Celebrating the Song of Songs on Saint Valentine's Day
This is the week of Valentine’s Day. Now, I know little is known about the actual saint, and that much of what passes for tradition is rooted in Medieval courtly notions of romantic love and the writings of Geoffrey Chaucer, but still, Saint Valentine is a saint, and his feast day can be used as a way to keep a certain freshness and youth to relationships that often suffer from the scars and stresses of being “middle aged”or older. This year, make Saint Valentine's feast day about true love, about something beyond the pink cupids, hearts and flowers.
How? Begin with contemplation of your beloved. When a relationship is young, we spend hours considering what the other would like, how to dress, how to act, what to give, because it is part of the glorious indulgent part of romantic courtship. In a “settled” and by that I mean married plus kids relationship, the idea of just contemplating the other in one’s life seems frivolous in a way, after all, we KNOW our spouse. We’ve lived with them and suffered and had moments of great joy, we KNOW them. Yet contemplation of one’s beloved is part of loving them, just as surely as contemplation of God via adoration is a form of prayer. We can always KNOW God better, just so we can always KNOW our spouse better.
Thinking about one’s beloved leads to actions or dreaming of actions –he’s always been interested in…or I know he’d like…and leads to physical manifestation of that love via dinner, a book, a date, or whatever contemplation inspired. Marriage requires work to keep the romantic elements present. Absent the true romantic quality, the Song of Songs aspect, marriage becomes a business arrangement that eventually strangles all joy from the experience.
We don’t marry to have someone keep house. We don’t marry to have someone bring home a pay check. We don’t marry to have someone make sure the laundry gets done and the food gets cooked. We don’t marry to have someone make sure the kids get their homework done. All those things can be done by people who do not love us if need be. We marry because we are crazy about another person who by their love for us, brings us closer to God. We marry because we find in that other person, what we need as part of God’s plan. We marry for the slice of Eden that remains after the fall that allows us to bear the work that following God’s will involves.
In a “settled marriage,” often one or the other can feel they are being taken for granted, as if their contributions to the family, be it a pay check or physical labor, child rearing or house maintenance, are ignored or considered the baseline, expected. Sometimes one spouse will swallow their resentment, but this only leads to later hostile manifestations of anger via words, deeds, and unwillingness to do extra that seem to arise out of nowhere to the other spouse. Other times, spouses chalk up the staleness and weariness in their everyday reactions to each other to fatigue, age, stress or temperment. Sacramental relationships require that such moments of malaise must be addressed as serious threats to long term joyful peaceful homes.
So this Valentine’s day, arrange a date. Maybe it’s flowers. Maybe it’s a card. Maybe it’s a favorite dinner or dessert or a video you know he wanted to see and you didn’t. Arrange it to show your beloved he or she is still is the love of your life and worth the extra effort that shunting aside time in the schedule and forgoing other more practical tasks require. Be present to each other out of love.
This Valentine’s day, tell your spouse how glorious and wonderful and necessary they are to your life physically, emotionally and spiritually. Christ knows our memories are short without physical reminders; that we need to be fed often to know of God’s love, with miracles and beauty and truth and prayers. Love nested in Christ in the marriage, turns water to wine. So celebrate your marriage this saint’s day.
Happy Saint Valentine’s Day!