Have you ever heard of Lupercalia Day? Lupercalia is a word you just may love to add to your vocabulary; maybe not. There is a much better word — and day — to take the place of Lupercalia Day that’s set aside each year to honor the emotion of love felt so strongly by human beings. Have you guessed it?
Lupercalia Day, we learned in doing a little research, occurred in ancient Rome on the 15th of February each year and was a bloody, violent affair. It was replaced a few centuries after the Christian Era; but this, too, was a gruesome time when several martyrs, with the name of Valentine, were tortured and executed for their Christian faith. One, by the name of Terni, who died in 269 A.D., was canonized by Pope Gelasius, and eventually we came to have the celebration of love known as Saint Valentine’s Day or just Valentine’s Day!
Since the Middle Ages, the date of Feb. 14 has been set aside each year to express feelings of love with gifts of flowers, chocolates, notes and cards — to the tune of some $20 billion in the U.S. annually.
Way back in Old Testament times, it was wise King Solomon who wrote the Song of Solomon (also known as the Song of Songs) to express his feelings of love for his 700 wives and 300 concubines. We might wonder how he had the time to write this lengthy “song” — in addition to the time-honored Book of Proverbs. And imagine Solomon coming up with all those cards and bouquets each year!
Before Solomon’s time, we have the love story of Jacob in the Book of Genesis, waiting those long years for his beloved Rachel. We also have the story of the love and devotion of Ruth for her mother-in-law following her husband’s death, as well as the tragic story of King David’s love for Bathsheba.
Throughout the ages, from Chaucer to Shakespeare, to the prolific poet Robert Browning, who composed tender words of love for the sickly Elizabeth Barrett — and her beautiful sonnets expressing her love for him. The words of both poets speak volumes. One of the sonnets begins with the familiar words: “How do I love thee; let me count the ways?”
These stories — and countless others — show how true love has the potential to transform lives. One example comes from the beautiful islands of Polynesia where the story is told of a young man named Johnny Lingo who wanted to marry the very best wife on the whole island. He had his eye on a girl named Leana others thought was shy and even ugly; however, Johnny saw in her a person with great potential.
It was considered necessary in the old days on the island for the prospective husband-to-be to offer the father of the bride-to-be a cow or two for his intended. Three cows meant the girl was of extra special worth.
When Johnny went to ask Leana’s father for her hand, he offered an unimaginable eight cows! Leana, suddenly knowing of what amazing value she was to this young man who loved her, blossomed into the most beautiful and intriguing woman on the island.
Biblical references to love are many, and different kinds of love are manifest. Mark (12:33 KJV) speaks of the love of God and that “to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbor as himself is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
And John, the Beloved Apostle, writes in 1 John (3:18 KJV), “Let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” In this same chapter, John also tells us: “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. (1 John 4:7 KJV)
One who walked the earth with the Apostles in the Meridian of Time taught the principle of agape love: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
Living his own teachings, Jesus gave up his life for all of us. Surely, the greatest act of love of all time occurred in Gethsemane’s Garden followed by the suffering of the Son of God on the cross at Golgotha. This was an act of such devotion that it would be well to remember it, ahead of all our other remembrances, each Valentine’s Day.
Dean and Nancy Hoch are part of the local Communication Council of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They may be reached at email@example.com.