Saint Valentine Sermon

Saint Valentine

February 14, A.D. 2021

THE KNOWN FACTS ABOUT Saint Valentine are few and straightforward.

Valentine, a priest or deacon, was martyred for his faith in Italy, around the year 300 A. D.: this was the time of the last period of pagan persecutions of Christians in the Roman Empire.

Shortly after this time, his name appears in various martyrologies of the early Church — lists of saints who were killed for their faith.

And that is basically what we know about St. Valentine. Writing about the year 496 A. D., Pope

Gelasius, with piety and good sense, said that St. Valentine was among those “whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose good works are known only to God.” — meaning, we know that Valentine was a martyr — and that is all we know. And February 14th was the traditional day of St Valentine’s holy death, his “heavenly birthday.”

But these historical facts, of course, are not what we think of in connection with this day. So how did this minor saint become the patron of romantic love?

Probably you have heard of Geoffrey Chaucer (approx. 1340 — 1400), one of the first authors writing English fiction whom we know by name. Chaucer is famous as the author of The Canterbury Tales, but he other works as well. In a long poem called “The Parliament of Fowls”, Chaucer declared that on Saint Valentine’s Day every fowl cometh to choose his mate. (Modern English). Chaucer may have picked this date because it marked the end of the harshest period of an English winter. Or he might be referring to a minor English folk tradition about the mating of birds in late winter. Or perhaps he just picked the date arbitrarily, and single-handedly created a “tradition.”

In any case there are no historical traditions, before Chaucer, which connect February 14th with romance or courtship. Modern scholarship seems universal on this fact; modern “Valentine’s Day” began with Geoffrey Chaucer’s poem. But from there it quickly grew and spread, till today it enriches many printers of cards, florists, chocolatiers, and restauranteurs.

But can we connect Valentine the Martyr with Valentine’s Day? Let me remind you of a wonderful

word from the Most Rev. Robert S. Morse the man who (under God) founded the Anglican Province of Christ the King. Archbishop Morse said he loved the word “passion,” because it means both suffering and love.

Passion: emphatically, that word should be applied to the life and witness of blessed Valentine; we believe that Valentine suffered unto death because he loved Christ more than he loved his own life.

(And note: we say that Valentine loved the Lord more than his own life. That does not mean he did not love the human life that God had given him; a true saint always loves and cherishes his own life — yet more than than his own life, the saint loves and cherishes the love that Christ lives in him or her.)

And this reminds us of another fact about love. We are blessed by God to love in this life; yet, our human loves will ever include some suffering. A mother in childbirth — a grieving widower — a young couple in love, torn from each other by some external circumstances — a person deserted by those who should love him or her — all these common situations bear witness to the sufferings that are part of human life and human love. As C. S. Lewis said, There are only two places where we can be safe from the pains of love: heaven and hell. The one love without suffering; the other place, loveless pain.

And if suffering is a part of our earthly loves, how much more is this true in the gracious love of God for us!

Herein is love, not the we loved God, but that he

loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation

{satisfaction} for our sins.

Beloved, if God so loved us we ought also to love

one another.

We love him, because he first loved us.

(1st John 4:10, 11 & 19)

The Collect for Quinquagesima Sunday
(February 14th, A. D. 2021)
O LORD, who hast taught us that all our doings
without charity are nothing worth; Send thy Holy
Ghost, and pour into our hearts that most excellent
gift of charity, the very bond of peace and of all
virtues, without which whosoever liveth is counted
dead before thee. Grant this for thine only Son Jesus
Christ’s sake. Amen.