It just so happens that Valentine’s Day falls on a Wednesday this year. Nothing too unusual about that. But it also just so happens that Ash Wednesday this year falls on the same day. According to the Milwaukee Journal, believe it or not, this hasn’t happened since 1945. This year’s February 14th is truly a rare one. How will we observe it? How can we make it all fit together?
Valentine’s Day is all about romance. Ash Wednesday is all about repentance. Valentine’s Day is full of emotion and emotionalism. Ash Wednesday inaugurates a whole season that demands self-denial. Valentine’s Day means dinner out and flowers and chocolates and cards and gifts. Ash Wednesday means prayer and meditation on God’s Word, with self-examination and penitential sorrow.
We could ignore the whole thing as an uncomfortable coincidence. Keep the two observances separate for ourselves and draw a sharp distinction. Appear in Church as a penitent. Appear later on as a date for the evening. Don’t think too much about the apparent clash.
Yet one of the major themes of Valentine’s Day is strangely like a major theme in Ash Wednesday, and it carries through all of Lent. It makes looking across the dinner table over lit candles with a cup of wine in hand strangely like gazing upon the Cross in God’s house, with lit candles on His table, when the wine is about to be poured, and blessed.
We look back at a lonely life. We look back at bitter bondage in Egypt. We look back at unrequited love and romances we had before that didn’t work out. We look back at Satan’s cruelty and our slavery in sin. We gaze at a beloved (if God so blesses us) and we gaze at Christ with the same question in mind: Where would I be without you?
This year, Valentine’s Day is not just for people in relationships or courtships, or people still connected to spouses who happen to still be living. It’s an occasion to learn again that we don’t deserve the way we’ve been loved. It’s an occasion thank God for that one Person who forgives all our sins and heals all our diseases: who rescues us from slavery to sin, death, and hell. He then adds all manner of other gifts and blessings, whether we’re attached or single. Now we have an occasion to learn anew of Him whose self-sacrificing love inspires us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow after Him, hang on His every word, and by faith, to hold onto Him for dear life.
Wishing you a Blessed Valentine’s Ash Wednesday.
Rev. Aaron Hamilton