To place “St.” before “Valentine’s Day” or leave it off — that is the question. You’ll see it both ways on calendars, ads and so on.
It seems to be up to the writer these days. This writer prefers acknowledging at least in passing the religious aspects of the holiday (holy day). I am reminded by the “Saint” or “St.” as well as the apostrophe in “Valentine’s” that there is a person and a history behind the holiday we devote to love. I think it is appropriate, but that’s just me.
The reality is that in our modern American culture St. Valentine’s Day, along with many other holy days, is no longer much of a religious holiday. Feb. 14 is just a place on the calendar to gather with loved ones in a mostly secular celebration.
Nothing wrong with that, I suppose. Occasionally pausing from our busy lives in an intentional way throughout the year to be with families or with a special loved one is certainly a good thing whether it be in a religious or worldly setting. Is there ever a bad time to love someone? Love makes the world go ’round, we are told, and all we have to do is listen to the news to be reminded that what the world needs now is love, sweet love. The quickest glance at history proves love is something the world has always been in need of.
In his book “The Four Loves,” writer and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis tells us the Greeks had different words to designate different kinds of love. These words might be translated as affection, friendship, romance and charity or unconditional love.
Lewis says the first love, affection (Greek: “storge”), “teaches us first to notice, then to endure, then to smile at, then to enjoy and finally to appreciate the people who ‘just happen to be there.’”
Family members and others who find themselves together by chance would be examples. I am reminded of elementary school when every child in class made a pocket to hold valentines.
We put one card into each pocket because, well, we were all in class together.
The second love, friendship (“philia”), is the love we develop for those with whom we find we have common interests.
The discovery that the kid down the street likes to play in the creek, explore the woods and ride bikes. This person listens to the same music you like and reads the same books. Lewis says the ancients considered friendship “the happiest and most fully human of all loves.”
The third love, romance (“Eros”), is the sense of being in love or loving someone.
Lewis is clear that eros love is not the same as raw sexuality. “Eros love,” he says, “makes a man want, not a woman, but one particular woman.” This is the person for whom you have been searching these last several days or weeks for the perfect present and just the right card. What’s that? You still haven’t gone shopping?
Lewis calls the first three loves “natural loves” and says, “The natural loves are not self-sufficient” unless they are subordinated to the greatest love, charity (“agape”).
“This does not make them bad, for being less,” he continues.
“A garden is a good thing but will only be different from a wilderness if it is pruned, mowed and weeded. ... A man and a garden will not survive without rain and sunshine.” Unless God’s unconditional love is allowed to enter, the first three loves will not “be kept in their proper perspective, produce good fruit and remain sweet,” he says.
I appreciate C.S. Lewis’s analogy comparing the four loves to a garden. It makes me hopeful for warmer days ahead and a chance to dig in the soil.
It is a good argument for my belief that “Saint” should be included in the name of the upcoming holiday — and it reminds me that I should probably start shopping for a St. Valentine’s Day card very soon.
Norman Knight, a retired Clark-Pleasant Middle School teacher, writes this weekly column for the Daily Journal. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.