You likely have heard by now that this Saint Valentine was a real dude. The truth is, we don’t know much about him.
Most of what’s passed down through history is the stuff of legends. Little is known for certain about “Valentinus” (as was his Latin name), but the legends are so inspirational they have become hard to ignore.
One states that Saint Valentine restored a blind girl’s sight, saving himself and his fellow persecuted believers from jail and martyrdom. The girl whose sight was restored was the daughter of the judge who would rule in his case. Convinced of the power of Jesus displayed by Valentine, the judge didn’t only not kill Saint Valentine, but the judge and his whole household accepted Christ.
Another legend reveals that Saint Valentine secretly married Christian couples. One version supposes that he did this before they could be martyred, helping them accept their fate with the partnership of another believer whom they deeply loved. Another version was that he performed these secret ceremonies in order to spare the men from having to go off to war. With fighting forces scarce, this was an inconvenience to the emperor who had Valentine executed as a result.
I don’t know which, if any, of these legends is true, but pondering them sure makes you view Valentine’s Day in a different light.
While the candy and flowers fly off the shelves, we ought to at least consider the fact that on this day we have more than an excuse to schedule a date night:
We have a reason to die to ourselves for the good of someone else.
What is love if it is not the sacred union of two souls who, with madness swirling all around, are content to cling to one another, holding on for dear life? What is a relationship if not for an obsession with self-sacrifice and relentless resolve to love and respect? What is marriage if not a path to greater faith in the face of opposition? What is Valentine’s Day, named after a dude who every legend insists was executed for love, if not a reminder that life is not all smooches and cuddles?
The truth is, while we may not be in danger of being martyred for our faith, there is plenty in the world that seeks to steal our joy, harm our hearts, and beat us down. While our men may not have to be spared going off to war, the truth is a lot of life is feeling like you’re in a fight between good and evil, between comfort and difficulty, between peace and trouble.
Love is, just like the saint we’ve named the day after, a reminder of the power of Jesus that can take our blind spots and help us to see. It’s a commitment that out lasts the feeling, a persistence that pushes through the warfare, a grace that powers us on.
When Saint Valentine healed the blind girl he was temporarily spared. But, legend has it, he was eventually beaten with clubs. Before they could kill him, he wrote a note to the blind girl which was signed, “Your Valentine.”
There are a lot of reminders of love that will dominate the day of February 14th. Dinner reservations and flowers and cards and love songs. But the true reminder of what it means to love another person is found on the wounded flesh of Saint Valentine who, whatever we believe about his life, showed us how to take a beating for one another. Because “Your Valentine” is not the one who will dedicate a song to you on the radio or scribble some sappy stanzas on the inside of an over-priced greeting card (though I have personally done both).
No, “Your Valentine” is the one that will risk it all to walk through life with you. However long it lasts. Whatever it takes. Helping you see. Holding your hand. Tears and trembling and all the rest. It’s not a candy heart, it’s a bleeding heart dead set on honoring the other.
So swap your chocolates and have your dinner. There’s not a thing wrong with it. But don’t stop there. Pay the price and risk it all for the sake of another. That’s what Saint Valentine did. That’s what love in it’s purest form is.
It’s the stuff that legends are made of.