Written by Ian on Sunday 04/02/07
The story of St. Valentine's Day...
begins in the third century with an oppressive Roman emperor and a humble Christian martyr. The emperor was Claudius II Gothicus. The Christian: Valentinus.
Claudius had ordered all Romans to worship the state religion's
idols, and he had made it a crime punishable by death to associate with Christians. But Valentinus was dedicated to Christ, not even the threat of death could prevent him worshipping.
During the last weeks of Valentinus's life a remarkable thing happened: a jailer for the Emperor of Rome knocked at Valentinus's door clutching his blind daughter in his arms. He had learned of Valentinus's medical and spiritual healing abilities, and appealed to Valentinus to treat his daughter's blindness. She had been blind since birth. Valentinus knew that her condition would be difficult to treat but he gave the man his word he would do his best. The little girl was examined, given an ointment for her eyes and a series of re-visits were scheduled.
Seeing that he was a man of learning, the jailer asked if this daughter, Julia, might also be brought to Valentinus for lessons. Julia was a pretty young girl with a quick mind. Valentinus read stories of Rome's history to her. He described the world of nature to her. He taught her arithmetic and told her about God. She trusted in his wisdom, and found comfort in his quiet strength.
"Valentinus, does God really hear our prayers?" Julia said one day. "Yes, my child, He hears each one" he replied. "Do you know what I pray for every morning and every night? I pray that I might see. I want so much to see everything you've told me about!". They sat quietly together, each praying. Several weeks passed and the girl's sight was not restored. Yet the man and his daughter never wavered in their faith.
Then Valentinus received a visit from Roman soldiers who arrested him, destroyed his medicines and advised him against his religious beliefs. When the girl's father learned of this, he wanted to intervene but there was nothing he could do.
On the eve of his death, Valentinus wrote a last note to Julia - knowing his execution was imminent, he jotted a brief farewell note and handed it to the jailer to give to his daughter. He urged her to stay close to God, and signed it From Your Valentine.
He was executed the next day, February 14, 270 A.D., near a gate that was later named Porta Valentini in his memory.
The jailer returned home, and was greeted by his little girl. She opened the note and discovered a beautiful pressed flower inside. The message said, From your Valentine. As the little girl looked down upon the flower that spilled out into her palm she saw brilliant colours for the first time in her life! The girl's eyesight was restored!
God had performed a miracle!
Valentinus was buried at the Church of Praxedes in Rome. Legend says that Julia herself planted a pink-blossomed almond tree near his grave. Today, the almond tree remains a symbol of abiding love and friendship. In 496 Pope Gelasius of the Roman Catholic Church named February 14 as
Saint Valentine's Day (although a later pope gave that day to another two saints).
Today we remember on this day that God loves us so much, and that He can and still does perform miracles of healing for us His people.
But more than that, God's love is so great that he willingly traded the life of His perfect son to free us - all humanity, every colour, religion and nationality. And that we may never again fear death.