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The Rector: Being Valentine

The Rector

Bolton Abbey Parish Magazine

February 2018

Being Valentine

On 14 February 1381 the fourteen year old king of England, Richard II, celebrated his engagement to Anne of Bohemia. Geoffrey Chaucer
supposedly wrote his poem, The Parliament of Fowls, to celebrate this event – hence these lines in the poem:
For this was on St Valentine’s Day,
When every fowl cometh there to choose his mate.

So from 1381 onwards 14 February became the day on which lovers exchanged tokens of their devotion to one another. The extent and
type of such exchanges have changed over the centuries, but the tradition is still very much alive.

This year St Valentine’s Day falls on the same day as Ash Wednesday. This might give you pause for thought if you are planning to give (or
indeed hoping to receive) chocolates as a token of devotion. Chocolate is among the top choices of indulgence for people to forgo
during the forty days of Lent. On the other hand it may be that the coincidence of dates is appropriate after all. One of many traditions
linking Valentine with love tells that he was a third century priest in Rome who was arrested for illicitly marrying Christian couples during
a time of persecution. He was eventually put to death and is remembered as a martyr.

In his poem Lent George Herbert writes:
It’s true, we cannot reach Christ’s fortieth day;
Yet to go part of that religious day
Is better than to rest

To journey in the steps of Christ is the calling of every Christian. It was the Cross, what George Herbert calls ‘Christ’s fortieth day’, where
that journey ended for our Lord on Good Friday. Unlike Valentine most of us, like Herbert’s seventeenth century readers, will not be
called to endure the ‘fortieth day’; but to do our best to share at least some of Christ’s journey, with or without
chocolate, is better (to paraphrase Herbert) than doing nothing.

With good wishes for a blessed Lent,

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