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Father Dimitar Arsovski: On the celebration of St. Tryphon and St. Valentine


The fact is that we are in a kind of spiritual slavery imposed on us by the western concept of living. Almost all things are commercialised, and all this has not passed even the modern Orthodox man. This is the case with the character of Santa Claus, only a very small percentage of Orthodox know that in fact the real Santa Claus is St. Nicholas of Myra, also such is the case with the Holy Hiero-Martyr Valentine, Bishop of Interamensky.

st-valentine-the-martyr-icons-orthodox-christian-supply_910_469x (2)All this misconception about the image of this Saint appeared some ten years ago as a phenomenon that came to us from the western world. We cannot say that it is imposed on us, because no one can force us to accept anything, but I would say that we welcomed it with arms wide open because it came to us as a romantic story for teenagers who are beginning to experience love and this was a chance and occasion to express their love toward their loved one. Are we in need of certain days or holidays to express our love to someone, to tell them how much we love them, or to surprise them with a gift? Nevertheless, this is not the case about surprise, because all those who fall under the influence of romance expect it. Then the question arises as to what kind of Saint was he? Was he “ours” or a Catholic, and should we celebrate St. Tryphon (who is celebrated on the same day) or St. Valentine – the protector of the ones who are in love?

Now I will try briefly to explain about St. Valentine and the manner in which he is celebrated. Saint Valentine lived in the third century AD in the city of Interamni in Italy (he was martyred in 273) and during his life he performed many miracles in the name of Christ. This historical fact clearly tells us that this Saint belongs to the Orthodox because all those who bore witness of Christ with their lives were worthy of the crown of Sainthood. During 1054 the Western Church separated from the Eastern, therefore, regardless of their place of residence, they belong to the order of Saints among Orthodox and Catholics. Saint Valentine is known to the Orthodox Church and is celebrated on 12 August (i.e. 30 July as per the Julian calendar), and his biography can also be found in the “Prologue from Ohrid” written by Bishop Nikolai.

Now the question arises as to why the memory of St. Valentine is not celebrated on the same date in both Churches? The date shift was made by the Catholic Church in order to eradicate (or give it a Christian dimension) a pagan ritual that was completely at odds with Christian norms of ethical living. Namely, on this day in Rome was held a manifestation in honour of the wolves called “Lupercalia” (probably the name comes from the Latin word “lupus” which means wolf and it is thought that the celebration is in honour of the female wolf that fed Romulus and Remus – the first inhabitants of the city of Rome) where the pagan priest would sacrifice a goat because it is the wolf’s favourite food, and two boys were coated with the goat’s blood, who after the sacrifice, would cut belts from the goat’s skin called “februa” (this is probably the origin of the name of the month of February) and ran naked, smeared with blood striking the inhabitants. Being struck by the boys was considered a great blessing. The end of the celebration can be guessed: drunkenness and orgies – a classic Roman style. The church, wanting to eradicate this soul-destroying festival, decided to move the date of the celebration of St. Valentine, to that date, in order to idealise and glorify the love of God and one’s neighbour, ideals that the Saint (Valentine) spoke and wrote about. False ideas were spread by the media that St. Valentine secretly performed the Sacrament of Marriage on those who took part, because the history of the Church and the liturgy claim that in the time of the Saint (Valentine) there was no written form for performing this sacrament, therefore this data cannot be accepted as credible. But this does not mean that we cannot ask the Saint for intercession before God for success in true love.

St TryphonOn this day, 14 February, the Holy Orthodox Church celebrates the feast of the Holy Martyr Tryphon, known to us as the protector of the vinedressers, because on this day the growers traditionally prune their vineyards. The tradition of pruning is not in itself bad because the Saint (Tryphon) is asked to intercede for a richer and more plentiful crops, but what is bad and what saddens the whole Church is that to this Martyr is given an extremely inappropriate epithet, which, we must not dare to give to any man, let alone to a Saint who prays for all of us. Truly it is a great shame to call him a drunkard. Nowhere is it written in any biography that St. Tryphon drank alcohol, let alone to get drunk. Which drunkard entered the Kingdom of Heaven?

We are not content with the using the slanderous name we call the Saint, but we also celebrate him in an disgraceful way – that is, on that day, in the name of St. Tryphon, we get-together and drink plenty of wine, with unholy thoughts, thinking that we are pleasing this Saint of God by getting drunk. I will say that we are worse than the pagans who got drunk during the holidays because they did not know about Christ and His saving providence (science), and we beat our chest saying that we are Christs’ and that we serve Him, we become much worse than them! We are called to drink wine, but not for bodily pleasure, but to drink the wine and eat the bread which, blessed by the priest during the Liturgy, turns into the true Body and Blood of Christ. No, it is easier for us to get-together, to talk idly and get drunk than to go to take part and pray at the Holy Liturgy, or, it is easier for us to run to the nearest gift shop and give some present on Valentine’s Day than to pray in the temple, and, through the prayers of the Saint, for God to grant us love – not bodily love thou, but love for our Creator, brotherly love, love for our friends and love for our enemies.

Saint Tryphon and Saint Valentine, pray to God for us who are astray.

Father Dimitar Arsovski




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