A Blessed and Happy St. Valentine’s Day!
“Marriage is a duel to the death which no man of honour should decline.” (G.K. Chesterton, Manalive, 1912)
Marriage and death is not the first combination our society tends to think about – especially on St. Valentine’s Day – a day that has come to be focused on by moderns as a day of both a reminder of real love and an opportunity for hedonistic love.
But as Chesterton reminds us, real love between a man and woman in marriage is a sacrament, a sacred vow of love to be kept until death. Indeed, in the marriage vows given in the Western world the following has been said by countless couples:
“To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.” and ended in most Christian marriage ceremonies with Mark 10:9 :
“What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” [ by divorce]
Strangely or not, St. Valentine’s Day, the day we think about love and pleasant feelings also began in the death of this saint – for marrying Christians!
“St. Valentine was martyred in the third century for the crime of marrying Christian couples and his refusal to pay homage to the Roman emperor as a living deity. Before his death, according to legend, St. Valentine cured a young woman of blindness. He wrote at least one letter to this fortunate woman which he signed with, “your Valentine.”
Nothing in the legend suggests that the relationship between the pair was romantic, but rather it was rooted deeply in Christian love. ” (Catholic Online)
And so our celebration today owes its gratefulness for the faith of a Christian who defied an emperor to keep marriage holy and who was executed as a consequence. St. Valentine’s sacrifice reminds us that real love is worth dying for. Real love, as Chesterton writes, requires a realization of loss as well as gain.
“All pessimism has a secret optimism for its object. All surrender of life, all denial of pleasure, all darkness, all austerity, all desolation has for its real aim this separation of something so that it may be poignantly and perfectly enjoyed. I feel grateful for the slight sprain which has introduced this mysterious and fascinating division between one of my feet and the other. The way to love anything is to realise that it might be lost. In one of my feet I can feel how strong and splendid a foot is; in the other I can realise how very much otherwise it might have been. The moral of the thing is wholly exhilarating. This world and all our powers in it are far more awful and beautiful than even we know until some accident reminds us. If you wish to perceive that limitless felicity, limit yourself if only for a moment. If you wish to realise how fearfully and wonderfully God’s image is made, stand on one leg. If you want to realise the splendid vision of all visible things—wink the other eye.” – G. K. Chesterton, Tremendous Trifles, 1909