I waited anxiously wondering how many valentines if any, I would receive that Valentine’s Day.
A box had been placed in our middle-school classroom a couple of days earlier, properly fitted with a slot for the placement of cards. Into this box we put the valentines we had either created, cut from a book of valentines, or individually purchased.
The last period of Valentine’s Day, the box was opened. Those messages of friendship or love were distributed.
Valentine after valentine accumulated on the student’s desk beside me while none was dropped on mine. Finally, a card and then another. I may have received five cards out of that class of twenty-five.
I was new to the school that year. But in the succeeding years, anxiety, as a teenager, was less about how many cards received, but would I receive a card from that special person. And then it came, a red heart on a white background. It said, Be my Valentine with the “my” underlined in pen. That tiny, underlined word conveyed a message of acceptance as a special friendship; the heart shape spoke of sincerity.
The heart has been related to romantic love for centuries. Cupid, the son of the Roman god's Mercury and Venus, the goddess of love, could instill love by one shot of his arrow penetrating the heart of a human. Later in the late 13th and 14th century, the red heart became very popular to accompany letters of romantic intent.
February 14th is the day we express gratitude for friendship and love to those dear to us.
A Christian priest in Terni, Italy, is allegedly responsible for this day of affectionate expressions. Martyred on February 14, 269 CE. for secretly marrying Christian couples. Seemingly married men were not drafted into the Roman army. However, the army was short of men, so this activity of marrying men was frowned upon by the emperor.
Churches for centuries have celebrated the feast of St. Valentine on that date.
But, St. Valentine is only part of the story.
Supposedly, the medieval poet Geoffrey Chaucer is accredited for that day becoming a celebration of romantic love. He wrote a poem in 1375 in which one line read, “For this was on St. Valentin’s Day, when every bird comes here to choose his mate.” During the 14th century, nobles inspired by Chaucer also began writing poems to their love interests. These poems were often flourished with red hearts known as “Valentines”.
Now six and a half centuries later boxes of chocolates, flowers, dinners, marriage proposals, jewelry and of course cards are bought and given to express love to partners, family members and friends. Each card or gift affirms or reaffirms a special bond.
However, the red heart is only one icon representing love.
Several years ago, Jean and I had the opportunity to visit the beautiful cathedral in Chartres, France. One of the most impressive parts of the cathedral is all the stained-glass windows dating back to the thirteenth and fourteenth century. Four of these beautiful windows are circular rose windows.
The symbolism of the rose window lies in its geometry. Made of geometric shapes of various sizes and shapes radiating out from a central small round window, the oculus, every element of a rose window has a degree of meaning.
Dante in his Divine Comedy suggests the rose window is the perfect presentation of divine love. The small central window holds all the pieces together. Light from this center radiates throughout the entire window illuminating a variety of colours. God’s love includes all types of people, colour, shape, and size.
The circular shapes of the rose window are symbolic of perfection and eternity, the perfect presentation of God and the divine relationship to us.
This was the nonverbal message presented to the congregants as they worshipped throughout the centuries. We are born loved by God and God wanting to confirm that love in a very personal and dramatic way, sent a message in the person of Jesus.
He presented God’s love for humanity radically, inclusively, and sacrificially.
What a beautiful confirming Valentine, who expressed acceptance and affirmation.
God’s valentine says, I love you.