All We Need Is Love

As we turn the page on our calendar from January to February, one date that surely stands out this month is 14th February – St Valentine’s day. Even if we choose to overlook it or have no opportunity to celebrate, it’s printed in our calendars and phone diaries and shops are full of red, rosy cards and wares they believe we should shower upon those we love, so it’s difficult to ignore.

No doubt we will be entertained that Monday via radio and television, by romantic songs and films. Whether your emotions are evoked by an operatic aria like La bohème’s ‘Che gelida manina’, or the 1940’s ‘You are my sunshine’, James Arthur’s ‘Say you won’t go’, or Taylor Swift’s ‘Love Story’ we can all dream of the ultimate, romantic evening with our partner or friend. Even snuggling up on the sofa with girl friends to savour a chick flick like ‘Step up’ or with the kids to watch ‘Beauty and the Beast’, treasuring moments when life stands still and we focus our attention on loving significant people in our lives is important.

The pandemic has taught us how much we value, loving, face-to-face relationships. Even though we have the luxury of Face Time, Zoom and other internet connections on smart phones and computers, they are only ever second best compared to holding and embracing family and friends. Since the first Lockdown some have had the presence of mind to write letters to their loved ones, reminiscent of world war days, to keep a meaningful record of these difficult times apart. Our hearts have been broken across the nation as we’ve heard of families being separated at critical moments of illness and death – surely there’s no more poignant moment of love that the final moment of separation.

Saint Valentine is said to have ministered to the faithful amidst the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire Jean-Léon Gérôme – The Christian Martyrs’ Last Prayer

Researching the man who’s name is given to 14th February – St Valentine, (even saying his name conjures up romanticism) – you might be disappointed. It’s seems our present-day celebration is founded in legend, not fact. Britannica states,

‘According to legend, St. Valentine signed a letter “from your Valentine” to his jailer’s daughter, whom he had befriended and healed from blindness. Another common legend states that he defied the emperor’s orders and secretly married couples to spare the husbands from war’

Valentine’s day, it’s recorded, was a christian liturgical feast to celebrate the beheading of a third century Christian martyr, a far cry from the romantic celebration of the 21st Century. Lisa Bitel (Professor of History & Religion, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences) states,

‘Ancient sources reveal that there were several St. Valentines who died on February 14th. Two of them were executed during the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius Gothicus in 269-270 A.D., at a time when persecution of Christians was common.

How do we know this? Because, an order of Belgian monks spent three centuries collecting evidence for the lives of saints from manuscript archives around the known world’.

Any individual, so convicted of their faith they are prepared to face persecution and even death, surely demonstrate love in a way many of us will never encounter. As we look to people of faith the words so often read at weddings from The Bible, are a very meaningful reflection. Whether we spend 14th February 2022 being wooed with champagne and roses, nursing a young baby, or caring for a dependant loved one, the writings of St Paul in 1 Corinthians, chapter 13 may help us turn aside from a legend and truly celebrate what love is.

‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Loves does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails’.
1 Corinthians 13: 4-8a (from New International Version of The Holy Bible)

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