Today is Ash Wednesday; a day that marks the beginning of the Lenten period for Christians. According to Rev. Fr. Michael Aghadi, the Chaplain, Divine Physician and St. Luke Catholic Church, Idi – Araba, Ash Wednesday “is the beginning of the Lenten period, 40 days of fasting and prayer. It brings us back to the original because it’s a day we start with ash, reminding ourselves that we come from dust and to dust we shall return. If we go back to the beginning of creation, out of nothing, dust of the earth God created man.
“Also from scripture, whenever Israel wanted to seek the face of the Lord it was by fasting and prayer. They put on ash and sack cloth as a sign of mourning, a time to remember that everything is nothing compared to God. The focus is now on the soul, returning back to God in prayer, fasting, alms giving and/or other signs of repentance.
Today is also the anniversary of the Feast of St. Valentine, a Christian maytr. It is also popularly known as Valentine’s Day or Lover’s Day. Part of the history behind St. Valentine says he was a priest who served during the 3rd century in Rome when Emperor Claudius 11 decided that single men were better soldiers than married men with families and therefore outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, however, was said to have defied the decree and secretly wed young lovers. When his actions were discovered, the emperor ordered that he be put to death.
Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured. Whatever the stories surrounding St. Valentine, it had love, selfless love at its centre.
From whatever perspective one looks at it, today is a day that the role love plays or should play in our lives is specially brought to the fore. Speaking on what Ash Wednesday and lent mean to him, Mr. Albert Agha, a Computer Specialist, said; “Ash Wednesday is a day we remember that we are dust and to dust we shall return. It is very special to Catholics because it marks the beginning of the Lenten period.
“The Lenten period has to do with fasting, prayer and alms giving. It’s a period of spiritual purification, trying to win yourself back to God and also trying to win yourself back to what is good and for me it’s a period to reflect on my life, check my relationship with God and man, try to make peace with myself, with God and man, and then move forward.”
Speaking on the essence of fasting, Mr. Agha said, “some people say stop fasting from the normal food because there’s hunger everywhere, rather fast from anger, sadness, complaining; fast from every rubbish in the community – fast from these, that’s more of an acceptable fasting; not just only from food and drink after all not everybody eats much these days. But when your heart is humbled and you are at peace with people, then positive things happen to you.”
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Could there be a connection between Ash Wednesday and St. Valentine’s day beyond the fact that both are sharing the same day?
Professor Janet Ajuluchukwu, a Cardiologist with the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), said yes and to her the common denominator is selfless love.
Her words, “while we were yet sinners, God gave his son Jesus Christ to die for us. Jesus came out of love and for the same selfless love he died for us. His greatest commandment is for us to love God with all our hearts. Following is that we should love our neighbours.
“St. Valentine died because he believed in love. He was willing to give young soldiers the opportunity to experience love and family life rather than going to war and having sex with women who came their way. He was willing to defy the emperor at a risk to his life and he eventually paid with his life. It is the world that has as every other thing shifted the focus from what he did to what suits them. There’s a convergence between Ash Wednesday, lent and Feast of St. Valentine.”
For Mr. Fidel Ozugha, an online publisher, the relationship between the two events of the day is sacrifice. Not looking for what you will get, but giving of your self, giving your love, ensuring that another person benefits.
He lamented that people had deviated from the original concept of Valentine’s Day to now see it from a canal and selfish perspective as opposed to St. Valentine’s selfless sacrifice.
Mr. Ifeanyi Obika simply summed his views in this short sentence; “the L. C. M is love.”
Indeed, it’s all about love, but what kind-of love? During lent Christians are admonished and encouraged to give alms, to remember the less privileged and to build on that attitude beyond lent and make it a way of life. They are also encouraged to fast, denying themselves of whatever pleasures they choose and where that has a monetary value give it to charity.
Lent is about loving without counting the cost. St. Valentine loved without counting the cost. He gave his life. He showed his love for God and for humanity.
As we mark the beginning of the commemoration of Jesus’ death and celebrate the Feast of St. Valentine, may love rule our world.