No Valentine on Lenten Sunday

Rev. Nelson Iluno

Rev. Nelson Iluno

By Rev. Nelson Iluno

St. Valentine has been associated with courtly love and romance; however, little is known about this celebrated figure. Like other legends, it is thought he was a fourth-century Roman who was martyred during the reign of Claudius II. His feast day, on 14 February, collides with the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia (a pagan festival in February) when young men and women drew lots of love for one another.

Valentine’s Day is regarded as a day of romantic love. Valentine is the saint of lovers, and in former times, it was the custom for men to send presents to their sweethearts. In some places, it was the tradition that the gentleman’s valentine was the first lady he saw on Valentine’s Day and vice versa for ladies.

In England in the eighteenth century, the eve of St. Valentine’s Day was celebrated thus: an equal number of maids and bachelors came together, with each writing their true love’s name, and a feigned name, upon separate tickets. These were rolled up and lots were drawn, so that each girl was randomly matched to each lad, and each lad matched to each girl. This means everyone had two partners, but the lad had to select the valentine. The couples then spent the next few days feasting and dancing. Many songs, poems, and ballads were sung on St. Valentine’s Days.

The truth behind St. Valentine legends is ancient and murky. According to Roman Catholic Church records, nothing is known of St. Valentine except that he was buried on Via Flaminia on February 14. The latest or current information on St. Valentine holds that during the Second Vatican Council in 1969, the feast of St. Valentine was removed from the Liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church. It is also observed that the existence and veneration of St. Valentine is unknown in the Greek Orthodox Church and other churches of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. St. Valentine is not known in the Liturgy of the Anglican Communion in so many provinces and national churches.

The year 2016 celebration of St. Valentine’s Day falls on Sunday and, therefore, presents a big conflict with the Church tradition. According to liturgical (calendar) tradition, whenever the commemoration or veneration of any saint falls on Sunday, it would be automatically transferred to the next day, being Monday. Saint Days are not being celebrated on Sundays. Sunday is regarded as the principal and most holy day; a day of Christ’ Resurrection. Sunday is the obligatory day of celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Sunday is the chief day, which guides the weekly commemoration of the Resurrection of our Lord. Jesus Christ is being celebrated, honored and adored on every Sunday; we do not share the Day of the Lord with other saints. This has been the fundamental doctrine of the church, particularly, mainline Christian denominations from the onset of saints’ commemoration.

If the commemoration or veneration of biblical saints, that is those saints regarded as major or in the first category of saints are being transferred to the next day, whenever they fall on Sunday, then, St. Valentine’s Day which is among non-biblical saints or in category two, should also be transferred. St. Valentine has no super or higher significance or place in the church, notwithstanding the way some people attach importance to this celebration today.

Again, for the year 2016, St. Valentine’s Day falls into Lenten season. Lent has been a unique season of the Christian church. Ordinarily, we do not indulge in fanfare and feasting during Lent. Usually, the church shifts wedding celebrations till after Easter, in order to give full attention to Lenten teachings and practices. It is very possible to forgo the celebration of the festival of romantic love this year since it falls into very significant church liturgical season of sober reflection of Lent. It could be possible to quietly, silently and godly observe this obsolete feast of Valentine, even though the observance is not so necessary this time around.

Apart from the notion of celebrating Christian virtues and values on a daily basis, the best seasons to celebrate love are Christmas and Easter. The beauty and sanctity of marriage, home and family should have more emphasis during Mothering Sunday and Father’s Day celebrations. Seminars, talk shows and sound godly teachings could be organized for youths (unmarried and married) at any given period to expose Christian youths to the issues of marriage. This must not be at St. Valentine’s Day.

It has been discovered that some people lay emphasis on romantic and illicit affairs during St. Valentine’s Day more than the true love of Christ. The atmosphere, which surrounds St. Valentine’s Day today is the atmosphere of immorality and worldly pleasures. Some have argued that drunken and seductive spirits control St. Valentine’s Day. No wonder it was abolished in the Roman Catholic Liturgical Calendar during Vatican II.

Clerics should do everything in their power to introduce the godly stories, lives and practices of the biblical saints and early church fathers to the congregation, particularly, teens, youth, and even adults who are unfamiliar with all these important personalities in the history of the Christian church. Today, many youths are so much attached to St. Valentine’s Day more than any Christian saints. What a pity? If the youth would embrace our Lord Jesus Christ more than anyone else, there would be transformation all over.


Iluno, a reverend writes from CGTS, Abeokuta, Nigeria.

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