For all its popularity, history doesn’t give us any guarantees when it comes to the origins of Valentines Day. When studying the history of this particular day, you learn very quickly that people don’t agree on its’ origins. There are some who link the holiday all the way back to Ancient Rome and a very pagan festival called, Lupercalia, observed February 13 through 15. During this festival an animal was sacrificed, and then certain young men would take leather straps from the animal, and in a place where everyone could watch, they would whip the young women in order to bestow fertility for the coming year. Crazy, huh?
Some say that in the 5th century the Catholic Church did their best to ‘Christianize’ this pagan holiday by setting it aside as a day to recognize and honor a particular man named Saint Valentine. However, until 1969, the Catholic Church recognized no less than 11 Christian martyrs who were named “Valentine”. These men were honored on different days of the year. February 14 was specifically set aside for two of those eleven men, their names: Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni.
Another, much more romantic, story involves a Saint Valentine that lived during the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius II in the 3rd century A.D.
Claudius was an ambitious ruler. His battles required vast armies of men that would have to abandon their young families for long periods of time, resulting in a military that was half-hearted and homesick. So determined was Claudius to stop love from sapping the will of his armies, he banned marriages all-together. Father Valentine thought the ban ‘unjust’ and continued to unite the young lovers in secret. The Emperor eventually caught on to the priest’s actions, arrested him, and sentenced him to death. It’s believed that many of the young couples that he had wed would visit him and pass to him flowers and letters thru the bars, as symbols of their gratitude. The story continues that the young priest fell in love with his jailer’s daughter, and on February 14th, the day he was executed, he passed the young girl a note that read, “From your Valentine”. A tradition was born.
Now,… there is something within us that likes that story best!
You know what we love? We love the romantic, “I’d die for you” sentimentality that we see in some of Hollywood’s greatest movies. Think about a movie like: Titanic – where young “Jack Dawson” (Leo) loves “Rose” so much that in the end she gets to float on the plank and be saved, while he valiantly sinks.
There is something innately within the heart of us men that wants to be the hero that sacrificially lays down our lives for the ones we love. What’s funny… is that although most men would take a bullet for their loved ones, or charge into an inferno to save them – we find it hard to pick up our dirty clothes or help with the dishes. Or more importantly,… speak the words “I love you” and practically show that we mean it.
The Word teaches us: John 15:12-14 – “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you.”
If I were to ask any wife … or any husband… in most churches across America, “Would you lay down your life for your spouse?” I’m certain I’d get mostly “yes” for an answer.
Much like if I were to ask any Christian; “Would you lay down your life for Jesus if you were required to? If someone were to burst in and hold a weapon to your head and say that if you would only walk away from a relationship with God, you could live” – most, I’m sure, would answer – “No way,… I’d die for God! I’ll never walk away from Him!” A guy named Peter in the Bible said something like that once too (John 13:37).
The truth comes, however, when we are called to die to ourselves in seemingly smaller ways. When we show the ‘greatest love’ and lay down our “lives” every single day – sacrificing our own wants and desires for the happiness of “others”.
I believe, that this alone is the key to a successful relationship – with a spouse, a friend, a child, a parent, a brother or sister in Christ, and even a relationship with God. The ultimate key is when we willingly… and consistently… lay down “our lives”.