Mark Driscoll posted an evaluation of Valentine’s Day awhile back, commemorating the man who was claimed a Saint by the Catholic Church. He claims that His holiday was ruined by Lupercalia, a Roman pagan holiday which was a lustful holiday filled with debauchery.
There are a couple problems with this view.
1) Although he is right that there were many men named Valentine who were martyred. The one commonly referred to is Valentine of Rome who was martyred in 269 AD. He rightly states that Pope Gelasius established the holiday in 496 also. He is wrong that the holiday romance ideas are simply attributed to Lupercalia. It’s a huge logical jump that leaves out too many reasons for saying that. Despite his good intentions, he is just wrong to say this. If you had been caught celebrating a pagan Roman holiday while the Catholic Church was in power, you would not have fared well.
2) Valentine’s Day was not truly romanticized until Chaucer in the 14th century began his writings and making. Since this is technically in the Medieval period, it is at the far end of that period from the establishment of Valentine’s day. Chaucer could not have been celebrating a pagan ritual 1000 years after the establishment of a holiday by a church that had already dismissed that holiday.
Valentine’s Day carries much romantic character these days. I would say that it does not have to be a bad thing. God made attraction and is supportive of people who decide to marry, pending they stay that way for life and treat it honorably. The person that the Church was originally meant to celebrate is that a Saint Valentine of Rome was imprisoned for going against an order of the Emperor of Rome. The edict was that young men could not marry because that took them away from participating in the military. Valentine responded by continuing to marry Christian couples. What is legend is that he was supposed to be married to a lady and that they exchanged letters until he was executed. Whether fact or fiction, this story shows how Christians should act in respects to romance. Even though marriage will not be a thing in heaven, in this age it is to be a sign of loyalty, compassion, and strength. I know that my wife brings strength to me and I try very hard to bring that to her life as well. The concept of marriage we live out is a human attempt to reflect the trinity and Jesus’ relationship to the Church. We seek to bring purpose and love to the marriage. That should be partially what today is about. First, it is about the Kingdom of God and a great person who died for it. The other point is that romance can be just as much a tool for the Gospel and the Kingdom as anything else.
I hope that you get to celebrate this holiday, whether single or in a relationship. Whatever your status, rest in the God who made romance and treat others, including your romantic interests, as God would treat them. That will truly honor valentines day