Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day!
Valentine's Day is a perfect holiday for a minister and a sexologist. The legend of Valentine’s Day is unique among secular holidays in its connection of religion and sexuality. Its history is both pagan and early Christian.

Here's a little history to share with your honey, your date, or your children as you celebrate!

The Roman festival “Lupercalia” was a pagan holiday in mid February to assure the fertility of both women and crops. Young men pulled slips of paper with the names of young women out of boxes to learn who would be their sexual companions for the next year; think of it as an early

In 496 c.e., hoping to end the pagan celebrations, Pope Gelasive turned the festival into a minor Christian holiday, naming it for St. Valentine. The names of saints replaced the names of young women on the slips of paper in the boxes, and men were supposed to emulate the saint on the slip they had chosen for the next year. (One can imagine this must have been a hard sell after the previous custom!)

St. Valentine was a priest in the third century (or maybe a composite of several priests.) The Emperor Claudius had outlawed marriage for young men so they could serve in his military without family obligations. The priest Valentine continued to marry young couples in secret. Discovered, he was sent to jail and sentenced to death for disobeying the Emperor. The legend continues that he fell in love with the jailor’s daughter, and wrote her a note, signed “From Your Valentine”, prior to his beheading on February 14, 270. This of course was when priests were still allowed to marry.

Today of course St. Valentine's Day celebrates none of these. Although one could look at today as a vast commercialization of love and romance (flowers at the train station this morning were triple their usual price!), I'd prefer to think about it as a reminder to "love our neighbor as ourselves'". I know that today can be a tough day for people without romantic partners or those who are feeling disappointed in the romantic love in their life. But what if we all take the time today to reach out to the people who share our lives -- family, children, friends, and yes, for those of us who are lucky to have them, our partners and lovers -- and tell them not just that we love them but how important they truly are.

Valentine's blessings to you and your's.

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