By Rev. Dr. Charles Yoost
Senior Director of Religious Life & Pastoral Care
Although in some parts of the country, spring is “right around the corner,” at Lakeside we still have weeks (months?) to go before the daffodils poke their heads through the ground and the tulips blossom. However, a bright spot for all of us is Valentine’s Day, the day that we celebrate romance and love with red paper hearts and chocolate.
This year, Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday, the day Christians mark the beginning of Lent by taking a solemn look at our mortality, come on the same day! At first glance, that seems incongruent. On the surface, the church is taking a killjoy approach to what has become a major income-producer for retailers of all types. “What are you giving up for Lent?” stands in stark contrast to the beautiful cards, boxes of candy and romantic dinners that will be in vogue across our land.
I am indebted to the current issue of Sojourner’s magazine, which was founded by Jim Wallis, (who will be our Preacher of the Week at Lakeside this summer from July 21-25) for the observation that these two observances, Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday, have some commonalities. The Feast of St. Valentine honors a third-century bishop who defied the Roman emperor and married young couples in secret. For his actions, the patron saint of love was imprisoned and executed.
Lent, with its emphasis on self-denial and fasting, is often associated with “the dark night of the soul,” of which St. John of the Cross wrote in the 16th century. For John, the dark night is a love story, full of the painful joy of seeking the most elusive lover of all.
Both Valentine and John, who was also wrongfully imprisoned, stood up against abusive power on behalf of the God of love. Both are role models for us as we celebrate Valentine’s Day and observe Ash Wednesday.
No matter what your faith orientation, may love and justice be the hallmarks of your life, not only on Feb. 14, but every day.