Love from Your Valentine
Around 250 AD there lived in Rome a priest by the name of Valentine. At that time, Claudius was the Emperor, and Claudius wanted to create a large Roman army. He thought men should volunteer to join, but many men just did not want to leave home and go off to fight in wars. They did not want to leave their girlfriends and wives, so very few joined up. This made Emperor Claudius both angry and determined to do something about this. He had the idea that if men were not married, they would be more inclined to join his army. So Claudius decreed that there would be no more marriages.
Young people thought his new law was really cruel. Valentine thought it was ridiculous! One of his favourite duties as a priest was to marry people. After Emperor Claudius passed his law, Valentine kept on performing marriage ceremonies – but secretly. He would whisper the words of the ceremony, whilst listening for soldiers on the steps outside.
One night, Valentine did hear footsteps at his door. The couple he was marrying escaped, but he was caught. He was thrown into jail and told that his punishment was death. Many young people came to the jail to visit him, and threw flowers and notes up to his window. They wanted him to know that they, too, believed in love.
One of these young people was the daughter of the prison guard. Her father allowed her to visit him in his cell. They often sat and talked for hours. She believed he did the right thing by ignoring the Emperor and performing marriage ceremonies.
On the day Valentine was to die, he left her a note thanking her for her friendship and loyalty. He signed it, "Love from your Valentine." That note started the custom of exchanging love notes on Valentine’s Day. It was written on the day he died, February 14, 269 AD. Now, every year on this day, people remember. But most importantly, they think about love and friendship. When they think of Emperor Claudius, they remember how he tried to stand in the way of love, and they laugh - because they know that love can’t be beaten!
Love fills our airwaves, literature, cinemas and screens. It has preoccupied people of all cultures and times and has motivated great acts of heroism and sacrifice. It cannot be banned, ignored, or forgotten. Love is stronger than death.
Christians believe “God is love, and those who live in love live in God and God lives in them” (1 Jn 4:16). And they see in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ the ultimate example and expression of love.
Love is the supreme good and should be celebrated. Valentine’s Day is a great occasion to do just that. So this year we have a special service on Valentine’s Day afternoon for those who would like to give thanks to God for and seek his blessing on their relationship. All couples welcome – details of the service on the front cover. Let’s celebrate God’s wonderful gift of love!
Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell with Chilton