Nowadays, Valentine’s day is associated with roses, heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, and candlelit dinners - a far cry from the Saint Valentine, an early Christian martyr.
How did a martyr become associated with a day about love, chocolates, and cherubims?
History records a couple of martyrs named Valentinus who were martyred on February 14th. One Valentinus was arrested by Emperor Gothicus and put into the custody of an aristocrat named Asterius. Valentinus shared the Gospel, and Asterius challenged him: If Jesus healed his foster-daughter of blindness, he would become a Christian. Valentinus put his hands over the girl’s eyes and prayed:
“Lord Jesus Christ, enlighten your handmaid, because you are God, the True Light.”
The girl’s sight was restored instantly. Asterius and his whole family were baptized. When Emperor Gothicus heard of this, he ordered them all to be executed, and Valentinus was beheaded.
Another tradition records Valentinus the Bishop of Terni in the province of Umbria, Italy. He was a priest at the time of Emperor Claudias II, who was notorious for persecuting the early church. The Emperor prohibited the marriage of young people, because he believed unmarried soldiers fought better than married soldiers. Valentine was caught marrying a couple, he was imprisoned sentenced to a three part execution of a beating, stoning, and finally decapitation all because of his stand for Christian marriage. One account recalls how Valentinus sent notes to fellow Christians from prison, which inspired the tradition of exchanging cards on Valentine’s Day. It is also claimed that the early church may have decided to celebrate the martyr's lives in February to "Christianize" a crude Roman pagan holiday.
As Christians let’s make this day a time to remember those who have been martyred because they were not ashamed of the Gospel… they stood up for the truth, fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith (Romans 1:16, 2 Tim 4:7).
Everyday is an opportunity to abide in faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13). To conclude in the words of Jesus:
“Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are My disciples” (John 13:34-35).
WATCH our current Persecuted Church episode below which includes interviews with families of modern-day martyrs, and SEE that our God transforms tragedies into profound testimonies.
13 Feb 2020