Firework, Ashes and Valentine

Tonight there is going to be fireworks over Lund. Three Universities are going to compete trying to determine who can put on the best firework show. If you are interested it all starts at 6 pm at AF-borgen. From a Christian point of view the fireworks can be seen as part of the carnival season leading up to Ash Wednesday this coming week. Now is the time to party! Saying farwell to meat (the word Carnival means exactly that) and other earthly pleasures. A very Swedish tradition is to stuff yourself with “fastlagsbullar”, or as they incorrectly say up I Stockholm “Semlor”, this coming Tuesday – Fettisdagen. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent – a period of 40 days leading up to Easter (40 days because one doesn’t count Sundays – resurrection day – which always a day of celebration). It is not all that common to observe Lent these days. I myself have however found it helpful to mark this time in some way. It can be done in lots of different ways. Of course you can do it in the traditional way by fasting, but there are also other ways. Abstaining from treats like candy or cakes. Taking time out from Facebook or staying away from TV. You can also do things you don’t usually do – spending more time reading the Bible, volunteering for different causes. Lent is time for reflection and preparation leading up to the events of Easter. Next week is also Valentine’s day. From Wikipedia we learn that: St. Valentine was a priest near Rome in about the year 270 A.D, a time when the church was enduring great persecution. His ministry was to help the Christians to escape this persecution, and to provide them the sacraments, such as marriage, which was outlawed by the Roman Emperor. He was persecuted as a Christian and interrogated by Roman Emperor Claudius II in person. Claudius was impressed by Valentine and had a discussion with him, attempting to get him to convert to Roman paganism in order to save his life. Valentine refused and tried to convert Claudius to Christianity instead. Because of this, he was executed. Before his execution, he is reported to have performed a miracle by healing Julia, the blind daughter of his jailer Asterius. The jailer’s daughter and his forty-four member household(family members and servants) came to believe in Jesus and were baptized. In addition to this, Saint Valentine is said to have performed clandestine Christian weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry. The Roman Emperor Claudius II supposedly forbade this in order to grow his army, believing that married men did not make for good soldiers. According to legend, in order to “remind them of God’s love and to encourage them to remain faithful Christians,” Saint Valentine is said to have cut hearts from parchment, giving them to the soldiers and persecuted Christians, a possible origin of the widespread use of hearts on Saint Valentine’s Day. There is an additional embellishment to The Golden Legend, which was added centuries later, and widely repeated. On the evening before Valentine was to be executed, he would have written the first “valentine” card himself, addressed to the daughter of his jailer Asterius, who was no longer blind, signing as “Your Valentine. This expression “From your Valentine” is still used to this day. Like so many other Christian days, Valentine’s day have been secularized. Maybe we as Christians should try to re-conquer it – turning it in to a day when we remind people of God’s love and to encourage them to remain faithful Christians! Please join us for Holy Communion Service in the Cathedral tomorrow at 5 pm.