Happy SAINT Valentines Day, and Achilles Cometh.
Happy Valentine's Day! Although our secular culture celebrates this in all sorts of silly ways, this day actually has significance on the Church calendar as the Feast of St. Valentine. Valentinus, as his Latin name runs, appears as a mysterious figure in church history, but we honor him as one who lived a righteous life during the late 3rd century and who was said to be martyred on this day in 269 A.D.
Although little is known about the man, one story is that he married Christians during a time of Roman persecution, which influenced the popular holiday we celebrate now. The piety and courage unto martyrdom he demonstrated resulted in the name of "Valentinus," which is derived from the Latin adjective valens, meaning "strong, effective, or influential." This story of a priest defying Roman law to perform Christian marriages during persecution, flourished in the days of Chaucer, especially in the chivalric days of the Middle Ages when courtly love was an ideal. One proof of not having a culture is not knowing at all where things come from and being completely detached from the origins of things. So it's important to remember that the real story of Valentine's Day has its roots not in some silly version of Romantic love but rather in the holiness and courage of a man doing the right thing in the face of persecution.
Agenda for the week:
Finish reading Lycurgus
Read Book 17 of Homer's Iliad (better have your books!)
Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect. Pray, that you may not stumble.
Below we see St. Valentine present in The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer, by Jean-Léon Gérôme's. According to a reputable source (hehe)...
William T. Walters commissioned this painting in 1863, but the artist did not deliver it until 20 years later. In a letter to Walters, Gérôme identified the setting as ancient Rome's racecourse, the Circus Maximus. He noted such details as the goal posts and the chariot tracks in the dirt. The seating, however, more closely resembles that of the Colosseum, Rome's amphitheater, in which gladiatorial combats and other spectacles were held. Similarly, the hill in the background surmounted by a colossal statue and a temple is nearer in appearance to the Athenian Acropolis than it is to Rome's Palatine Hill. The artist also commented on the religious fortitude of the victims who were about to suffer martyrdom either by being devoured by the wild beasts or by being smeared with pitch and set ablaze, which also never took place in the Circus Maximus. In this instance, Gérôme, whose paintings were usually admired for their sense of reality, has subordinated "historical accuracy" in order to affect a symbolic unity of the Classical Greco-Roman world.
Today Valentine is popularly associated at best for that day of lovey-dovey sentimentalism or that commercial distortion of eroticism at worst. But we remember him differently, as a martyr of the Christian faith. Which is to say he resisted the zeitgeist, the spirit of the age. Which is to say, he kept himself unspotted from the world (James 1:27). Beyond his willingness to resist the state in marrying Christian couples, as tradition says, he also died for his faith. Which is to say he resisted to point of shedding his blood (Hebrews 12:4). These are our heroes. These are the ones who "in our flowing cups" are "freshly remember'd," as Shakespeare says.