Today is not only Valentine’s Day, but also Ash Wednesday. It is interesting to see how some people choose to celebrate the Feast of St. Valentine on the same day as many observe the first day of Lent as a day of Fasting! According to legend, during his imprisonment St. Valentine of Rome healed the daughter of his jailer. Before his execution, he wrote her a letter signed “Your Valentine” as a farewell to her. This day first became associated with romantic love within the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century, when the tradition of courtly love flourished.
According to the the New Testament, Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the desert, where he endured temptation. Lent originated as a mirror of this fasting 40 days as preparation for Easter. Ash Wednesday derives it’s name from the practice of blessing ashes made from Palm branches blessed on the previous year’s Palm Sunday. These ashes are then placed on the foreheads of participants of Ash Wednesday ceremonies.
A feast day and a day of fasting? Isn’t it the dichotomies that make our lives so rich?