St. Valentine's Day, in the Christian calendar, commemorates the martyrdom of various folks named Valentine:
- A priest in Rome,
- A bishop of Interamna (modern Terni), or
- A martyr in the Roman province of Africa.
Here is an image of (one of the) St. Valentine's skull in the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin in Rome covered with flowers. Dead sexy that one.
How did we get from this to candies and cupids? This wiki on the history of Valentine's Day is helpful. The romantic element comes from the poetry of Chaucer and the late medieval/Renaissance tradition of courtly love poetry.
I'm not really a big fan of Valentine's Day. [Though I don't hate it like I do Christmas.]
The only connection I can make in my heart and mind between the two is that true love is a form of martyrdom. It costs blood. It brings us out of our skulls. The reason St. Valentine's skull is wreathed with flowers is as a symbol of victory. Lovers who remain to the end are paradoxically victorious. The wreathed skull of the great saint of the day of Lovers is a stark (and I think brilliant) reminder that everything and everyone we love will die. And (some of) those who love us will watch us die.
Love is the great act in the face of death. Not so much chocolates.
The word matryr means witness. A martyr gives the ultimate witness of his/her life. Marriage or any kind of committed love relationship is a form of martyrdom. It is a witness to a life of responsibility and other-centered care in a rather selfish world.
And love is death.
Tom Cruise's character stupidly said to Rene Zwelleger that "you complete me." This is the ignorance of our age. Another person's exists to make us feel good about ourselves. He would have been better to say: "You slay me."
When two beings come together like that, for real, then they have to die. Marriage, the Yoga of Committed Relationship, whatever you want to call it, is the sacrifice of the self from the heart. Sacrificial, bloody, victorious, tragically beautiful death.
In a word martyrdom.
So Happy St. Valentine's Day everyone.