Armodoxy for Today: Valentine & Presentation
On the day of the year when flowers, candies and heart-decorated cards are exchanged between lovers to celebrate Valentine’s Day, the Armenian Church celebrates the feast of Diaruntarch, commemorating the scene described in the Gospel of St. Luke, chapter 2.
To be sure, Valentine is a saint recognized by the Armenian Church but not necessarily remembered on the Church calendar. Being a 3rd century personality, St. Valentine is part of the group of saints recognized by the Universal Church. In the West they celebrate his feast in February and in the East in July. As for the flowers, candies and heart-decorated cards, it is the free market capitalizing on love, which is not a bad deal. The more we can talk about love, the better for our world.
According to Scripture, “Now when the days of her [Mary’s] purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him [Jesus] to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord.” (Luke 2:23) This takes place on the 40th day following birth. Since the Armenian Church celebrates the Nativity and Baptism of Jesus Christ on January 6, we calculate 40 days later on February 14. The West calculates this date from December 25 and celebrates it on February 2, referring to it as the feast of Presentation, or Candlemas. In a more secular world, we have Groundhog Day competing for our attention.
The message of this day comes to us from “a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout… and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” (vs.25-26)
At the Temple, upon seeing Jesus, he takes Jesus in his arms and proclaims this prophecy, “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.
Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, ‘Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.’” (vs. 29-35)
In Simeon’s words and at the altar we find the Divine plan for salvation through Jesus Christ.
A tradition associated with this feast is the lighting of bonfires, and young couples jump over them as part of a folk ritual of fertility. There have been some priests who have tried to connect it to the “Fire of Christ” or the “Light of Christ.” Like Occam’s Razor, Armodoxy shaves off the excess and looks at the simplest explanation. It is a fertility rite left over from pagan days. It’s about carnal love and fits in with the Valentines motif and so along the lines of the groundhog at the midwinter, have fun and enjoy the celebration but call it for what it is.
Appropriate for the day and the traditions, I offer this prayer from St. Nersess Shnorhali (10th hour), “O Christ, who are the Living Fire, inflame my soul with the fire of Your love. Which you did send forth upon the earth, that it may burn the stains of my soul, sanctify my conscience, purge the sins of my body, and kindle in my heart the light of Your knowledge. Amen.”