February is upon us. We will soon celebrate Valentine’s Day. St. Valentine of Rome lived from 226 AD to 269 (circa). The legends of modern St. Valentine’s Day origins are many and various. There is not a complete consensus between the different accounts about the life, ministry and death of the real St. Valentine. Most stories about St. Valentine do agree on one point. They agree that he was martyred by the Roman Emperor Claudius for confessing, and refusing to renounce, his Christian faith. He was beheaded. Before his death, St. Valentine is said to have left a note for a blind girl whom he had healed and signed it “Your Valentine.” He is also said to have cut hearts out of parchment and sent them with persecuted Christians to remind them of their vows to their wives and their loving God. This may be where some of or modern days customs come from.
The History and legends of St. Valentine have changed over the years and taken on new meaning. It is now associated with human romantic love. Consequently, we will all go out and buy cards and presents for a few of the special people in our lives. You can believe that I will do this also; in fact the card is already purchased for my wife. But as special as romantic love is, it is a shallow substitute of the original love depicted in the stories and legends of St. Valentine. St. Valentine was known best for His love of His God and Savior, Jesus. This was a love so deep and committed that he chose to risk and then suffer death in order to proclaim the Gospel to others. One story which illustrates this type love is called “Rossetti’s Find”
Dante Gabriel Rossetti was a poet, painter illustrator and translator in the mid 1800’s. One of the most striking and expressive pictures of Rossetti is entitle “Found.” It’s the story of a country boy and country girl who fall in love. They pledged to each other their deathless love. But the girl gives in to evil influences and is lured away to the big city. There she sinks into a sewer of sin. She tries to forget her pure and happy past, and even tries to forget the one she loved. He, however, remains true to her. He seeks her everywhere. One day, on Blackfriars Bridge, over the Thames River in London, he meets a gaudily-dressed woman. It is the country girl of his past. He seizes her by the wrist and tells her of his continued love. The one he loved has been found.
This picture of love is that of a lover who does not give up seeking the one he loves. It’s a good illustration of the love that God the Father has for us. He is seeking those He loves. He loves sinners, and never gives up or tires in His search. He loves us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, into the world to become our Savior, to die and rise again for us. And He finds us on the bridge of life, and calls us to faith or renewal of faith. This picture of an ever loving and never tiring God, who searches for and saves sinners, is closer to the type of love depicted in the stories of St. Valentines. And God speaks to us, through the stories of St. Valentine and Rossetti, the truth of Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian Christians in the book of chapter 3:17b -19
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
In Christ’s Love
Pastor Mark Moss