Thursday, February 14, 2013


"V-Day: Love in the Wilderness"

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Only the second day of Lent, and already we are confronted with the temptation to eat chocolate and cheesecake, drink red wine, and dress provocatively!  Yesterday I was wearing black and ashes, and today I am putting on lavender glitter nail polish – the color is “Flirt.”  I am not even kidding.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

When St. Valentine was first listed as a martyr of the church in late 5th century, all that was remembered about him was his name, the date of his death, and his place of burial.  It was only 1000 years later that his saint day, February 14, was associated with romantic love.

My husband and I don’t always celebrate Valentine’s Day (though I am dropping lots of hints this year, because I understand that the Monuts truck will be very near his work today, and doughnuts are my absolute favorite food.)  We celebrate our anniversary, and our “lunaversaries” (the 27th of every month), and each other’s birthdays, and New Year’s Eve, and any other little excuse… but somehow Valentine’s Day has never been high on our list of celebrations.  Maybe this is because Valentine’s Day is a day of obligation – like Father’s Day or Mother’s Day… it is a day on which anyone who is in a relationship is obliged to celebrate it, and not every relationship is worth celebrating.  It almost feels banal to celebrate Valentine’s Day – I am not interested in a day that seems to lead to a lot of “going through the motions” when our marriage is singular, vibrant, life-giving… when our life together is a spiritual discipline, a continuous sharing of grace, a revelation of God’s love for us reflected in our love for each other.

Valentine’s Day is also analogous to Mother’s Day or Father’s Day as a day of obligation that not all are in a position to celebrate.  Just as Father’s Day can be an especially difficult day after the loss of one’s father,  Valentine’s Day screams out, “You Are ALONE!” to those who are not currently in a romantic relationship – even if this is a choice that that person feels good about on every other day of the year.

And so, while there are many who have criticised Eve Ensler for “co-opting” Valentine’s Day, I am glad for her annual V-Day celebrations, drawing attention each February 14 to the continuing problem of violence against women.  Too often, this violence happens in the very relationships we celebrate on Valentine’s Day.  And many women who are not in relationships on this day are “alone” because they have made the brave and difficult choice to end a relationship that was dangerous for themselves or their children. 

Not every relationship is worth celebrating. 

So today, as one of the “One Billion Rising,” I am going to dance – dance in celebration for the many who have broken the cycle of violence, dance in solidarity with those who have been hurt and those who love them back into health and wellness, dance in sorrow for those who cannot yet articulate what is happening to them, dance in pain for those who hurt others – sometimes with the purpose of dominating, and sometimes without even knowing they are doing it. 

And I will dance in gratitude for my husband, whose love for me is like the love of Christ for the church – a feast of love in the wilderness.

-Sarah McGiverin
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