In an unusual occurrence, today is both Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day. So what should you do? Start fasting or go out and celebrate?
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of a 40-day period known as Lent. In more traditional churches the branches from last year’s Palm Sunday service are burned and their ashes applied to the forehead of worshippers. Lent is a period of time for prayer, reflection, fasting and giving to the poor. The season points back to Jesus’ experience in the wilderness. It calls people to repent of their sins and set themselves apart for God.
Valentine’s Day, on the other hand, is associated more with fun and celebration. The origins and history of this saint are unclear and somewhat mysterious. The most popular assumption has to do with a priest who helped young soldiers in the Roman army find a wife. Whatever the true story about Valentine is, his day is now associated with romance and, in some places, a wider sense of friendship. It’s definitely a celebration involving candies, chocolates and fancy dinners.
These two days aren’t really at odds with each other. They each represent elements of our life that we need. One focuses more on our relationship and devotion to God while the other highlights our loved ones. Today helps to focus our thoughts on both.
Remember Jesus’ words when asked about the greatest commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
So as you move through today, remember your creator and remember those he has given you to love. Your whole day will be richer for it.