The story of Valentine’s Day begins in the third century with an oppressive Roman emperor and a humble Christian martyr. The emperor was Claudius II. The Christian was Valentinus.
Claudius had ordered all Romans to worship twelve gods, and he had made refusal a crime punishable by death to associate with Christians. Valentinus was dedicated to the ideals of Christ, and not even the threat of death could keep him from practicing his beliefs. He was arrested, imprisoned, and sentenced to death.
During the last weeks of Valentinus’ life, a remarkable thing happened. Seeing that Valentinus was a man of learning, the jailer asked whether his daughter, Julia, might be brought to Valentinus for lessons. She had been blind since birth. 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 saw the world through his eyes, 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,” was the reply.
“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!”
Valentinus thought for a moment and then replied: “God does what is best for us if we will only believe in Him.”
“Oh, Valentinus, I do believe,” Julie said intensely. “I do believe!
The young girl knelt and grasped his hand and as they sat quietly together, each praying, suddenly there was a brilliant light in the prison cell. Radiant, Julia screamed, “Valentinus, I can see! I can see!”
“Praise be to God!” Valentinus exclaimed as he knelt in prayer.
On the eve of his death, Valentinus wrote one last note to Julia and urged her to stay close to God. He signed it: “From your Valentine.”
His sentence was carried out the next day, February 14, 270 AD, near a gate that was later named Porta Valentini in his memory. Valentinus was buried at what is now the Church of Praxedes in Rome. It is said that Julia herself planted a pink-blossomed almond tree near his grave. Today, the almond tree remains a symbol of abiding love and friendship; and on each February 14, St. Valentine’s Day, messages of affection, love and devotion are exchanged around the world.
God, too, has given us a message of love. It is recorded in John’s gospel, chapter 3, verse 16. It reads:
The Bible tells us “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).”
Do you know true love? Do you know the True Love of God? If not, read the greatest love letter ever written – the Bible – and discover the wonder of His Valentine gift to you.
Pressing Toward the Mark,
Pastor Tom – Philippians 3:14