I worked for a few hours yesterday afternoon/evening. I sold lots of beer and wine and lots of flowers and chocolates and cards. Some of the families where buying special Valentines dinners with fun desserts. Lots of husbands and wives and boyfriends and girlfriends were trying to express their undying affections.
I’ve gone through lots of feelings about Valentine’s Day. There are years I’ve loved it and years I felt like it was a huge waste of time and money. And then there are years like this one where I can just take it all in stride.
Last night when I came home I found out about the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Known as a conservative justice and excellent interpreter of the Constitution, Scalia was also a faithful Catholic and father of nine. Scalia wrote a passionate dissent on the ruling on same-sex marriage handed down last year, not from a moralistic standpoint, but a Constitutional one that is very worth reading.
The substance of today’s decree is not of immense personal importance to me. The law can recognize as marriage whatever sexual attachments and living arrangements it wishes, and can accord them favorable civil consequences, from tax treatment to rights of inheritance.
Scalia was in close quarters on this issue with Chief Justice John Roberts (who wrote the main dissention on the ruling), Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito…all Catholics. The opposite side of this court contains two more Catholics, Sonya Sotomayor and Anthony Kennedy. These Justices are lightning rods in the culture wars of today be it same-sex marriage, the affordable care act or any other controversial Constitutional issue. And their being Catholic is often called into question.
Scalia died on the eve of what the Church calls both St Valentine’s Day and World Marriage Day. The irony of this is not at all lost on me at least. Scalia, as a Supreme Court Justice, was in charge of interpreting the law and did so on marriage. St Valentine was put to death as a result of breaking the law, because of marriage.
While the secular world would like us to think that this day is about little cherubs in diapers with bows and arrows and little heart shapes (actually modeled after the shape of a woman’s buttocks when she is bent over), the reason this day was ever commemorated was because of a priest in the Roman Empire around the year 270.
During the reign of Emperor Claudius the Cruel, marriage was outlawed. The reason: to make more men eligible for military service in the Empire. Valentine was simply a priest who believed that God’s law usurped man’s. Especially when man’s law was clearly self-serving and wrong. He married couples secretly in civil disobedience and violation of the law. For his efforts, he was beaten, jailed and put to death. And years later we remember him by exchanging gifts of chocolate and flowers.
A couple of weeks ago, the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, we heard the reading from St Paul’s First Letter to the Church in Corinth and his extortion on love. It’s a beautiful verse not because it talks about romantic love but because it describes the greatest love in existence, the love of Christ for us and how when we love Him back perfectly, we can love the rest of His creation, including other humans. Our Parochial Vicar’s homily gives a perfect and beautiful explanation of how this love is perfection.
So here we are in 2016, we’ve lost a man who attempted to preserve marriage as one man and one woman and we are at the annual celebration that has it’s origins in another man who played a role in preserving marriage. It’s some time to be alive, I tell you.
The marriage of a man and woman is the living example of the marriage of Christ and His Church. A Church that risks persecution, yet again.
Christ is the common denominator. His love is the love we should be seeking an emulating today. Without His love, our expressions of love to one another: whether romantic, familial, brotherly etc are empty and meaningless.
And so He is who I began this Valentine’s Day with. I found myself up before 5 AM thanks to a certain autistic princess’ crazy sleeping postures and came down stairs to pray the Divine Office and Rosary in the presence of our Savior thanks to online Eucharistic Adoration.
It is easy to get wrapped up in the politics regarding marriage or the secular notions of this day. It is easy to forget the most important and central love in our lives. As our Parochial Vicar said in this morning’s homily, we are Christ’s beloved children, we are chosen. Christ is the great lover in our lives. It is Him we should honor with our lives this day and in our loving Him, we can love our spouse, our children, our friends and all creation. Like all loving relationships, this one will require time. So, this Lent, put in some face time with our great love, if you can’t do Adoration at your parish or there is no perpetual Eucharistic Adoration near you, check out the link above and do it online. Spend that quiet time whenever you can snatch it. You can’t express Christ’s love without regularly experiencing it yourself.