Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Feast Day of Saint Valentine

Here's one of those strange feast days, a feast day that's more popular in the general culture than it is in the church culture that pays attention to saints and their days. 

 Those of us in religious circles might spend some time thinking about this feast day and the ways we celebrate it, both within our religious cultures and in popular culture.  I've often thought that marriage at its best is sacramental:  it demonstrates to me in a way that few other things can how deeply God loves me.  If my spouse's love for me is but a pale shadow of the way God loves me, then I am rich in love indeed.

I use the word marriage cautiously.  I don't mean it the way that some Christians do.  I mean simply a love relationship between adults that is covenantal and permanent in nature, as permanent as humans are capable of being.

I realize that this day is fraught with sadness and frustration for many people. I went to elementary school in the 1970's, before we worried about children's self esteem. If you wanted to bring Valentines for only your favorite five fellow students, you were allowed to do that. So, some people wound up with a shoebox/mailbox full of greetings and treats, and some wound up with very little.  I was in the middle, but instead of focusing on how lucky I was to have love notes at all, I compared my haul to those of my prettier friends.  I'm still working on remembering the wisdom a yoga teacher told me once:  "Don't compare yourself to others.  It won't help your balance."

I still worry about how this day might make people feel excluded.  I worry that as with baptism, we don't support people in their covenantal relationships in all the ways that we could.

To me, this feast day is essentially a manufactured holiday, yet another one, designed to make us feel like we must spend gobs and gobs of money to demonstrate our love.

Every day, ideally, should be Valentine's Day, a day in which we try to remind our loved ones how much we care--and not by buying flowers, dinners out, candy, and jewelry.  We show that we love by our actions:  our care, our putting our own needs in the backseat, our concern, our gentle touch, our loving remarks, our forgiveness over and over again.

And sustained by the love that sustains in our homes, we can go out to be a light that shines evidence of God's love to the dark corners of the world.  Every week, we are reminded of the darkness, and some weeks it intrudes more than others.  We must be the light that beats back the darkness.

On this Valentine's Day, let us go out into the world, living sacraments, to be Valentines to one another, to show a weary world the wonders of God's love.

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