It is Valentine's Day again. That one day each year where everything somehow takes on an aura of pink and red like the green tinge of all of the Matrix movies.
Unintentionally, the holiday falls soon after the string of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years, all holidays that offer a fresh opportunity to reflect on around whom we are grateful to spend time. Valentine's day lets you get through the dreary lull of January and then reminds you to think of who matters most to you now that the group-heavy holidays are past.
It also marks the two weeks that count as a florist's annual "peak season".
As children in school construct mailboxes on their desks in which they hope to receive little cards and candies from their peers, we often forget why that is what we do on Valentine's day.
The most widely accepted recordings account St. Valentine as a priest in 3rd century Rome who chose to continue marrying young Christian couples in Rome even though the emperor was outlawing it in hopes of using the single men to serve in the Roman army.
Not only was St. Valentine upholding and spreading the word of the Christian faith, but he also respected the institution of marriage within it so devoutly that he prioritized the love that the two individuals shared.
St. Valentine was imprisoned and ultimately executed for his secret marriage practice. While imprisoned, the most popularized account of him describes the story of his falling in love with a young woman and giving her love notes whenever she might visit, hence inspiring the practice of sharing cards with our loved ones or giving them to peers in elementary school.
St. Valentine was reportedly executed because he chose not to renounce his faith after having gone so far as to try and convert the harsh Emperor Claudius.
His sacrifice certainly rings a metaphorical bell toward the kind of sacrifice we all must make in love and relationships, but let us focus more literally on what his martyrdom represents. What he provided for those young couples in secret marriages.
What is love? Baby, don’t hurt me…
Father Mike Schmitz, a Catholic priest in Minnesota who hosts a popular podcast that speaks to our daily life as developing humans, defined the word Love as "willing the good of another person". In other words, inviting one's goodness to be brought forth.
Offering the space for that person to open themselves and share their beauty.
To will that good from someone, though, requires your ability to acknowledge that beautiful goodness in them, hence the reciprocal vulnerability and acceptance inherent in love and relationships.
Not only did St. Valentine acknowledge that goodness in the people he served, he offered them his own love by willing that good from them. He offered his love in order to celebrate theirs, all under the umbrella of loyalty and devotion to their faith and each other.
When we enter into a relationship, vulnerability is required.
Alan Watts, the famous British philosopher, states "this is why it is called FALLING in love. You do not rise into love, but you fall. Something about you must fall for you to love."
A wall, a belief, arrogance, a mask, a barrier of any kind between you and the person you love.
You must let that barrier fall in order to acknowledge the beauty with which you connect within that other person, and in doing so invite them to see your beauty as well.
Valentine's Day has become so revered because, underneath the rose pedals and the chocolates and dinner reservations, it invites you to remember the beauty and goodness in those that you love, and to remember the beauty and goodness that you offer them in return.
Today, I invite you to consider this for yourself:
What / who do you love?
What part of you do you allow to fall in order to love them / it?
How do you acknowledge their beauty and goodness? On your own? Outwardly to them?
How do you know that you are loved in return? What evidence do you need?
What beautiful sacrifice do you make for that love?