Valentine’s Day & Lent – anything in common?

For the first time since 1945, Valentine’s day falls on the same day as Ash Wednesday in 2018. Valentine’s day is about celebrating love and for Christians, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent. But do the two have anything in common?

Lent is the time when Christians take time to try and live God’s way, the way that Jesus showed us. Of course, we try to do this every day of our lives! But Lent can mean going the ‘extra mile’. For example, some Christians decide to take up new ways of living -perhaps by giving things away or reading the Bible or praying more. Some Christians decide to give things up for the season –  like chocolate or crisps, social media or TV watching.

The most popular story about the origins of Valentine’s day comes from Rome in the third Century AD. Emperor Claudius II had banned marriage and Valentine, a priest, began to arrange marriages in secret but was eventually found out and sentenced to death. Whilst in prison, he fell in love with the jailer’s daughter and when he was taken to be killed on the 14th of  February he sent her a love letter signed ‘from your Valentine’. Later, this day started to be used by people to express their feelings to those they loved.

Valentine’s Day is about love – and so is Lent. Love often means giving up something for other people – by being unselfish and generous, thoughtful and kind.

A contemporary prayer for Valentine’s Day / Lent

Dear God
Thank you for all the love in our lives and in the world. Help us to share that love with other people each and every day.

Dear God
Give us courage to let go of things this Lent. Help us to discover more about following Jesus and sharing his love in the world.

Dear God
As we think about your love for us this Lent, help us to take up new ways of living. Help us to live generously and make a difference to others. Amen.

A traditional prayer for Lent

Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:
create and make in us new and contrite hearts
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may receive from you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Advent Approaches

The words of the first great “O” Antiphons of Advent read:

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from one end to the other, mightily and sweetly ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence.

O antiphonThis antiphon is the first of seven ‘O’ antiphons (or ‘verses’) which were traditionally recited during vespers in the final days of Advent season. They were first referenced in the 6th Century but are likely to date back to the time of the early church. The antiphons refer to the prophecies of Isaiah concerning the coming of the Messiah. Each one begins with the interjection ‘O’ and refers to one of the names of Christ: O Wisdom, O Lord, O Root of Jesse, O key of David, O Dayspring, O King of the nations, O Emmanuel. O Wisdom will be sung by the choir at the beginning of our Carols by Candlelight service on Sunday 17th December.

The ‘O’ antiphons are just one of the many ways that Christians have marked the season of Advent down the ages. At St Giles’, the choir will sing Advent carols which are traditionally more sombre than Christmas carols but just as beautiful. We will be lighting a candle each week on our Advent wreath and the colour purple will be prominent, just as in the season of Lent.

These days, the word ‘Advent’ is probably associated more with sweetie-filled calendars rather than the church season of preparation which culminates in the birth of Jesus at Christmas. That’s not to say that sweeties are bad!

But if you want a little more substance and would like to learn more about this fascinating season of hope and expectation, do come and visit us. It may make your celebration of Christmas all the more sweet.

In addition to our regular services, Words and Music for Advent will take place on Sunday 3rd December at 6.30pm. Carols by Candlelight will take place on Sunday 17th December at 6.30pm.