By The Editors
May 2, 2014
Editor's Note: This past Saint Valentine's Day, the internet was rife with the above image of Saint Valentine the Martyr; while indeed this isan image of Saint Valentine the Martyr, it isof a 20th-century Orthodox Martyr. Since an image once gone viral can hardly beretracted, we are republishing the account of this 20th-century saint with gracious permission from the Orthodox Monastic Cell of Saint John the Divine.
Unfortunately, very little is known to us about this zealous Church teacher of unadulterated, mystical Orthodoxy in our modern times. Whatever little we do know about him comes from his liberal contemporaries, who as a rule did not deign to recognize the uniqueness and uniformity of patristic philosophy, which to him constituted the very essence of life. In this respect he was their enemy, one whom they could not understand—evidently because of his genuine conversion experience.
The divinely-revealed teaching of God and man, preserved throughout the centuries and enriched within the saving enclosure of the Orthodox Church, is a limitless ocean of wisdom and should be approached with fear and trembling so as not to soil any aspect of it through our sinfulness and pride. It can in no way be improved upon by the daring hand of our intellectual worldliness. Fr.Valentine's inquisitive mind was in awe and wonder before the accessible reality of deification. In this respect he was not of this world, but remained in the world as a pastor who guided people to the realm of sobriety, hesychasm, and otherworldliness.
From the few details of his biography one can surmise that he came from an aristocratic Polish family, received a good education, and was an extremely talented and impressive young man. His large eyes looked upon the world with seriousness. At the age of 15 he could already debate Kant with scholarly philosophers, and soon he started a crusade against the vices of society, in which he advocated strict discipline of body and soul. His talks produced a striking impression. He published at least two magazines ("Problems of Religion" and "Living Life") dealing with Christian problems in a society the intellectual leaders of which were luring Orthodox Christians through foreign tastes and fashions away from Christ.
In 1905 he left Moscow for Petersburg in order to find supporters for a Christian Brotherhood of Struggle. While still a layman, he recognized the value of the monastic ideal for all Christians and ardently defended monasticism against the decadent free-thinkers of his time; thinly clothed in conservative Orthodoxy, the latter were, in fact, making rapid strides away from the sacred Tradition of the Church. His book,The Heavenly CitizensorMy Travels Among the Anchorites of the Caucasus Mountains(Moscow, 1915) was inspired by his visit to the monk-ascetics of the Caucasus. Another book calledAnti-christhad considerable success. His two available short works,Monasticism in the World(1921) andAgainst General Confession(1926), give evidence of his importance as a modern apostle of genuine Orthodoxy in a time of rising apostasy.
After the Revolution he married and was ordained a priest; he was the head priest in a Moscow church known asSt. Nicholas the BigCross on St. Elias Street. There in the 1920s he attracted a large congregation by his eloquent sermons, which were eagerly received as rich food in the midst of the general scarcity of genuine Orthodox spirituality in Russia at this time. He went to Optina Monastery and became the spiritual son ofElder Anatole(Zertsalov),to whom he dedicated his masterpiece,Six Readings on the Mystery of Confession and its Historyin which he dealt a blow to the practice of general confession that had become fashionable among the liberal clergy of his day.
Father Valentine was an ardent proponent of the frequent usage of the Jesus Prayer. He held that monastic discipline in our day of universal lukewarmness among Christians was not only possible butimperativein order to preserve the "salt of the earth," i.e., the Orthodox truths, in the hearts of men who are being cunningly attacked by the spirit of secularization. With this in mind, he conducted a series of talks (from 1921-1926) using the strictly monastic teaching of the Ladder of St. John Climacus, in which he strove to apply it to ordinary daily life in the contemporary world thathad become actually hostile to Christianity.
One of his friends, S.I. Fudel, gives us a brief insight into the spiritual world of this otherworldly pastor:
Father Valentine Sventitsky on the one hand seemed to be a regular priest with a family, and on the other "an experienced teacher of continuous prayer. He did much for the general defense of the faith. But his main significance was that he called all people to conduct ceaseless prayer, an uninterrupted burning of the spirit."
"Prayer", Fr. Valentine would say, "erects walls around our monastery in the world". He alsoresolved the complex problem of inward evil in the Church. "Any sin in the Church," he said, "is a sin not only of the Church but against the Church." He also taught that one should not interrupt one's ceaseless mental prayer while attending church services.
Once after I returned from exile to Moscow in 1925, I chanced to be at Liturgy when Father Valentine was serving. I came in at the end of the service and when he came out with the ambo prayer, I was shocked to see his face. I cannot express my impression other than to say that it was the face of a man having just sacrificed himself as a burnt offering in truth and pain—and now deeply shaken, was coming out to us, oblivious to his earthly surroundings.
