By Mary Foran
In these oh-so-serious times, it’s amazing how St. Valentine’s Day, celebrated on February 14th, is still in vogue among young and old alike.
Red heart-shaped boxes of chocolates fill store shelves, Valentine cards are hand-made at schools around the U.S. and exchanged with fluttering sighs among first loves, and diamond engagement rings are presented at romantic night-out dinners to coincide with the most romantic day of the year.
St. Valentine himself is somewhat of a shadowy historic character and was actually deemed one of Christendom’s many martyrs. But his Saint’s day has come to be a celebration of love in all its aspects, and quite a commercial boon for end-of-winter gloom.
Back in the Middle Ages, Chivalry and Romantic Love combined to create a tradition of Courtly Love, which permeated literature and culture in Europe and around the world. The story of Romeo and Juliet which Shakespeare told so well, showed how families dictated who should marry whom, and how young loves would rather die than be parted.
Spanish literature is full of Romance: El Libro de Buen Amor, by the Archipreste de HIta, and of course Cervantes’ Don Quixote, with the Hildalgo’s Dulcinea being his love and inspiration as a windmill-fighting knight.
The Romance genre is still very popular in the U.S. and amazingly educational. The research that goes into historical romances is incredible: it’s a gentle way of learning about history that is anything but boring.
Now, some would say the writing level is not literature, and the genre is full of formulas that make the books more marketable. Danielle Steel, one such author, certainly learned the technique and made millions off of her talent at exposition. Some such novels are so badly written they are painful to peruse to be sure, but they are just the thing for a light read while waiting in an airplane terminal or at a bus stop.
I confess I began to read romances to see if I could learn to write in the genre, but the required love scenes are so embarrassingly detailed I realized I just wasn’t the type. Back to more mundane writing!
A celebration of love is what St. Valentine’s Day is all about, but first we have to define what real love is. So here’s what we learn from the Bible, the New International Version:
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophesies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is LOVE.”
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