Apparently, some folks are worried about this year's confluence between Valentine's Day and Ash Wednesday as well as the fact that Easter Sunday will fall on April Fool's Day. They're afraid that lovers will swallow pounds of chocolate instead of observing the required fast and that the solemnity of Christ's Resurrection will be cheapened by sophomoric pranks and silly gags. From a theological perspective, however, there really is no need to be concerned because both dates are perfect for those respective celebrations.
Ash Wednesday is a perfect fit for Valentine's Day. We equate Ash Wednesday with sacrifice and Valentine's Day with love. The concept of human love has always included the notion of sacrifice. Marriage vows expect couples to cherish one another regardless of better times, abundant wealth and good health or worse times, poverty and illness. The obvious presumption is that some cost will be required if true love is to endure. An oath is not simply words. The sacrament of marriage, as the presider proclaims from the outset, is both sacred and serious. And any intentions that run contrary to sacrifice and love will render wedding nuptials invalid and void.
April First is a perfect fit for Easter Sunday. What better day is there to celebrate Christ's resurrection from the dead than on a fool's day? Can any human suggest a more foolish thought than someone being dead for three days and then coming back to life? Recall the Bible text that equates infinity with what seems to be irrational and foolhardy to the finite mind. God has chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise (1 Corinthians 1:27). Catholic belief in the resurrection from the dead is not limited to Jesus the Redeemer. Our funeral prayers attest that the same is true for all who die in the Lord. The souls of the just are in the hands of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us utter destruction. But they are at peace (Wisdom 3:1-6). There is no better day to celebrate Easter than on April 1.
For Holy Homework:
To celebrate the union of Ash Wednesday and St. Valentine this year, give that special someone 2 boxes of chocolate, or 2 flowers, or 2 religious medals which are actually quite inexpensive pieces of jewelry. Ask them to keep the first one as a sign of true love on February 14. And then, as a sign of Lenten sacrifice for Ash Wednesday, ask them to give away the second one to a person in need, someone who is not likely to be remembered by anyone on Valentine's Day. This way we can observe both ecclesial occasions, love and sacrifice, without neglecting either. NOTE: The candy can always be eaten on a later date!
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