Redefining Valentine’s Day
By Atty. Joshua Francisco J. Ablong, Attorney, Office of the University General Counsel
As February 14 approaches, many couples will once again flock the restaurants and other places of destination like movie houses and amusement centers to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Advance reservations will be made, elaborate bouquets of flowers will be prepared, and balloons, cakes, pastries, chocolates and other give aways will be sold. Streets will be lined up with vendors, and business establishments will set up competing advertisements announcing what they have to offer for the much sought after Valentine’s Dinner. There will be concerts here and a number over there. It will in fact be like Christmas, at least the more commercialized version of it. Potential dates or couples will try to be in their best and to look their best, and yes, pictures will inundate the online community, posted in the various Facebook, Instagram or Twitter accounts people may have these days.
The history of Valentine’s Day is somewhat unclear. There are those who attribute it to a certain Valentine of Rome, a cleric who was imprisoned and executed in 496 A.D. for secretly performing marriages on young men who are about to be drafted in the army despite the ban instituted by the Roman Emperor Claudius II who believed that unmarried soldiers are more effective; while there are those who attribute the occasion to Valentine of Terni, another cleric who died centuries earlier. But still others trace its origins to an even earlier time, all the way back to a rumpus ancient Roman fertility festival celebrated in February 13 to 15, called Lupercalia, where goats and dogs are slaughtered to usher in good health and fertility. According to this version, some Roman Christians later decided to “christianize” the occasion by simply changing it to St. Valentine’s Day in honor of St. Valentine, designating February 14 as the date for the celebration. Whatever the history was, Valentine’s Day is now one of the most celebrated occasions in modern-day culture, second only to Christmas.
While there is much to be admired about impressing a date, or on giving flowers, writing letters or sharing a special dinner with the person we love, Valentine’s Day has somewhat taken on an exclusively romantic form, and like other special holidays, commercialism, materialism and consumerism has also come into the picture. In the United States alone, Valentine’s Day has become a major consumer holiday, raking in 20 Billion US Dollars in revenues, 20% of which is splurged on jewelry. But does Valentine’s Day have to be viewed or celebrated this way? After all, what would single people or the money-less feel? In fact, because of how Valentine’s Day is viewed and celebrated today, there are those who despise it!
As Christians, we are encouraged to take on a different perspective on things. In Apostle Paul’s Letter to the Romans, he said:
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2, NLT)
While popular media projects Valentine’s Day as an exclusively romantic activity between two people, the celebration and expression of love need not and should not be confined under this very narrow and limited characterization. Love is a universal attribute common in all of humanity. It is that innate human emotion that drives us to care, be affectionate and to be concerned for others. Consequently, it need not necessarily be romantic. It can include love for our parents, brothers, sisters, friends, neighbors and the poor. As radical as it may sound, it can even include love for our enemies.
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus Christ taught us to love: to love God with all our hearts and with all our souls, and to love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves. We derive this from Mark 12:29-31 where Jesus answered a question posed by one teacher of the law. The teacher asked:
“Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
In answer, Jesus said:
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’
The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31, NIV)
The neighbor being referred to in the above passage could be anyone! It may even include those we perceive to be our enemies! In the Gospel of Matthew for instance, Jesus said: “But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” (Matthew 5:44, NLT)
The primacy Jesus places on love is so high it is echoed by his disciples and apostles throughout the New Testament. In Apostle Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, he said:
Three things will last forever–faith, hope, and love–and the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13, NLT)
In a latter passage, he asserts:
Let love be your highest goal! (1 Corinthians 14:1, NLT)
Furthermore, the encompassing, unrestricted and unqualified nature of “love” can be seen in Jesus Christ’s command to his disciples. In the Gospel of John, He said:
“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other.
Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” (John 13:34, NLT)
This command was given without any qualification. From the foregoing, love should therefore not be seen as something that is limited to an image of a couple sitting beside each other with an imaginary Cupid and his arrow in the background. Come Valentine’s Day, love should be viewed as something that is not only romantic, but something that can be shared to all and experienced by all. Let’s show it to our parents, our brothers, our sisters, our friends and our neighbors, even to the poor. As radical as it may sound, let’s try to show it even to those who we perceive to be our enemies.
Finally, let’s thank God for the gift of love, for after all, He is the source of love. In fact, if there is someone to whom we should attribute Valentine’s Day to, it should be attributed to God, for He Himself is “Love”. God is the God of Love, and having been created in the image of God, it is from God from whom we acquired the capacity to love.
- Lupercalia, Encyclopedia Brittanica, available at http://www.britannica.com/topic/Lupercalia
- History of Valentine’s Day, History Channel, available at http://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day/history-of-valentines-day