Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Saint Cyril and Methodius Day!

The feast of St. Valentine or Valentinius was first added to the Christian calendar by an early medieval pope, who remarked that he was one of those "... whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose acts are known only to God." In other words, it's not really clear exactly why or how Valentinius came to be revered as a saint. Earliest traditions honor him as a martyr. Though this feast coincides with a Roman fertility festival, taking place between mid-January and mid-February, honoring the marriage of Zeus and Hera, St. Valentine's Day is not associated with romantic love and marriage until Chaucer's Parlement of Foules.

For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese [chose] his make [mate].

The earliest surviving valentine dates from 1415. It is a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife. At the time, the duke was being held in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt.

It is probable that the various legends about St. Valentine were invented during this period. Among these legends:

* On the evening before Valentine was to be martyred for being a Christian, he passed a love note to his jailer's daughter that read, "From your Valentine."

* During a ban on marriages of Roman soldiers by the Emperor Claudius II, St. Valentine secretly helped arrange marriages

And, finally, in 1969, as part of a larger effort to pare down the number of saint days of purely legendary origin, the Church removed St. Valentine's Day as an official holiday from its calendar. February 14 is now dedicated only to Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius.

Isn't Wikipedia a wonderful thing?

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