When I was a pastor in New Mexico, Valentines attended our church. We love them, but Valentine’s Day isn’t named after them. So what’s the story?
After a brief search, I find that “valentine” comes from valens, which became valentia, which intones loud, corpulent, vigorous, powerful.
But what does this have to do with Valentine’s Day? We also discovered a young man, a pastor named Valentinus.
Pastor Valentinus exhibited a double quality of character: an undying, obedient, irrevocable love for God, and a deep and loyal commitment to people. That’s more than two character qualities, but let’s continue. Carol and I have applied these qualities in our marriage, and our love grows stronger each year.
Unconditional Love: Growing toward God and drawing closer certainly defines Pastor Valentine’s multi-faceted love.
Back to Valentine’s Day
In AD 269, Emperor Claudius II issued an ordinance prohibiting young men from marrying because he believed that married men, who did not want to leave their families to go into battle, made poor soldiers. Valentinus, the young bishop of Interamna, Italy (about 80 km south of Rome), disagreed with the emperor and invited the young couples to marry in secret.
When Emperor Claudius found out about this betrayal, he was furious. He had Valentin arrested and led him before him. When Valentinus, known as Bishop Valentin, refused to change his mind about marriage – and also refused to renounce Christianity – he was imprisoned awaiting execution.
Neither Valentin faltered, even in the face of death, and this quality of love and devotion is the hallmark of one who lives dynamically in the Kingdom of God.
Tradition teaches us that during his incarceration, Valentin corresponded with the people of his parish by sending them letters and notes of inspiration. In addition, the couples he married and their children came to send him messages of encouragement and love. Perhaps we could call them the first “Valentine’s Day cards”.
Bishop Valentine was executed; and in the year 496 AD, Pope Gelasius confirmed him as a saint and declared February 14 as St. Valentine’s Day. And we refer to this day simply as Valentine’s Day.
I remember when I was a kid in Southern California, our elementary teachers always told us to give Valentine’s Day cards, homemade or store bought, to every kid in the class. I didn’t understand the need for the activity and didn’t want to cooperate, but we were ordered to do so. So mom helped me buy the cheapest bag of cards we could find. Even handing them out was depressing because I didn’t want to say any of it, so I just tolerated the celebration.
I had a love in my young life, and I saw her every day in fifth grade. It was my teacher, Mrs. Wells. I gave her a meaningful Valentine’s Day card and she said she would keep it. May be.
However, at the end of August 1964, I met someone who gave the celebration an entirely new meaning. Her name was Carol Ann Winton. We married in August 1966 and she has been Carol Ann Linzey for over 55 years now. Even though I had been a Christian since I was 5 and had never turned my back on God, I didn’t know much about love. But when I got involved with Carol and never turned my back on her, I learned a lot about love and Valentine’s Day.
What did Valentine mean? Valens, valentia — strong, valiant, vigorous, powerful.
As with probably every other married couple, we had issues that we had to deal with, but we learned to deal with them within the bounds of God’s love. We incorporated his love into our marriage, and our love became strong, valiant, vigorous, and powerful. Even when we disagree, we have learned to contain negative emotions, use the wisdom we have gained in life, and remember that we love each other.
The love of God is above all a decision and is followed by emotions. We followed that, and I never let a day go by without telling her at least once that I love her. Also, every time I leave the house, I remind him that I love him.
John 3:16 begins with, “For God so loved the world that he gave.” Learn to love and give yourself, and let God’s love flow through you and bless others. And remember that loving your spouse is a major way of loving and honoring God.
Happy Valentine day.
S. Eugene Linzey is an author, mentor and speaker. Send your comments and questions to [email protected] Visit his website at www.genelinzey.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.