St. Valentine was a priest who lived in Rome during the reign of Emperor Claudius Flavius. At that time, it was forbidden to be a Christian and therefore Christians had to perform their sacraments in secret, include marriage ceremonies. So St. Valentine would take Christian couple down into the catacombs in the middle of the night and marry them without anyone knowing.
In the year 269 A.D. the emperor ordered General Asterius to persuade Valentine to deny Christ. Instead, he healed the general’s daughter from a blindness that had afflicted her two years. He then baptized the general and his entire household.
The emperor was enraged and had them all tortured and put to death.
Here is a wonderful excerpt from a sermon given by Bishop Demetri Khoury on celebrating Valentine’s Day:
Be My Valentine.” This is a phrase that conjures up a lot of different images associated with the celebration of Valentine’s Day. Cards with hearts and little poems on them. Candy and flowers given to someone one we love. Young and old alike expressing their affection for their sweethearts. February 14th, for our culture, means cards, candy and flowers.
Somehow, this feast of the church has been skewed to include snapshots from pagan mythology, such as Cupid, with the focus of the day only on romantic love. For most, it is a shock to hear that this is a day to remember and celebrate the life and martyrdom of a Christian Saint.
In the Gospel according to John, we read: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) St. Valentine demonstrated this love when he laid down his life for his friends. This is the kind of love that Valentine’s Day is really about.
For Christians, Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate the love of God. That love was shown to us in the life and death of Our Lord and the life and death of martyrs like St. Valentine. This is a love with a depth of commitment that goes deeper than any other love in that it surpasses even the desire to survive. It is the love of a God willing to suffer so that his creatures could know salvation. It is the love of a man willing to risk death so that others can know eternal life.
As you can now see, there is a big difference between our modern Valentine’s Day and its Christian origins. Both are celebrations of love, but they show us the difference between the world’s understanding of love and the Christian understanding of love.
But the Church’s definition of love is quite different. For the Christian the ultimate example of that love is Jesus Christ. He is the living example of God’s love. He came to this world so that the lost and lonely people of the world could experience the Kingdom of God.
You and I can easily say that we love God, but does it show in our commitment to him? Do we say that we will never turn our backs on him because our love is so great, but then fail to do His Will because it does not suit us?
My beloved, We have to show our commitment always, and consistently. We must stand ready to act according to His Divine will in our lives, the ultimate test of our love for Him, demonstrated by our commitment.
There is no doubt that St. Valentine never set aside his commitment – when he faced persecution, when he faced imprisonment, or even when he faced certain death – this great martyr acted firmly in accordance with his commitment to God.
Beloved in Christ, as you work for the glory of God – in everything that you do – make this the standard of your commitment. Whether it is in how you relate to your families, at your work, in your relationships at your parish, or in the work you do in your organization. Make your love for God and each other the single motivation in how you relate to everyone you come in contact with.
We must always remember that the love that we Christians experience and share is obviously different from what the world knows. We may give flowers, candy and cards just like the world, but those tokens are expressions of a deeper love. They are expressions of love that is measured by the standard of God’s love.
In addition to giving gifts, here are a few other ways you can celebrate Valentine’s day this year:
As Christians, this Valentine Day must me a time to re-commit our lives to the Lord: God is love and the source of true love. God loved us enough to die for us and St. Valentine loved God enough to die for God’s Truth. What better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than to commit or recommit our lives to Christ.
This Valentine Day must make us strong enough to Stand up for the truth and proclaim the Gospel of God’s love: Sometimes it is dangerous to stand up against injustice, hatred, and prejudice. Sometimes it is difficult to oppose the world’s view of things to proclaim the truth of God’s Love. But that is what St. Valentine did.
This Valentine Day be a reminder to all of us that we must Die to self for the sake of another: Many priests ask couples when they are preparing for marriage whether or not they would be willing to lay down their life for their spouse. I have been told that without exception, these couples have expressed that they would be willing to die for the other. Not once have they failed or even hesitated to say, “Yes!” In a clear-cut case of life or death many would die for the ones they love. But in our day to day lives few are presented with a life or death situation. On the other hand, every day we presented with opportunities to die to self. In other words, to sacrifice our wants for the wants of another. Try it this Valentine’s Day. Sacrifice what you want for what your loved ones want.
My friends, Our love never completely measures up to the greatness of God’s love. But with God’s help we can grow in that direction and strive toward that ideal. Our Lord said, “This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you.” He also said that he has called and appointed us to bear fruit. That fruit is the love that we, with God’s help, share with one another. …… Christ’s love for us is the example that we should look to in all our relationships. It should define how we love our spouses, our children, our parents and our brothers and sisters in Christ.
“Be my Valentine.” We all want to hear that phrase today. It simply means “you are loved.” I am here to tell you that you are loved. God loves you and wants you to be his Valentine.
The love that God gives us is not like the world’s love. It is not a flimsy cheap imitation. It is the real thing. It is an all-giving love that was and is willing to suffer and die for our deliverance.
~Orthodox Mom, https://www.orthodoxmom.com/2010/02/13/orthodox-st-valentines-day/.
Will you be God’s Valentine? It is your choice. Let’s say yes and return in kind the love that God first gave us. And when we do, let’s remember the first Valentine and the way he gave everything, including his life, to the God he loved.