Happy Last Sunday of Epiphany ya’ll! Seriously, that’s the official prayer book designation for today! By tradition we close Epiphanytide with the greatest Epiphanic moment of Jesus’ ministry short of the cross and empty tomb, His Transfiguration!! But since we’ve sufficiently explored the big Fig in some detail earlier, let’s go with today’s other provocative theme….HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY AND WAFFLES OR APPLES FOR ALL!!
Hod’up, you say?! No roses, hearts or chocolates, you puzzle? (Wait for it…) Let’s push well past Hallmark (always!) to the mid-3rd century AD/CE, clear away the layers of sentimental, legendary mists (equally colluded by medieval Catholicism and 19th century Victorian conceit), and discover there an actual Saint Valentine, located in what’s now the Umbrian city of Terni northeast of Rome. Early documents places his death date, hence his Feast Day, on February 14th, 269 AD/CE. His name reflects his hagiographic reputation….valens in Latin means influential, potent, vigorous. Seeing through the accumulated saintly haze, Valentine healed a young girl of blindness and converted her entire household as a result. He came to the attention of the Roman Emperor Claudius II who had him brutally executed, and Valentine’s relics spread across Europe following his death in Rome. And from there dear readers, we are off to the pietistic races!!
Did Valentine pen a note expressing his affection to the young girl he healed, signing it “Your Valentine?!” Did he secretly conduct weddings of Roman conscripted soldiers to aid them in avoiding service in Claudius’ legions, cutting out small paper hearts to remind the new husbands of their first vow of devotion?! Do certain species of birds mate quite visibly in mid-February, or did Geoffrey Chaucer (of Canterbury Tales and Westminster’s Poets’ Corner fame) just give Hallmark an early (600 years give or take) head start for literary legendary schmaltz?! Courtly chivalrous love, achievable only by a chaste few souls of unspeakable sanctity whose purity is aided by a 3rd century Roman saint?! Honestly?! Thank God Chaucer never travelled far enough north to meet any Scottish highlander! They’d have schooled him properly on real romance!
While I cast a rather skeptical academic eye towards these and other traditions accreting upon the actual Valentine, it is undeniable that his cult gravitated to the tremendous love he displayed to others regardless of their life station, and the esteem they returned to this holy man of God. The Christian chapels, shrines and cathedrals featuring his relics have become pilgrimage centers for those seeking to love and receive love in return, especially today. (And no dear readers, you’ll have to sleuth those out on your own! We’re in sales, not management here!)
So please enjoy your hearts, chocolates and roses today, but I suggest…waiting on the pancakes until Tuesday, and instead adding the time-tested Valentine tradition of waffles or apples today! My “cool culture” authorities inform me that “pancake hands” are closed finger hands which grasp the closed fingered hand of your companion, and further, that pancake hands is not a complimentary term in cool culture. Duh. I’m also informed cool culture prefers “waffle hands,” interlacing your open fingers with the open fingers of your Valentine’s companion upon hand-holding. Oh gosh, don’t tell the grandkids we all may have figured this one out already!!! For some of us, waffles please! For others, I offer Valentine apples, as in “Apple of God’s eye!” God grips not human hands but human hearts with His unfathomable love, a love Saint Valentine knew intimately and Hallmark/Chaucer are better off learning more about. May you only receive this divine overwhelming love today, dear readers, as may we all. Happy Valentine’s ya’ll!