. Valentine's Day originally fell during the Roman holiday of Festival of Lupercalia. In some traditions, men went around hitting women with bloody strips of goat skin during this festival, and in other traditions girls and boys were paired up for a week. Take your pick. The holiday in Christian tradition, however, did not start out with any romance involved; it was reserved as a day honoring martyrs. In Chaucer's "Parliament of Fouls" composed around 1380, we get the first hint of Valentine's Day having a romantic connotation. In it Chaucer stated:

For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne's day Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.
Today St. Valentine's Day creates as much irritation as it does rejoicing. The less romantic among husbands and boyfriends cringe at the chocolate-and-flowers or dinner requirements they are forced to perform each year. Women grumble at the neglect they face from those who refuse to go through the motions. And single people mourn that they have nobody to feel neglected by. Yet, as sweethearts exchange cards and gifts, may we be encouraged. First, the truly unselfish love of Christ is there for us faithfully, day by day, year by year. Second, there were men and women throughout history who stood as witnesses to their Savior despite facing brutal executions. Because of their faithfulness, the Gospel continued and was passed on to us. Let's take a moment this St. Valentine's Day to remember those precious martyrs in history, to thank God for them, and to pray that we can serve Him as faithfully in our daily lives as His great love deserves.

And for those who think the roses and candle-lit dinners are great, happy romancing to you all!

Related Links

The History of St. Valentine's Day - Medieval History
History of Valentine's Day - The History Channel
St. Valentine - New Advent
A Holiday Commercialized With St Valentine’s Myth - Hurriyet Daily News