Hearts and red flowers, sweet chocolates, and sparkling cards extolling the virtues of the ones we love. Valentine’s Day seems a perfect holiday meant for love.

But where did it come from?

 

As Christians, we should know why we do what we do.

Researching the history behind St. Valentine’s Day takes us back to pre-Christian Rome with the celebration of Lupercalia.

Lupercalia

Lupercalia was a pagan three-day fertility celebration held February 13-15, in honor of Lupercus (or Lupercal), the god of fertility and hunter of wolves. This wolf god was also known as Faunus, and is the equivalent of the Greek god, Pan.

Lupercalia also honored Lupa, the she-wolf, who these ancient Romans believed nursed the orphans, Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome in 753 B.C.

The raucous festivities would begin when the Luperci, priests of the ancient cult order, sacrificed two male goats and a dog.

Donned only in these goatskins, they made long strip-like whips from the rest of the skins, dipped them in the blood, and ran around gently flogging women who willingly lined up to receive these lashes in hopes to conceive.

The Luperci believed these floggings purified the women and guaranteed their fertility.

In another Lupercalia ritual, in honor of  Juno, the goddess of love, women, and marriage, young women would put their names into a box or a jar. Young men would then draw out a name and those two would become a temporary “couple” and engage in erotic games for the duration of the festival, and maybe for the entire year. Sometimes these pairings would result in marriages, but if not, there was always the next Lupercalia festival.



Christianity became Rome’s official state religion in 380 A.D., yet the pagan converts didn’t completely abandon their traditions and customs, much to the consternation of the church leaders. To make Christianity more appealing, the Catholic church amalgamated the many annual pagan festivals and “christianized” them. Thus, as with Christmas, Easter, and Halloween, Valentine’s Day became another example of this pagan/Catholic meshing.

By 469 A.D., Pope Gelasius 1 declared February 14 a holy day in honor of Saint Valentine, instead of the pagan god, Lupercus. As the church was opposed to open displays of eroticism (rightly so), they tried to abolish the “love lottery”. Instead of pulling girl’s names from a box, both boys and girls pulled the names of martyred saints from a box that they were expected to emulate that year. But this substitute didn’t hold the same appeal; the public preferred the old ways and eventually this was abandoned.

Who was Saint Valentine?

Because there are few surviving records and many contradictory stories, there is a mystery as to which Valentine the day is referring to and the events of his life. There were at least three men with this name supposedly martyred on this same day years apart and in different locales. One, a priest from Rome, one, the Bishop of Terni, and a third man, killed in Africa.

There were no romantic connotations associated with St. Valentine’s Day until the fourteenth century when Chaucer, the father of English literature, penned his poem “The Parliament of Fowls” in honor of the engagement between England’s Richard ll and Anne of Bohemia. Here, their engagement, the mating of birds, and St. Valentine’s Day are linked. Even Shakespeare romanticized this day and, thereby, its popularity grew.

But back in the third century, it is said that a priest of Rome named Valentine (Valentinus), opposed an edict from Emperor Claudius ll, and incurred his wrath. Other than being a Roman priest, nothing else about him can be proved, except he was martyred for not renouncing his faith.

Over time, the story expanded and developed into legend.

Supposedly, Claudius ll forbade his soldiers from marrying, claiming an unattached man made for a better soldier. Valentine secretly performed weddings for these soldiers and their ladies, and was eventually apprehended and put to death.

Another legend has it that Valentine, while imprisoned by Claudius, fell in love with his jailor’s daughter (which some stories claim he healed of blindness), and before he was executed, sent her a letter signed ‘Your Valentine’. From this story, we get the popular exchange of Valentine’s Day cards.

And further legends claim that Valentine wore an amethyst ring with an image of Cupid. Amethyst, the later birthstone of February, was thought to attract love. Cupid, the pagan god of desire, affection, and erotic love, is also known as Eros in Greek mythology. Ancient Greeks believed Eros was the force ‘love’. A force they believed was behind all creation.

Valentine's Day: What's Love Got to Do With It? ~ Discover the surprising origins of this popular holiday. https://vineblossom.wordpress.com



What’s love got to do with it?

The origins of Valentine’s Day consist of pagan rituals, debauchery, and sexual license on the one hand, and the Catholic observance of saint worship, celebration of legend, and mass consumerism on the other.

The Catholic view of patron saints—those chosen as special protectors, guardians, or heavenly advocates— is both unbiblical and unnecessary.

There is one advocate between God and man: the righteous Jesus Christ. (1 John 2:1) There is one protector whom we can trust: our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him. Psalm 28:7

If there is any ‘love’ force, it is the very essence of God Himself, reaching out with unfathomable love to mankind with the hope of eternal life through Christ. (John 3:16)

God has set us apart for Himself. (Psalm 4:3)

He has called us to something greater than to march to the beat of the imaginations of man.

For there is no end to what man can contrive to fill his heart.

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2

The world says, “Be my Valentine”.

Christ says, “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love”.  John 15:9 

God is the author of love. Romantic love (eros), love between friends (phileõs), and the ultimate of all love: godly, unselfish, sacrificial love (agapē). Agapē, the fruit of the Spirit, is unselfish love, ready to serve.

Yes, the hearts and flowers kind of love (eros, phileõs) is enjoyable and good.

But we should not allow the world to define when and how we express this love.

One (pagan) day out of the year {check},

a card with flowing sentiment {check},

chocolate hearts {check},

eye-catching bouquet {check}.

The world has gift-wrapped this day and made it pleasing to the senses. But it OPENS ONLy to reveal falsehoods and emptiness and unfulfilled expectations.

Our ability to love and be loved is a gift that should fly under the banner of God’s righteous word and not under the weak and beggarly elements of the world.

 

 

Abiding in the Vine,

~ Gleniece

 

 

 

 

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The post Valentine’s Day: What’s Love Got to Do With It?” was first published on Desert Rain.

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6 thoughts on “Valentine’s Day: What’s Love Got to Do With It?

  1. Wow, that’s quite the history lesson, Gleniece. 🙂 So glad that no matter what day of the year, God *is* love, and He always desires closeness with us. No greater love exists, and all other loves are given by Him. — Thanks for sharing with #ChasingCommunity today, Gleniece. Always good to see you. 🙂

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    1. Yes, it was an eye-opening study. I’m thankful God loves us with an everlasting love and nothing the world offers can come close.
      I thank you for stopping by, my friend. I love sharing in the #ChasingCommunity link up.💕

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  2. Thank you so much Gleniece – you write as always clearly and beautifully and I so appreciated this perspective and background on a day on the calendar that I just don’t get – never have. Very refreshing and brings us all back to Christ – the start and finish and ultimate expression of love.

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    1. Hello, Tracey! I’m so happy this post has helped you. As Christians, knowing why we take part in something is imperative. Thank you for your encouragement and kind words—I needed that!
      I hope you and your family are healthy and (relatively) happy. 😀
      Love you, friend. Thanks for stopping by.

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    1. Thank you, Crystal! I know this message is not popular (even amongst Christians), but it’s imperative we look deeply into God’s word, stand firm in it, and row against the tide of what everybody else is doing.
      I appreciate your love and encouragement. Thank you again. 💟

      Like

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