Another time I recall how, while in a crowded Butyrka prison ward in 1922, I was endlessly pacing amidst the prisoners when I bumped into Father Valentine. In embarrassment I asked for some stupid reason, ˜Where are you going?" All of a sudden his face became remarkably light with someinward warmth, and he said, "I was coming to you." Usually he was so estranged, closed up, stern and impatient, like his distant relative, a Polish cardinal. But now he had the radiant and quiet beam of light of true Russian sanctity—the kind and all-seeing sanctity of a holy elder. He was coming straight towards me, towards my very soul thathe was then probably protecting against some evil. Thus, a prison can enlighten and illumine a soul and wondrously reveal something which at other times is impossible to discover.
In 1927 Metropolitan Sergius issued his famous "declaration" that essentially reduced the Church to a state-controlled organization. This enslavement to the atheist authorities was not tolerated by the true pastors and the faithful of Christ's flock whose conscience would not allow them to agree to such a cunning compromise. Many hierarchs and simple pastors wrote open letters to Metropolitan Sergius, deploring his action and refusing to follow him on such a ruinous path. In December 1927 Fr. Valentine wrote such a letter, announcing that he was breaking off canonical and prayerful communion with Metropolitan Sergius and the council of bishops organized under him. His clear spiritual discernment at once identified the course taken by Metropolitan Sergius as one of the most dangerous forms of renovationism, "because while renouncing ecclesiastical freedom, at the same time you preserve the fiction of canonicity and Orthodoxy. This is worse than the violation of separate canons."
Anticipating that his action of separation would be construed as a breaking away from the Church, Fr. Valentine wrote:
I am not creating a new schism, and I do not break the unity of the Church; I go away from it and I lead my flock: out of a subtle renovationist trap lest "imperceptibly and little by little we lose the freedom which our Lord Jesus Christ, the Liberator of all Men, has given us as a free gift by His Own blood"(8th Canon of the Third Ecumenical Council).
We know full well what consequences were suffered by all those who openly disagreed with the "Declaration." Lev Regelson, in hisTragedy of the Russian Church,states that Metropolitan Sergius in 1929 pronounced all those who opposed his Declaration to be counter-revolutionaries subject to arrest; 15 bishops were arrested right away. The arrests were conducted very simply: A GPU agent would come to the bishop and pose one question: "How do you regard the Declaration of Metropolitan Sergius?" If the bishop answered that he did not accept it, then the agent would conclude: "That means that you are a counter-revolutionary." And the bishop would automatically be arrested. So perished all those who raised their voices in protest. And the fate of Fr. Valentine could be no different.
Thus did Fr. Valentine acquire a crown of victory from God, for he preserved the flame of genuine Christian inspiration and pinpointed the essence of the subtle temptation of the enemy of our salvation, thereby leading straight into Paradise the flock entrusted to him by God, to Whom be glory and honor for ever. Amen.
by New Martyr Valentine Sventitsky
No one can approach God without withdrawing from the world.. “Who can ascend the Ladder?” my spiritual children will ask.. The task of the ascetic is to labor his whole life for the Lord.. “Those who have really determined to serve Christ, with the help of spiritual fathers and their own self-knowledge, will strive before all else to choose a place, and away of life, and a habitation, and exercises suitable for them.. Those who traverse the path of spiritual life in the world, who renounce it inwardly, who do not leave for monasteries, deserts and reclusion, although under conditions of a worldly life, nevertheless must inevitably make even an outward change in their life.. What great justice will he then behold in the eternal torments awaiting those souls who have come to love the temporal and have renounced Christ!. “The man who has come to hate the world has escaped sorrow.. At first it appears that to renounce the world means to choose the way that knows no joy.. Earthly happiness seems to him to be the only joy in life.. And here are the signs by which you might verify on which path it is you are walking: the narrow unto salvation, or wandering, rather, along the broad and spacious path to perdition.. A desert-dweller of our time told me that a number of desert-dwellers had discussed the question of whether or not they should found a monastery for themselves.. Few today are able to live behind the stone walls of a monastery which set apart that vain world from this the Christian world which is of God But does this mean that there are no walls which can be built between that world and this?. Quotations from The Ladder of Divine Ascent , by St. John Climacus; Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1979)
Saint Valentine was a third-century Italian bishop, martyred for the Christian faith. Why do we trade love notes on the holiday remembering him?
Of the multitude of feasts celebrated in the popular culture of medieval Europe — wherein lie some of the key roots of the modern West — only two remain in popular North American culture today: Saint Patrick’s Day (March 17) and Saint Valentine’s Day (February 14).. But who was Saint Valentine?. For Christians to adequately remember Saint Valentine, then, we would do well to consider what it meant to be a martyr in the early church.. It may well have been Antipas’s refusal to confess Caesar as Lord and worship him that led to his martyrdom.. Christianity was now considered illegal, and over the next 140 years the Roman state had recourse to sporadic persecution of the church.. There is nothing inherently wrong with modern commercial traditions, but Saint Valentine’s Day is a good day to also remember that there is a love that surpasses all earthly loves: our love for our great God and our Savior, his dear divine Son, Jesus.
