February 14th - This year sees both St Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent, on this day.
I share this comparison between the two celebrations we are having on the 14th. Writing it has helped me link the two and to think differently about each one. What do you think? Am I stretching a point?
Here they are for you to judge: similarities and differences…
Similarities between St Valentine’s Day and Lent
- Both are about building up an on-going relationship. A wedding is a start of a committed relationship but that’s all it is - a good start. What helps that relationship continue to grow? St Valentine’s day reminds us to tell our partner not only that we love them - we may do that often but also say why we love them. What is it about their looks, their behaviour and their values that we love? This positive telling helps each of us feel valued and builds up a relationship. This building up can counteract the negative stuff we can find it easier to say and which over time tears down a relationship! Lent too helps our relationship with God grow. Christianity is not a rule book faith primarily. It is a relationship between God and us, us and our neighbour. We are encouraged to spend more time thinking and reading about our faith, more time in prayer so that relationship with God becomes closer and stronger. No relationship in the long term thrives on neglect.
- Both are times we should say sorry. Lent is the time when we together as a church, say sorry and repent for our sins: the sins we are committing together, for example, our polluting and misuse of the world’s resources, as well as the sins we are committing personally. St Valentine’s Day - I want to argue that we need to be aware of our own part in what goes wrong in a relationship. We need the gift of honesty with ourselves. This is not just saying sorry it is admitting to ourselves the hurtful stuff we do.
Differences between St Valentine’s Day and Lent
- One has much heralding, the other has little. St Valentine’s Day is well advertised by commercial companies. This is no bad thing as we do need a nudge; it’s that time again to treat our partner and to tell they why they are special to us. Lent is only advertised by the likes of me! Which is a shame because again in the busyness of life we can forget to practise those values which we want to claim as our own. Keeping Lent encourages us to practise the values we try to own so they do actually become ours in practice as well as theory.
- One is for a season; the other is for a day. Lent is 40 days. St Valentine’s Day is one day... Which is OK for the purpose of each. You can say ‘I love you because…’ in one day. But to change our behaviour does take time and some discipline. Christians try to strengthen their faith by reading or praying more. And to take on one or two ‘give-ups’ to remind us every day it is still Lent.
Well, was it a bit contrived? Perhaps. See ideas for Lent on other pages in this magazine. No doubt local eating establishments and card shops will be encouraging us to celebrate St Valentine’s Day.
- Revd. Jan Ashton
Vicar of Hightown, Liverpool