Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Sunday, February 14, 2021

A Small, Human Valentine

1663 Vincenzo Ferdinando Ranuzzi as Amor by Elisabetta Sirani

Who was Saint Valentine?

Pair of Lovers, c 1480 Attributed to the Master of the Amsterdam Cabinet or theMaster of the Housebook (German artist, fl c 1470-1500)

It is said that on February 14, somewhere around the year 270 A.D., Valentine, a priest in Rome in the days of Emperor Claudius II, was executed. Well, Chaucer said it was February 14th, and that's good enough for me.

Rome's emperor was called Claudius the Cruel for good reason. During his reign, he involved his empire in many unpopular & bloody campaigns. Claudius needed to maintain a strong, loyal army, but he was having a difficult time enticing soldiers to join his traveling troops. Claudius believed that strong, young Roman men were unwilling to join the army, because they wanted to stay close to their loves.

To get rid of the problem, Claudius banned all marriages & engagements in Rome. If he could have banned sex between lovers, I suppose he would have. Priest Valentine, incensed by his emperor's cold decree, defied Claudius continuing to perform marriages for young lovers in secret.

When the disobedient priest's actions were discovered, Valentine was arrested & dragged before the Prefect of Rome, who condemned him to be beaten to death with clubs, so that he might suffer a little for his disloyalty to his supreme emperor, & then to have his head cut off. The sentence was said to be carried out on February 14.

Legend has it that, while in jail Valentine became enamoured with his jailer’s daughter, who was blind. The jailer asked Valentine if his God could restore daughter’s sight. They prayed together & the young woman regained full sight. Reportedly, Valentine left a farewell note for the jailer's daughter signing it "From Your Valentine." No, I do not know the extent of the priest's relationship with the jailer's daughter, & I do not wish to know.

For his great service to loyalty & truth & love, the church named Valentine a saint after his death.

Well, now, there is some debate about how the date February 14th came about; and there also seems to be some question about the exact identity of St. Valentine. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, "At least three different Saint Valentines, all of them martyrs, are mentioned in the early martyrologies under the date of 14 February." One was a priest in Rome, the 2nd was a bishop of Interamna (now Terni, Italy), & the 3rd St. Valentine was a martyr in the Roman province of Africa.

Perhaps it is just coincidence, but probably not,that the date of his death may have become mingled with the Feast of Lupercalia, a pagan festival of love. During these popular celebrations, the names of young women were placed in a box, from which they were drawn by the men as chance directed. In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius decided to put an end to all the silliness of the Feast of Lupercalia, & he declared that February 14 be celebrated as St Valentine's Day.And to this day, February 14 became a date for exchanging love messages, poems, & beautiful gifts such as flowers.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Candlemas - The Presentation of Jesus at The Temple

11C Menologion of Basil Presentation of Jesus at The Temple

The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple is an early biblical episode in the life of the infant Jesus, describing his presentation at the Temple in Jerusalem in order to officially induct him into Judaism, that is celebrated by many Western Christian Churches on the holiday of Candlemas. (Luke 2:23–40).

In some liturgical churches, the Compline on the Feast of the Presentation marks the end of the Epiphany season. In the Anglican Communion, the Presentation of Christ in the Temple is celebrated on February 2 or as close as possible  

According to the gospel, Mary & Joseph took the Infant Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem 40 days after Christmas to complete Mary's ritual purification after childbirth & to perform the redemption of the firstborn son, in obedience to the Torah (Leviticus 12, Exodus 13:12–15, etc.). Luke explicitly says that Joseph & Mary take the option provided for poor people (those who could not afford a lamb; Leviticus 12:8), sacrificing "a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons." 

Upon bringing Jesus into the temple, they encountered Simeon. The Gospel records that Simeon had been promised that "he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ" (Luke 2:26). Simeon then uttered the prayer which prophesied the redemption of the world by Jesus: "Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, & for glory to your people Israel". (Luke 2:29–32).

In art, early images concentrated on the moment of meeting with Simeon, typically at the entrance to the Temple. In the West, beginning in the 8C or 9C, a different depiction at an altar emerged, where Simeon eventually by the Late Middle Ages came to be shown wearing the elaborate vestments attributed to the Jewish High Priest, & conducting a liturgical ceremony surrounded by the family & the elderly prophetess Anna. In the West, Simeon is often already holding the infant, or the moment of handover is shown; in Eastern images Mary is more likely still to hold Jesus.

This parchment 1310-1320 image of The Presentation of Jesus at The Temple in a Missal originates from East Anglia, one of the earliest examples of a Missal of an English source. Sarum Missals were books produced by the Church during the Middle Ages for celebrating Mass throughout the year. National Library of Wales.
15C South German Depiction of The Presentation of Jesus at The Temple