St. Valentine: How a beheaded martyr became the poster child for romantic love - Christian Saints & Heroes - News - Catholic Online ›
In most stores in the weeks leading up to St. Valentine's day, you're likely to find a plethora of pink and red cards, heart-shaped boxes of Russell Stover chocolates, and decor with nearly-naked ...
In most stores in the weeks leading up to St. Valentine's day, you're likely to find a plethora of pink and red cards, heart-shaped boxes of Russell Stover chocolates, and decor with nearly-naked chubby cherubs shooting hearts with bows and arrows.. Chicago, Ill., (CNA) - In most stores in the weeks leading up to St. Valentine's day, you're likely to find a plethora of pink and red cards, heart-shaped boxes of Russell Stover chocolates, and decor with nearly-naked chubby cherubs shooting hearts with bows and arrows.. It's a far cry from the real Saint Valentine, an early Christian martyr who was bludgeoned and beheaded for his faith.. There are also accounts of an African St. Valentine, an early Christian who was persecuted along with his companions, but it seems that nothing else is known about this possible saint.. "He was either a Roman priest and physician who was martyred or he was the Bishop of Terni, Italy, who was also martyred in Rome, around 270 A.D. by Claudius the Goth," who was the Roman emperor at the time, said Fr.. St. Valentine - whether priest or bishop - was martyred on February 14, now celebrated as Valentine's Day.. Lupton said St. Valentine was one of the first Christian martyrs when the general persecution of Christians started in the Roman empire.. "More or less at that time, especially around the mid-third century, there was sort of a crisis in the Roman world known as the Third Century Crisis, where the Roman world was really in great peril," Lupton told CNA.. Some Valentine's Day traditions can be correlated with St. Valentine's life, such as the exchanging of cards, Lupton said, or the celebration of romantic love.. Other accounts say that exchanging cards on Valentine's Day recalls how St. Valentine would send notes to fellow Christians from prison.. Another way St. Valentine's Day may have come to be celebrated as a day of love was because the bird mating season was thought to begin around mid-February, Lupton noted.. St. Valentine's Day as it is known today was also instituted as a substitute for a cruder Roman holiday at the time, called Lupercalia, Lupton added.. "And so Pope Gelasius, he was around the fifth century...replaced the Lupercalia with Saint Valentine's Day," Lupton said.. Parts of Valentine's Day are entirely unrelated to the real St. Valentine.
The ancient martyrology of the Church of Rome marks February 14th as the remembrance of "the martyr Valentine, presbyter of Rome" (Valentinus means "vigorous" in Latin). Unfortunately the historical data for the Saint is incomplete.
Saint Valentine lived in Rome in the third century and was a priest who helped the martyrs during the persecution of Emperor Claudius II the Goth.. The Saint replied “My lord, if you knew the gift of God, you would be happy together with your empire and would reject the worship of idols and worship the true God and His Son Jesus Christ.”. One of these judges stopped the Saint and asked him what he thought about Jupiter and Mercury, and Valentine boldly replied, “They are miserable, and spent their lives through corruption and crime!”. Saint Valentine the Greek. We should first say that there is not sufficient information on the national origin of the Saint, though there are some other (shades of) evidence that the Saint was of Greek origin.. For example, the earliest depiction of the Saint bearing the inscription «O ΑΓΙΟC BAΛΕΝΤΙΝΟC” in Greek, is in the Church of Our Lady the Ancient (Santa Maria Antiqua) of the 6th century which was the parish of Greeks in Rome.. Saint Valentine: Patron of Lovers. Apart from the historical data we have for Valentine’s life, there is accompanied various legends, such as from those who say he is the patron saint of lovers.. Another tradition says that one of the charges against Valentine was that he did not adhere to the command of the emperor which stated that men who had not fulfilled their military obligations were not allowed to marry; meanwhile the Saint had blessed the marriage of young Christian soldiers with their beloveds.. Saint Valentine and Orthodoxy. Indeed on 14 February in the calendar of the Church there are commemorated Saints Auxentios, Maron and the martyrs Nicholas and Damian.. So there may be saints honored widely in one region and completely unknown in another, eg, St. Demetrios, who is famous throughout the Eastern Church, yet in the West is not honored at all, and is almost unknown, but this does not mean that he is not a saint.. We honor our saints and St. Valentine when we imitate their courage to proclaim their faith in Christ the Savior, who did so even at the cost of their lives.. We do not honor the saints when we measure their ‘worth’ by worldly amusements and festivities in the best circumstances … Honor Martyrs – Imitate Martyrs!