In a year where ‘Connectedness’ is our whole school focus, we will have the opportunity to contemplate the nature of authentic relationships and, in particular, to consider how these can be founded in a strong sense of fairness, justice and respect.
So will you celebrate St Valentine’s Day next week as the annual day, carefully crafted by advertisers, where you are able to make a public statement about ‘love’? Some of you may well receive bundles of loving correspondence, boxes of chocolates, and bunches of flowers, although I’m sure many of you, like me, will probably not receive anything, or expect to receive anything.
St Valentine’s Day is a day that will bring a degree of happiness for those giving and those receiving, although we know that gauging love by the number of letters or bunches of flowers that we send or receive is fraught with trouble.
Love in its true form is heightened connectedness, and is not something that needs to be orchestrated by commercial activity on one day in the calendar. The Bible provokes thought about the vast dimension to love that is absent in much of the Valentine’s Day messages.
The greeting card rhyming verse that supposedly captures ‘love’, pales in comparison to the detail found in one of my favourite biblical verses, 1 Corinthians 13. They were words read on one of the best days of my life, my wedding with Yasmine some 24 years ago, and they remain a powerful reminder of the fact that true love in action is witness to many positive character traits, that leaves the writer of 1 Corinthians, Paul, asserting that ‘the greatest of these is love’.
1 Corinthians 13
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 dishonour 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 prophecies, 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 as 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.