On Christianity and Valentine’s Day

Monday Musings for February 11, 2013

Volume III, No. 6/106





By Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA*

Happy Valentine’s Day! For the etymology of the word Valentine a bit of history and reflection might be appropriate: Human sacrifice, self-sacrifice and martyrdom are not new. They go back to the Iron age when Virgil in his Book IV, dramatically depicted the departure of Aeneas for the Trojan war leading to Dido’s plunging a knife into her breast and sacrificing herself for the love of Aeneas.  And we know that during the reign of Roman Emperor Diocletian (244-311 AD) Christians were caught and fed to the lions. Were those professed Christians who risked their lives and became dinner for the Emperor’s hungry lions on a suicide mission as are today’s fanatic suicide bombers of Islam?  A good question to reflect upon…The martyr sacrificed self. The fanatic bombers sacrifice self and kill innocent others.  That is murder…

Of course things got better for Christians after Emperor Constantine (272-337 AD) converted to Christianity in 313 AD. The same persecuted Christians under Diocletian were now pampered and given cushiony jobs under Constantine. What a difference a mere 75 years make!
Well, There were three Saint Valentines and the one we westerners strongly identify with is the Saint Valentine of Rome who was a priest martyred in 269 AD by the orders of Diocletian. Some 200 years later Pope Gelasius I  (he was the pope when Saint Augustine ‘345-430 AD) became the Bishop of Hippo) decided to recognize Saint Valentine’s love and devotion for Christianity and established by papal order the Saint Valentine’s Day. It was not until Chaucer days (1345-1400) in the fourteenth century England when the feast of February 14 first became associated with romantic love, a pure Anglo invention.
For the past seven centuries the invention has served us well. Imagine the number of weddings that have been facilitated and children conceived by Saint Valentine.  Incidentally, Valentine from Latinvalentinus means valence, and the word value takes its roots from the same origin. The Meymandi household joins me in wishing a Happy Valentine’s Day to you and your precious families.

Love and Joy to All,

Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA

*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill. He is Emeritus, Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012)


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