Talk about a packed feast! Today we celebrate the hearts and flowers feast of Valentines Day across America and, at the same time, in our liturgical life, we celebrate the feast day of two brothers, saints Cyril and Methodius. Cyril was a monk (but not for very long in actuality) and Methodius was a bishop (with a very stormy tenure to say the least!) And in addition to these already colorful themes of the day, we have very dramatic readings from the book of Genesis and the Gospel of Mark which give us amazing images of God who is both a generous giver of good things as well as the sole arbiter of what is good and evil. Let’s look at some of the images for this special day, February 14th, 2009.
Of course, Valentines Day is meant to be a time of sharing notes of love and friendship with special people in our lives. As commercialized as this day may be, it is still a great day that gives us all a chance to say "I love you" to a few or even many people who come into our lives. But where can you find a Valentine greeting any better than the message found in the Gospel of Mark where Jesus, "heart moved with pity", sees the needs of his hungry people and miraculously provides an abundance of food for them, and all from only a few fish and seven loaves of bread? Now there is a Valentine that says "I love you" and in which we can really place our trust!
For me, personally, however, it is the Genesis account of the "great fall" of our "first parents", Adam and Eve, which really captures my attention this Valentines Day. Through his creation and the offering of a blissful life in the Garden, God shows how great his love and hopes are for us, his beloved children. Yet, we sin even against a God who is so generous and gracious; we eat the forbidden fruit; we suddenly become aware of our nakedness with uncharacteristic self-consciousness; and we know for the first time what it means to be embarrassed, ashamed, and sorrowful. Milton captured this moment so dramatically with his great masterpiece, Paradise Lost. How terribly true: by turning away from God in our pride and sin we have lost Paradise and the joy of the Garden. We will never be the same again and the snake will forever crawl on his belly!
Of course, we are wiser now! We discover that we cannot give up on ourselves because God has chosen not to give up on us. A Savior is promised, a Messiah is awaited. And just maybe, if we really try to do it right this time, we will rediscover the promise of the Garden and find passage beyond the cherubim and the fiery revolving sword.
Fr. Pat Brennan, CP is the director of Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center in Sierra Madre, California.