This past week has seen St Valentine’s Day, 14th February. The historical Valentine is a very shadowy figure. Lurking behind the legends may be a Christian priest who was executed for his faith in 269AD, during one the periodic persecutions launched by the Roman Empire. The association with loving couples is tenuous, probably arising from a story that Valentine restored the sight of the daughter of the magistrate who first arrested him. The magistrate then converted to Christianity and freed Valentine, who was soon rearrested and this time executed. However, before his death he sent a letter to the young woman whose sight he had restored, to the eternal gratitude of greeting card makers two millennia later. Another tradition has him marrying Christian couples so that the husbands would avoid serving in the Roman army; those more versed in Roman history than myself may be able to comment on the plausibility of this.
There is some irony in the timing of Valentine’s Day this year, as the Church of England continues to agonise over relationships between couples. Perhaps it has value in being an occasion when we can celebrate emotional and physical attraction between two individuals that is based on lasting love and not lust, where both draw from the relationship.