It’s That Time Of The Year (Again)

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“It???s that time of the year again: candy-colored hearts, pink-and-red greeting cards and naked babies shooting people with romance-inducing arrows (which is a little weird when you think about). It???s a time of bliss for the lovebird and contempt for the single, an excuse to dress up and act mushy with the one you love.Like many of the modern holidays we observe, the true meaning and origins of Valentine???s Day are often forgotten in a commercialized frenzy of money and mass-produced teddy bears. But a little research shows that though February 14 may have little resemblance to the saint it remembers, the heart of the celebration is the same: the mystery surrounding St. Valentine is a love — of sorts.For whatever the holiday may look like in our culture today, legends say it was created to memorialize the saint (or saints) called Valentine of long ago. Research shows at least three saints by that name were martyred on the day we celebrate love. While the details in the actual story of St. Valentine are largely a mystery, there is an underlying theme for every legend associated with the holiday — a theme that is centered around sacrificial love for one another.Some believe that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men so that his crop of potential soldiers would multiply; all current engagements were also nullified. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied the emperor and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. Swooning yet?When Valentine’s actions were discovered, he was arrested and imprisoned by the emperor. While in prison, it is said that Valentine fell in love with the jailer???s blind daughter, whose vision he restored by a saintly miracle. The emperor found out about the healing and ordered that Valentine be beheaded. On the eve of his execution, he wrote a farewell note to the jailer???s daughter, dripping with love and words of affection, signing it ???from your Valentine.???Nowadays, the commercialization of the holiday may have distorted our understanding of the passion of this event by incorporating cards with SpongeBob SquarePants on them signed, ???from your Valentine.??? However, the original story is as achingly romantic as they come. It is further believed that the ???from your Valentine??? tradition carried on after the saint???s execution through an annual Roman festival where young men gave handwritten letters of affection to the young women they wished to court. The festival was held on February 14, and determined the romantic fate for young people in the coming year. Fortunately, present-day Valentine cards that kids pass out during class do not determine their romantic destinies, so the switch to candy was probably a smart move in this case — unless arranged marriage is what you have in mind for your children one day.Another legend holds that Valentine was a martyr for the Church in Rome. According to some theories, he was executed after trying to help several prisoners escape harsh conditions where they were often beaten or tortured. This type of brotherly or Christ-like love is not often associated with Valentine???s Day, but the premise of the holiday clearly lies in the idea of a sacrificial love — to whomever that may be. Even Russell Stover can???t top that.Another view on this mysterious Valentine character asserts that he was an outspoken priest and volunteer physician who healed the sick. He allegedly combined his professions to work all day healing people and then praying all night for their recovery. When Valentine grew old and became bedridden, he continued his ministry by sending letters to those he couldn???t visit in person. Like the other Valentines, he was imprisoned and sentenced to execution. His offense? Refusing to denounce Christianity in a time when Protestantism was under fire by the Roman government. While incarcerated he received notes, candy and flowers from young children whom he had healed. Even though incarceration followed by execution seems to be the dominant theme for the lives of Valentine, this may explain why today we send chocolate, roses and love notes to our special someone.So what can we say Valentine???s Day really encompasses? In all cases, it is the effort to protect the sanctity of love — the holiday has become synonymous with all things tender. The idea of celebrating love on the date of a saint???s execution may seem strange, but it is as much a celebration of the life of Valentine and those he helped as it is a memorial of his death. Valentine???s Day is as closely tied to the love of a romantic interest or a friend in need as it is to a passion for God and serving a greater purpose.Whether you???ll be gallivanting around with your significant other or cursing all things cute, take some time to remember the real meaning of Valentine???s Day: sacrifice and true love. In a society that continues to grow more and more independent and out of touch with those around them, the concept of sacrifice and genuine love should be fought for.”–Kayla Smith (Editorial Intern at RELEVANT). The Secret Message of Valentine’s Day,
in “850 Words of RELEVANT”, 2.11.08.(Photo source)

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