Today is St. Valentine’s Day to most of the Christian-Secular world. Traditionally, this feast day was dedicated to various symbols of love and affection stemming from St. Valentine. While various stories float around about who exactly he was- a priest, a bishop- the Church was never quite able to figure it out precisely for herself after he became more of a legend.
That being the case, the Church wishing to preserve its General Calendar for feasts and celebrations that they could verify and would help ignite the faithful, removed St. Valentine’s feast day in the wake of Vatican II. Valentine is not alone as St. Christopher and others suffered this fate. First, it should be noted, that the act of the Church removing the saint from the General Calendar means nothing, in and of itself, to the “cult”- or devotion- of the saint. If you go to any Roman Catholic Church, you’ll be celebrating Monday of the First Week of Lent with possibly a commemoration to Sts. Cyril and Methodius. If you want to celebrate St. Valentine’s, head to any Catholic Church celebrating the Traditional calendar by indult (i.e. the churches that celebrate Mass according to pre-Vatican II rubrics).
The concept of St. Valentine’s day, now, focuses on eros. It focuses the love between people that extend beyond simply brotherly love. Eros is the human desire and passion to be with another person in a deep intimate relationship. It is sexual love, not just sex, but sexual love.
Looking at it within that context, it gives us a time to step outside of our lives and look to those whom we love. A time for a husband or a wife, a boyfriend or a girlfriend, that person you’ve started to date and not really sure where it’s going, whomever to step back and honor the other. It is a chance to honor the person for the feelings and emotions they give to you and stir up inside yourself. While modern culture has taken this to its predictable extreme at times, ignoring any religious outlook that anyone may have on it, it is very fitting that this celebration of eros- human love- originated from a Saint.
Jesus Christ, as is true with all forms of love as he is love, demonstrates to us what true eros is, within the proper context of actual, true love. While lust is the desire and passion for another person sexually, eros is the desire and passion to experience love with another person in virtue of them being a sexual being, in the true sense. We are all created as sexual beings. We have sexual desires and drives. One of the many difference between lust and eros is that lust looks at another as a sexual being with a view of what that person can do for you. Eros is looking at another person as a sexual being and realizing what grace and beauty God has given them. Further, it is the understanding that with all forms of love, love is sacrifice. We are to give of ourselves to any form of love- agape, filia, eros, whatever. Christ gave us the ultimate example of self-sacrificing love by his death upon the cross. Christ gave us the example of agape- love between God and man that we must extend to the whole human race. Christ blessed us with the example of filia- the love he shared, in his human person, between himself and the disciples. Christ blessed eros when blessing the wedding at Cana.
That all being said, we cannot simply separate the aspects of love when speaking of another person. We can not simply love someone with the love of eros. We are called, as sharers in the Divine Word, to experience agape with everyone. Any relationship with eros that does not have agape is a relationship that is not built on a strong foundation.
We celebrate in our secular culture a date of love. A date of finding someone to sweep you off your feet and shower them with love and affection. Our secular culture is not wrong in that. Our culture simply does not extend the message out to its natural conclusion. We must keep our love and passion within the context of our faith. Without our faith, without Jesus Christ, without God who is love, our celebration of love is a celebration of nothing.
So, when you send a text message to, dial the phone number of, or knock on the door of your Valentine, keep in mind the fullness of what you are celebrating.