By Maureen Kalbus
Sheltering at home, with primroses and orchids bursting into bloom in our courtyard, and bulbs pushing their way through the recently softened soil, I am realizing we are into February, careering towards Spring, and St. Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Different stories about St.Valentine abound. Perhaps the most widely accepted is that of a young Christian imprisoned in Rome, who healed and befriended the jailor’s blind daughter, who brought his meals each day. The night before his execution in A.D. 270, Valentine wrote her a letter, signing it “From Your Valentine.” By the Middle Ages, he had been created a martyr in the Catholic Church. At the end of the fifth century, Pope Gelasius declared February 14th as St. Valentine’s Day. Some believe this was the date on which Valentine had been executed, while others link it with the pagan celebration of Lupercalia on February 15th. It was a fertility festival, dedicated to Faunes, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as Rome’s founders, Romulus and Remus.
Geoffery Chaucer was the first to record February 14th as a day of romantic celebration in his 1375 poem “Parliament of Foules.” The oldest known valentine still in existence, is a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife, while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London.It is contained in the British Library in London. In the eighteenth century, friends and lovers exchanged small tokens of affection, and by the twentieth century, printed cards replaced hand written ones.In 1840, Esther A. Howland , “The Mother of the Valentine’, began selling the first mass produced Valentine cards, in the U.S.. Nowadays, millions are sent. Growing up in the United Kingdom, Valentine cards were only exchanged romantically. When I came to America, I was amazed that Valentine cards were printed for parents, siblings, family members, friends, co-workers, ministers, doctors and even cats and dogs! I thought,”How daft!”
However, when I mulled it over, I liked the idea that, at least once a year, people expressed their feelings to others. I embraced it, and now send cards to relatives and friends, telling them how much I appreciate them, and why.
Throughout literature, stories and poems have been written about loving relationships. Among the best known quotations:
“My bounty is as boundless as the sea, my love as deep; The more I give to thee, the more I have, for both are infinite.” William Shakespeare
“If I had a flower for every time I thought of you, I would walk through my garden forever.”
Alfred, Lord Tennyson
“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” Elizabeth Barrett Browning
“Young love is a flame; very pretty, often very hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering. The love of the older and disciplined heart is as coals, deep burning, unquenchable.”
Henry Ward Beecher
“Age does not protect you from love, but love, to some extent, protects you from age.” Anais Nin
“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.” Helen Keller
“ Love has no other desire but to fulfil itself
But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;”
The sale of millions of red roses on Valentine’s Day, perhaps may be attributed to Robert Burns, who penned “O my Luve is like a red, red rose, that’s newly sprung in June
O my Luve is like the melodie that’s sweetly played in tune.
As fair are thou, my bonie lass, so deep in love am I,
And I will luve thee still, my Dear, till a’ the seas gang dry.
Till a’ the seas gang dry, my Dear, and the rocks melt wi’ the sun;
I will luve thee still my Dear, while the sands o’ life shall run.
And fare thee weel, my only Luve, and fare thee weel, a while!
And I will come again, my Luve, tho’ it be ten thousand mile!”
In separate worlds, decades apart, Ralph and I became familiar with the Apache Wedding Blessing. We each loved it, and had it read during our wedding service:
“Now you will feel no rain, for each of you
will be shelter for the other.
Now you feel no cold, for each of you
will be warmth for the other.
Now there is no more loneliness.
Now you are two persons, but there is only one life before you.
Go now to your dwelling to enter into the days
of your life together, and may your days together
be good and long upon the earth.”
The Ancient Greeks believed there were seven types of love: Eros [passionate love]; Philia [friendship]; Storge [natural fondness within a family]; Agape [selfless love]; Ludus [playful love]; Pragma [pragmatic love based on common goals]; Philautia [self-love].
The Bible is full of stories about love in all its forms. We can read about relationships between
Adam and Eve Gen. 2-3
Abraham and Sarah Gen. 17-18
Jacob and Rachel/Leah Gen. 29
Ruth and Naomi Ruth 1-3’
Ruth and Boaz Ruth 4
David and Janathan 1Sam. 16-17
Mary and Joseph Matt.1
The greatest story of love, is the story of Jesus Christ. Since the beginning of the Bible, God showed His love to mankind. Many stories in the Old Testament are examples to help us understand the love of God through Jesus Christ. The strongest testament to love is in this wonderful verse:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish, but may have eternal life.” John 3 v 16
This year, perhaps more than any before, reaching out in love and appreciation is more relevant. Simple acts of love can comfort, lift up, rejuvenate and sustain those around us who are weary from the trials and anxieties of these past twelve months.
I am truly happy that Ralph and I found First Presbyterian Church of San Anselmo when we moved to Northern California in 2000, and chose it as our home church. Particularly, we have appreciated the quality and variety of music, the beauty of flowers in services, and the wonderful members of the church community. There is so much warmth, kindness and generosity of spirit abounding. The majority of our friends are church friends, and we are continually grateful for their interest, support and love. Our lives have been enriched. We have been blessed during this past year to have a caring Pastor and Youth leader lead us in creative, thoughtful and diverse services, backed by talented individuals who enable them to happen.We are thankful we have a church to attend each Sunday, via Zoom.
I am indebted to Ralph, and to everyone who has touched our lives. Thank you.