‘Tis the season for heart-shaped candy boxes, syrupy love cards, and flowers. Whoop! Whoop! It’s almost Valentine’s Day! Most of us are familiar with the day, but what’s the story behind the tradition? Who the heck is Valentine? And why should I care?
From the mists of history, Valentine emerges as a Christian priest around the time of the Emperor Claudius (260 A.D. approximately). Claudius issued an edict that prohibited the marriage of soldiers. He thought that his men would fight better single. Married men, he hypothesized, were timid, avoiding battle risks, wanting to get home safely to their wives. So Emperor Claudius encouraged whoring, casual sex, rather than faithful married love.
This decree posed quite a problem for the church that believed sex to be a sacred bonding reserved for lifelong marriage. And many soldiers, Christians themselves, wanted to wed their true love in faithfulness. What to do?
Enter Valentine, the priest. He chose to defy the Emperor and his secular law in order to obey a higher sacred law. He secretly married male soldiers and their true lady loves.
Sadly, the priest Valentine was eventually found out. He was arrested, tortured and thrown into prison to the executed. One of the judges at the faithful priest’s trial was Asterius. He had a blind daughter who befriended Valentine, was prayed for and received her eyesight. The miracle caused Asterius to believe in Christ Jesus. He tried to shield the priest from Roman law, delaying the execution.
But, alas, it was not to be. Roman law in 269 A. D. executed the man, Valentine. Legend has it the priest wrote a last letter to Asterius’s daughter to reassure her. He signed it, “From your Valentine.”
Over the years Valentine was declared a saint by the church. He gradually became the patron of romance, true love, and marriage fidelity. His is the story that reminds us that marriage between a man and a woman is God’s way. And corrupt government edict, war, separation, and imprisonment can never stop it.