As cards and candy and jewelry and flowers fly off the shelves today in the flurry of a commercialized St. Valentine’s Day celebration, let’s think together about what becoming lovers entails. Although I would like to give a clear liturgical grounding for today’s celebration, the historical roots are murky at best. In the fifth century, the church declared February 14th a feast day honoring “St. Valentine,” supposedly a third century martyr who promoted romantic love. (Actually there were two, maybe three, St. Valentines from the same epoch of church history so one day was to cover them all.) The popularization of the day more likely came from the writings of Chaucer in medieval England—and later Shakespeare—both of whom speak about the celebration of love in the name of St. Valentine.
Known for complicated sentences and a vocabulary that is arcane, theologians can be lovers, too. Actually, the vocation of a theologian (and every Christian is a theologian) is to love God and invite others to that passionate pursuit. A theologian listens to Scripture, for there the cadences of God’s love reverberate; Scripture also instructs how to become a lover. The lectionary reading from Deuteronomy for the sixth Sunday after the Epiphany enjoins the hearer to “love the Lord your God…for that means life to you…” (30: 20). Humans are wired to love. The most basic impulse as children is toward what Hans Küng describes as a “fundamental trust.” (It took him about 400 pages to say that in Does God Exist?, so I have saved you a whole lot of time!) We were created to love God—and each other.
Loving others is always grounded in the love God has for us; we love because God “first loved us.” God loves lavishly, and as persons created in the image of the relational God, we are to learn to love unstintingly, also. Loving as God loves is never a zero sum game—as if there is not enough to go around. Love is the most dynamic energy in the world; it grows in marvelous ways as we participate in the abundance of God’s love, thereby becoming lovers—like God.
Molly T. Marshall
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