This year Valentine’s Day falls on Ash Wednesday. St Valentine was a real person who was known as a risk taker and miracle worker. Ultimately he gave his life for what he believed. We celebrate Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, on the same day. Both days celebrate the meaning of true love which is difficult to find these days when TV programmes like “Love Island”, “90 Day Fiance”, and “Married At First Sight”, are gaining in popularity! These programmes and others exhibit the exact opposite of what true love actually is.
The most reliable accounts we have of the life of St Valentine includes the story of his house arrest in Rome because of his Christian faith during the dictatorship of the Emperor Claudius. The person assigned to guard him was Judge Asterius who had a blind daughter. Asterius challenged Valentine to prove that his Christianity was true by healing his daughter of blindness. Valentine touched the eyes of the child and her sight was restored. There are other accounts of Valentine standing up for people who were being oppressed and conducting marriage ceremonies to enable lovers to be together in a union recognised by the law. Valentine ended up losing his life because of his faith.
The New Testament was originally written in Greek, with a smattering of Aramaic here and there.
You may be wondering what NT Greek has to do with Valentines Day! Well, all will be revealed…
We have over 15,000 manuscripts of the New Testament – whole or in part – dating back to the first century making these texts more reliable than any other classical work of literature. For instance, the writings of Herodotus in 488BC – the earliest manuscripts copies we have date 1300 years after the original and we only have 8 copies. Same with the Roman historian Tacitus who wrote in 100AD – the earliest copies we have date from 1000 years after he wrote his works and we only have 20 copies. Caesar’s “Gallic Wars” are take as reliable documents, but he wrote them around 58BC and the earliest manuscripts we have are dated 950 years after he wrote them and we only have 10 copies.
In the original Greek of the NT, there are four words for “love” – storge – an empathy bond, philia – friendship love, eros – romantic love and agape – unconditional, sacrificial love. It’s this last “love”, agape, that is used most when describing the love Christ has for us, and the love we should have for each other. Now that’s very different from the Hollywood, TV Soap, TV “Reality” Show type love.
May God help us to emulate that kind of love as we celebrate Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday.