ST VALENTINE’S DAY, or, as it now known almost universally, Valentine’s Day, has gone the way of any religious event with commercial potential. A generation ago, young people would leave anonymous cards for each other, relishing the subterfuge of not being found out, all the while hoping that their adoration would be guessed at and reciprocated. This was febrile enough for times that, with hindsight, appear so innocent. The present day involves would-be couples in grand, extravagant, clichéd gestures of affection, made with the help of expensive props from supermarkets and restaurants, everything out in the open, everything on display — like the activities of the bowerbird, which lays out glittering objects to attract a mate.
We applaud one development, however. In the past, St Valentine’s Day was the preserve of young single people, wistful or cheeky by turns. Marriage was seen all too often as not only the end result of romance but its actual end. Romantic gestures between established couples of earlier generations stretched to the offer of a cup of tea or the opening of the occasional door. If marriage is to regain its attractiveness, it needs to be seen as the crucible of romance, in which couples count the ways in which they are able to love each other. This will include St Valentine’s Day displays of sentiment, tinged with sexual allure. But marriage is about more than sex and sentiment, despite the Church’s obsessions with these when it comes to considering whether the married state may properly extend to same-sex couples. The marriage service makes explicit the connection with Christ’s love of his people. Embodying Christ’s sacrificial, life-giving, prodigal love is a lifetime’s duty and joy.
Out and about
READERS of this newspaper need no help in acknowledging that the parish that has the resources to build up and support Christian discipleship is a rare one. The Church Times is just one of the many agencies that feed information and inspiration to parishioners from the wider Church. This is no longer just a paper exercise. The final arrangements are being made for the Church Times Festival of Faith and Literature in Bloxham, Oxfordshire, next Friday and Saturday. A few tickets are still available. This week we are also announcing the first ever Church Times Festival of Christian Pilgrimage, in association with Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. As at the recent Festival of Preaching, this is an opportunity to combine expertise and enjoyment when considering a growing interest in the Church.