I couldn’t resist taking this photo when on Nice beach for St Valentine’s Day ’12. I don’t know the woman. She never noticed me taking the photo and my lovely wife was sunbathing further along the beach.
St Valentine’s Day was perhaps popularised by Geoffrey Chaucer in the late 14th century, though, according to this blog post, the Valentine’s Day may refer to May 3rd, the feast day of the wrong Valentine, Valentine of Genoa. Legend has it that Valentine, Bishop of Rome, was imprisoned and executed for performing weddings for soldiers (they were forbidden) and for ministering to Christians (they were persecuted). While in prison he is supposed to have healed the jailer’s daughter, and gave a letter to her on the day he was executed signed with “Your Valentine”. He is said to have given heart shapes cut from parchment to the soldiers to remind them of their loves and vows.
The heart is used as a measure for our dealings with one another. The measure isn’t beats per minute, but a blood-red thermometer with hard-heartedness being the coldest, and the soft-hearted being at the top of the human scale.
Many live with the dire consequences of hard-heartedness. There is an ancient promise for the sake of the loveless victims of hard-heartedness in which God promises a heart transplant. The people will have a change of heart when their heart of stone will be replaced by a “heart of flesh”. “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)
Hearts of stone can never be broken. They have to be removed. The transplants don’t come with any guarantees. They are soft. They are made to be responsive to the feelings of others. They are made to be sensitive. They are made for moving. They are made for love. They are made to be broken. (There is a beautiful Blessing for the Broken-hearted by Jan Richardson)
Too many of us have been hurt, and too many of us have heeded the advice “don’t be soft”. We can become hard to know and we can be hard on others. Our responsiveness, flexibility and ability to change can be non-existent. We stop listening and we stop learning. Our cause isn’t lost in that condition. Many hearts have been changed though history by tender hearted care and by brave hearts such as Nelson Mandela. The sexualisation of Valentine’s Day may prevent us remembering all those people and moments that might have heartened us. But the extent to which we have been touched and softened by them will affect our loveliness and our eagerness to be a true lover.
A friend who was a high school teacher was a real advocate of the “unlovely” young people. She said that they had been hardened into it, and that “they’d be lovely if they were loved”.