St. Valentine’s Day is very probably the single day that most associate with love and romance. Couples around the Western world will celebrate by exchanging gifts and enjoying special dinners out. Flower shops and chocolatiers will register record sales. Some lovers will even become engaged. February 14th, like no other day the entire year, is a day to be in love.
The origins of St. Valentine’s Day are somewhat mysterious and are quite likely based on legend more than on fact. Although Valentine’s Day was officially dropped from the liturgical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church in 1969, the original celebration recognized February 14th as the Feast Day for at least three different Valentines, the most well-known of which is a martyr who died in around 270 C.E. Some stories exist of a third-century, Roman priest named Valentine who served under Emperor Claudius II. When Claudius outlawed marriage for young men, believing that single men made better soldiers than married men, Valentine performed secret marriages. When his defiance of the emperor was discovered, Valentine was put to death. Another story tells of a Valentine who was imprisoned. In love with a young girl that some believe to have been the prison guard’s daughter, Valentine sent her a letter signed, “From your Valentine.” Our tradition of sending special Valentine cards clearly grew from this story.
Like many other holidays (Holy Days), the imagery and traditions that make up our celebration of Valentine’s Day are a composite of several belief systems. Cupid (from the Latin cupido, meaning desire) is the Roman god of affection, desire, and erotic love. The date (February 14) coincides with ancient pagan celebrations of Lupercalia, a fertility god often associated with the Greek god Pan, known for his sexual powers. The tradition of sending red roses harkens back to the Victorian era, when flowers were sent to convey specific messages. In the ‘language of flowers,’ a red rose represents true love.
History and traditions aside, February 14th is a day to express love. Sadly, for many, the emphasis placed on romantic love is a source of dismay, disillusionment, and depression. Societal pressure to be coupled is overwhelming, especially for people of a certain age, and Valentine’s Day intensifies this pressure. For those single persons who desire to be in a relationship, the day can be a painful reminder of what seems to be lacking in their lives. For those who are happily single, dodging the misdirected pity of well-meaning friends and family can be truly uncomfortable. It is no wonder that parties like Fernando and Greg’s Bitter Ball have become the antithesis of the typical Valentine’s Day date night.
While romantic love is indeed wonderful and deserves celebration, why not make Valentine’s Day an opportunity to take stock of all the ways that love comes into our lives as well as the ways we love others? Those on a spiritual path know and understand that love, in all its forms and expressions, is the very meaning of life. God/Source/the Universe, that energy that created all that is and which makes up our souls, is pure love. A Course in Miracles is based entirely on the premise that only love is real and that miracles occur when thoughts of fear are relinquished to give way to thoughts of love. Students of Law of Attraction know that every thought sends out a vibration and that thoughts of love vibrate at the highest frequency and thus have the most attractive energy. Jesus directed his disciples with these words, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Our mission on this planet is to love those we have been given to love – our moms and dads, our brothers and sisters, our colleagues and teachers, our dearest friends and our fiercest enemies, those we know well and those we will never meet, and most important OURSELVES. In the grand scheme of things, romantic love is really only a tiny fraction of the love that exists in our lives.
This Valentine’s Day, I challenge all of us to walk through our days as messengers of love. Marianne Williamson, author of A Return to Love, tells us that every encounter is a holy encounter. Being mindful of that can change who we are and how we interact with those around us. By extending our love to all we meet, by silently speaking a prayer or surrounding those we meet in pure, white light, we can make a profound difference in how we approach the day. And before long, we can change the world.