Who Was St. Valentine?
So who was St. Valentine? How is it that he got his own holiday?
On February 14th, around 269 A.D., there was a priest in the city of Rome named Valentine, who refused to renounce his faith in Jesus Christ, was beaten with clubs, and later beheaded. This was during the reign of Claudius II, who fiercely persecuted the church.
St. Valentine's martyrdom was noble, to be sure, but what gives him specific connections to the sentiments of this holiday? One thing that St. Valentine was known for was marrying Christian couples, and giving aid to believers who were being persecuted under the Emperor. It becomes clear that one thing highly esteemed by Valentine was the institution of marriage given to humans by God. He saw it as valuable not because it was simply an ethical value, but because it points to a greater reality beyond itself: namely, Christ and His church.
A Picture of Something Greater
The great goal of God in the finished work of Christ on the cross is to bring people into everlasting union with Himself. As it is written, God says "I will betroth you to Me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion" (Hosea 2:18). This is what St. Valentine saw so clearly. He knew that the union between God and His people could not be broken, and was worth dying for. God brings husband and wife together to put this portrait of the covenant that He set up on display.
The unbreakable bond formed between Christ and His people is a bond that covers sin, brings forgiveness, and changes hearts. It is a steadfastness that persists even in our failures. It is a commitment that does not waver, but was sealed at the cross and set into motion in the resurrection. There comes a time when every person must put themselves on the line for what they believe about reality. St. Valentine was willing to die for this because this kind of love is worth dying for.
Photo credit: Michelle Tribe