Diocese of Manchester

    14 Feb: it's all about love

    Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday fall on the same day this year. Whichever way you think of it, it's all about love.

    Will you be my Valentine? Whether or not we care to admit it, I guess most of us have at some time known the heady excitement of sending or receiving Valentine cards, concocting elaborate plots to maintain anonymity by disguising hand-writing or obtaining a misleading post-mark from an entirely different area to where you live. Memories of teenage anticipations and expectations, hopes realised or dashed, the embarrassment of mistaken assumptions or the wretchedness of discovering someone has played a cruel trick live on, long after love has lost its giddiness.

    I don’t know how much Valentine’s Day means to young people nowadays, whether it features at all among the glittering array of social media channels through which they communicate with one another, but 14 February remains still a hugely significant date in the worlds of retail and marketing.

    For the Church, however, this year 14 February holds a contrasting significance to the excess of Valentine exuberance. This year Ash Wednesday falls on 14 February; the first day of Lent, the first day traditionally of 40 days of absolution and self-denial leading up to Holy Week and the great celebration of Easter, or alternatively the first of 40 days of opportunity to increase awareness of the God we serve.

    The season of Lent doesn’t need to be a period of intentional misery; but I do believe it should rightly be kept differently in some way from the rest of the year, marked out as the solemn season of conscious self-discipline, whether your choice is to give up or to take up.

    This 14 February your fare may be sumptuous, an homage to the fabled St Valentine, or perhaps a more measured recognition of the beginning of this season of preparation focusing attention on the living and dying Christ.

    Whichever way you think of it, Valentine’s Day or Ash Wednesday, it is all about love; the heady, new love which overwhelms, the settled, mature love which grounds and sustains, the consummate, unconditional, divine love which redeems and renews, over and over again.

    The Revd Moira Slack
    Lecturer at Bolton Parish Church

The Church of England Diocese of Manchester,
Church House,
90 Deansgate,
Manchester M3 2GH

Manchester DBF Company number 149999, Charity number 249424
Telephone: 0161 828 1400