We recently celebrated the Feast of the Presentation, a day dedicated to all the forms of consecrated life. At the end of the parish liturgy, the priest called for all the consecrated (or discerners) to stand in front of the altar. He then gave us each a white rose in gratitude for our “yes” to the Lord and the Church, while the community sang a song of thanksgiving.
That moment touched me deeply and got me thinking of about the nature of love and holiness and about how Ash Wednesday and St. Valentine’s Day are on the same day this year. While most of the commentary on-line has been about how couples celebrating their love won’t be able to celebrate as they usually do (since it is a day of penance) I’d like to offer a different perspective: I think Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday converging is a “prophetic” moment through which something is being taught to the Church and in particular, the Emmanuel Community.
Married couples, you are living signs of the Trinitarian love of God in the flesh! The Scriptures, the Tradition, and the wisdom of the mystics are unanimous that out of all the imperfect analogies which communicate God’s relationship with His People, that of spousal imagery is most adequate. Your “yes” to your spouse, to begetting life or to the cross of infertility, shows all of us how God is Emmanuel, “God is with us,” concretely through your vocation. This is a beautiful, passionate, Saint Valentine kind-of-love but it is also a suffering and self-denial, an Ash Wednesday and Lenten kind-of-love.
Consecrated persons and priests, you are living presences of Trinitarian love of God through the confession that “God is enough.” Your “yes” makes the Lord, the Emmanuel, present among us in your very bodies, the unmediated profession that God is our end and our final happiness. It is every bit a love real as the which is celebrated on Valentine’s Day and yet, it is also a mysterious simultaneous living of Lent in the daily self-denial.
For all the states of life, the cross is the meeting place of intimacy and death and self-denial. This is the paradox of our daily Christian identity and lifestyle. The beautiful thing about being in the Church and in particular the Emmanuel Community, is that we get to live our vocations alongside those with the same vocation and those of different states of life. We get to support and enrich the unique character of another’s vocation. As we all celebrate St. Valentine’s Day and mark the commencement of Lent, may we begin to journey side-by-side toward the Risen Lord who awaits for us in Easter, Pentecost, and in every day. Truly, “God is with us.”