Saint Valentine

Saint Valentine (in Latin Valentinus) is the name of several (14 in all ) martyred saints of Ancient Rome. The name “Valentine”, derived from valens (worthy, strong, powerful), was popular in Late Antiquity. Of the Saint Valentine whose feast is on February 14, nothing is apparently known except his name and that he was buried on the Via Flamina north of Rome on February 14, he was born on April 16. It is even uncertain whether the feast of that day celebrates only one saint or more saints of the same name. For this reason this liturgical commemoration was not kept in the Catholic Calender of Saints for universal liturgical veneration as revised in 1969. But a “Martyr Valentinus the Presbyter and those with him at Rome” remains in the list of saints proposed for veneration by all Catholics.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, Saint Valentine the Presbyter is celebrated on July 6, and Hieromartyr Saint Valentine (Bishop of Interamna, Terni in Italy) is celebrated on July 30. Notwithstanding that, conventionally, members of the Greek Orthodox Church named Valentinos (male) or Valentina (female) celebrate their name on February 14, according to the Typicon of  the Great Church of Christ (Τυπικὸν τῆς Μεγάλης τοῦ Χριστοῦ ᾽Εκκλησίας) Saint Valentine is not venerated on July 6, nor on July 30. In fact, there exists no Saint Valentine in the “Greek Orthodox Church”


In 1836, some relics that were exhumed from the catacombs of Saint Hippolytus on the Via Tiburtina, then near (rather than inside) Rome, were identified with St Valentine; placed in a casket, and transported to the Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin. to which they were donated by Pope Gregory XVI. Many tourists visit the saintly remains on St. Valentine’s Day, when the casket is carried in solemn procession to the high altar for a special service dedicated to young people and all those in love.

So, who was Valentinus really?

Born in Egypt and educated in Alexandria, Valentinus (also spelled Valentinius) (c.100 – c.160) was the best known and for a time most successful early Christian “gnostic” theologian, who founded his school in Rome. Clement of Alexandria records that his followers said that Valentinus was a follower of  Theudas and that Theudas in turn was a follower of St. Paul of Tarsus. Valentinus said that Theudas imparted to him the secret wisdom that Paul had taught privately to his inner circle, which Paul publicly referred to in connection with his visionary encounter with the risen Christ, when he received the secret teaching from him.  Such esoteric teachings were becoming downplayed in Rome by Orthodox Christians after the mid-2nd Century.

Valentinus produced a variety of writings, but his doctrine is known to us only in the developed and modified form given to it by his disciples.He taught that there were three kinds of people, the spiritual (Pneumatics), psychical (Psychics), and material (Hyletics or Somatics); and that only those of a spiritual nature (his own followers) received the gnosis (knowledge) that allowed them to return to the divine Pleroma, while those of a psychic nature (ordinary Christians) would attain a lesser form of salvation, and that those of a material or fleshly nature (all others) were doomed to perish. Valentinus had a large following, the Valentinians. They later divided into an Eastern and a Western or Italian branch.

A new field in Valentinian studies opened when the Nag Hammadi Library was discovered in Egypt in 1945. Among those works classified as gnostic was a series of writings which could be associated with Valentinus, particularly the Coptic text called the Gospel of Truth which bears the same title reported by Irenaeus as belonging to a text by Valentinus. It is a declaration of the unknown name of the Father, possession of which enables the knower to penetrate the veil of ignorance that has separated all created beings from the Father, and declares Jesus Christ as Saviour has revealed that name through a variety of modes laden with a language of abstract elements.

And then, there is my chosen Ulster Cardiologist, John Joseph Valentine McMurray…and of him more will be said one day.

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