THE TRUE LOVE THAT THERE IS
This is one period that brings us better and closer to the reality that keeps us in continuous living. But for the spirit of the celebration at this period, the world would have remained just a formless void. Even when something manages to come up in the world, there would have been a complex chaotic relationship among all that exists in creation (if there would be anything like creation in the first place).
Creation itself is an act of love. It is borne out of Gods love through which he willed that all creatures might enjoy his benevolence. Man becomes the most beneficiary of that benevolence of God because he shares in the very being of God. And God went steps higher in the creation of man. The purpose of this creation itself is that man may come to enjoy the beatific vision in the end. At different points, he tried to establish this in the form of a covenant with man, starting with the Israelite Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. That covenant was of course summed up in that simple but rich promise, I will be their God” (Gen 17:8; Exod 29:45).
By its very nature, that love of God is not going to end in himself. He would want man to continue recreating that love. That is why he gave man a corresponding duty in which lies the condition for sharing in his love, If you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples; for all the earth is mine” (Exod 19:5). The Catechism of Christian Doctrine articulates this point justifiably when it says that God made man to know him, to love, to serve him in this life and be happy with him in the next. Hence, knowing God, loving and serving him becomes mans corresponding responsibility in that act of creation.
However, man did not fulfil his own obligation well and so lost his place in that beatific vision. But God would not yet be exhausted of his magnanimous love. This manifested so much in his patient tolerance of mans waywardness and in his effort to bring man to conversion by sending down his prophets. Finally, he sent his only begotten son Jesus Christ, who came to redeem man.
In Christ, we see many lessons for love. In fact, his life is love personified. He was God-made-man and so lives in the same dream of God bringing man to share in his love. He thus became an epitome of love in his various acts during his ministry and then the culmination of that came when he hung on the cross to die for man and cried, It is finished” (John 19:30). That made him a moral standard for all who wants to love for he says in the scriptures, Love one another as I have loved you (John 13:34; 15:9-12). Any act of love stemming from Christ’s love must therefore be self-emptying, not selfish. This is the kind of attitude that we see in the life of St. Valentine.
According to what we learnt of St. Valentine from the Butlers Lives of Saints, he was a holy priest in Rome, who, with St. Marius and his family, assisted the martyrs in the persecution under Claudius II. He was apprehended, and sent by the emperor to the prefect of Rome; who tried so much to make him renounce his faith but he refused. He was then condemned to being beaten with clubs, and afterwards beheaded on the 14th of February, about the Year 270. To abolish the heathen’s lewd superstitious custom of boys drawing the names of girls, in honor of their goddess, February Juno, on the 15th of this month, several zealous pastors substituted the names of saints in billets given on this day.
We can then see that St. Valentine was martyred for living a life of selfless love. Firstly, it was in the love of those that are being persecuted even though he knew very well that he would be punished if he is caught. Secondly, he extended to the love of God, on whose account he would never renounce his faith. That is why his feast was used to substitute what was becoming an immoral practice. The question we must now ask ourselves is on how far we have been assisting in making the spirit of that substitution successful.
There is one word we know very well as nose-diving. In psychology, it is a sign of depression or digression from ones expected state of consciousness or societal expectation. In Sigmund Freud psychoanalysis, this occurs when the id overpowers the ego and so leads the bearer to become an object of ridicule to the society. We must understand one thing clearly here. Being an object of ridicule is not what makes the process a nose-diving exercise. Something is said to have nose-dived in itself insofar as it has gone below the societal objective standard. In that sense therefore, we can say that a whole society has nose-dived when it has left the standard even if it is one it set for itself.
Hence, if this celebration is meant to be for sacrificial love and we are rather celebrating a selfish love, we have nose-dived. A reminder on the ideals of this celebration will present Christ, the excellent love, as the model of love. He loved selflessly which is why he died for a people who would not even appreciate his death. His death therefore would serve to serve a greater good which is to draw those people to God. Our love must be theocentric if we are to be judged as loving genuinely. St. Valentine knew this fact very well and would not even be enticed by human freedom which would have been restored to him or unworthy living which he would have enjoyed thereafter. He rather chose the way of martyrdom while practising love among the persecuted Christians. He was seen as an ideal for correcting immoralities among the youth in the society. It would then be nose-diving to be celebrating his feast with the same set of immorality that his name was being used to correct; even now in their advanced form.
Anyone who has therefore planned to celebrate this period with sexual immoralities, which would include sending romantic text messages or emails or even making calls and using words that are not edifying, would be planning to nose-dive. The ideals of love is not found in the number of people that will fall prey to our selfish drives but in the amount of transformation that we are able to bring into the people we claim to love. This is not to say that erotic love is evil in itself but it must be guided by Christocentric love to be perfect.
The theology of love is Christocentric for Christ has said, Love one another as I have loved you (John 13:34; 15:9-12). So, even the transformation that we mentioned above must NECESSARILY be channelled to God through Christ. The love we practice must be directed by the question of what Christ would have done if he were placed in the same situation that we are. That would enable us reach the stage where we can say with St. Paul, I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, WHO LOVED ME AND GAVE HIMSELF FOR ME (Gal 2:20). A recognition of the fact that it is Christ who loved us first would make us want to reciprocate in a way that will be pleasing to him if we really claim that we love him. This is not to say that it would be an easy thing to love. Mother Theresa of Calcutta once said that the hunger for love is more difficult to remove than the hunger for food. Yet, we must try to love, especially loving as Christ loved.