Love it or hate it, there is no getting away from Valentine’s Day. In the UK Valentine’s Day is estimated to be worth £2.4 billion to the economy. Annually we send over 13 million cards (second only to Christmas), and spend £151 million on flowers, £384 million on chocolate, and £18 million on lingerie, on the ones we love. But if you strip away all the commercialisation of Valentine’s Day, we can discover a far more fascinating story about the origins of this day.
There are at least three Christian saints called Valentine, who were killed for their faith. One of these men was a priest who lived in Rome during the third century AD.
Rome at this time was involved in many bloody and unpopular campaigns, and the emperor Claudius II found it difficult to recruit the male populace into joining his army. Believing this to be because Roman men were adverse to leaving their loved ones or their families, Claudius cancelled all marriages and engagements within the City of Rome. Valentine however continued to perform wedding ceremonies in secret, and when it was discovered that he was defying the emperor’s decree Valentine was arrested. The authorities tried to make Valentine renounce his faith, but he refused, and so it was ordered that he be clubbed, stoned and then beheaded.
According to tradition, while Valentine waited in prison for his execution, he corresponded with those under his care by sending letters and love notes to his parishioners. In one of these farewell letters Valentine is said to have written the now famous words “From Your Valentine.” Valentine was executed on the 14th February 269AD.
Valentine has come to be known as the patron saint of lovers, but as we examine his life, we see that true love is more than sending gifts, or cards, true love is costly, and sacrificial. It means standing up for what we believe to be true -- even to the point of death. His sacrifice also reminds us of the sacrifice Jesus made for us all on the cross. In the Bible we read ‘This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.’ On Valentine’s Day, you may wonder who loves you, the answer is God loves you - unconditionally!