Ash Valentines Day

The lenten season started today, and this year it kicks off on the feast day of Saint Valentine. So far, I have heard mixed reviews about this rare occurance of “Ash Valentine’s”, which hasn’t occurred since 1945. But, I contend the two make a perfect match, and isn’t that what Valentine’s day is about anyway? Besides the problem of normal, maybe slightly elevated, feast-day-levels of indulgence falling on a day of fasting and prayer, the example of Saint Valentine is a rather fitting beginning to Lent. For those of us less familiar with the gripping story behind what Hallmark successfully commercialized, it is a story of the deep love from which faith and hope spring. One testimony of Saint Valentine describes him as a priest in 3rd century Rome who was jailed for unlawfully marrying Christian couples, and was then executed, but not before restoring the sight of his jailer’s daughter. This account is a far cry from heart shaped candy engraved with love notes. But, as it is, the story is quite fitting as the beginning of the lenten season, which was characterized as a “sad brightness” by theologian Alexander Schmemann. This “sad brightness” appropriately encapsulates the beauty of a faithful priest martyred for uniting men and women in the sacrament of marriage, which is a felicitous image for our journey in the dark of Lent as we approach the cross on our journey to Easter, where we will celebrate the marriage feast of Christ and his Bride. But until then, let us walk through the darkness together, with repentance, and with the joy of living this side of redemption and reconciliation. Happy Ash Valentine’s!