A Peculiar Love

A Peculiar Love

St Valentine is bizarrely relevant this year – he was martyred in 270 AD for performing illegal marriages.

At that time, marriages were banned for what was, perhaps, a less compelling reason than a global pandemic. Emporer Claudius II had believed that marriages were responsible for less soldiers joining his military campaigns, so he tried to put a stop to them.

St Valentine’s matrimonial mission was noble, romantic even. However, it is thought that Geoffrey Chaucer’s poem ‘A parliament of Foules’, written in the 1300s, was the actual origin of the modern Valentine’s Day celebrations we see today.

‘Foules’ is a 700 line poem and, if you decide to tackle it, I would recommend reading a modern translation!

The second half describes, as the title suggests, a large meeting of birds (i.e. a parliament).

They have gathered together on ‘valentine’s day’ to choose their partners.

First to choose is the most worthy of all the birds, the eagle. However, it turns out he has stiff competition for the object of his love.

Three eagles in total declare their love for the one feathered female. By words alone, no one can determine whose love is most genuine, or who is most worthy of her.

In the end, ‘mother nature’ declares that the female fowl ought to choose for herself. What does she decide? To wait another year before making her decision!

Nobody was able to prove themselves worthy of her love. Neither by their position in the flock, nor by their words. Perhaps, she was waiting for them to prove their love by actions.

Reading this poem made me think of a scene in Revelation 5.

God is holding a sealed scroll, but no one is found worthy enough to open it.

Then Jesus enters. He is described by an elder as ‘the lion of the tribe of Judah’ who has ‘conquered’ and ‘can open the scroll.’

When John looks at him, he sees ‘a Lamb standing as though it had been slain.’

Jesus is not worthy because of his noble position, though he does sit at the right hand of God.

He is not worthy because of his persuasive words, though he speaks with unprecedented gentleness and wisdom.

He is found worthy because of what he has done.

He proved himself by laying down his life for those he loved. That is why he appeared before God as a lamb, slaughtered, rather than a lion. It was his unique and incomparable act of sacrifice that made him worthy, where nobody else was.

Whether or not you have chosen a valentine, or even celebrate Valentine’s Day, there is someone who is worthy to receive a declaration of your love – today and always.

‘We love because he first loved us’ 1 John 4:19.

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