Village Voice - March, 2005


There are many varying opinions as to the origin of VALENTINE’S DAY. 

 Some experts state that it originated from St. Valentine, a Roman priest jailed by Emperor Claudius.  The emperor had jailed St. Valentine for defying him.  St. Valentine died on February 14, 269 A.D.  Legend also says that St. Valentine left a farewell note for the jailer’s daughter, who had become his friend, and signed it, “From your Valentine.”  In 496 A.D.  Pope Gelasius set aside February 14 to honor St. Valentine. 

Gradually, Feb. 14 became the date for exchanging love messages and St. Valentine became the patron saint of lovers. Commercial valentine cards were introduced in the United States in the 1800s, and now valentines are sent out with sentimental verses, children exchange valentine cards at school, and gifts of flowers and candy are exchanged (much to the delight of merchants such as Hallmark, Russell Stover, etc.!).  Valentine’s Day is also an increasingly popular date for weddings.

Valentine’s Day, 1958, is very special to us. It was the day we chose to be married, and every year since it has been a reminder of our mutual commitment.  Even though the world was in black and white back then, the Valentine hearts were really RED!

Valentine’s Day brings to mind not only red cutouts of hearts, sentimental cards and gifts, but the deeper spiritual meaning of love and hearts found in many Bible verses. We consulted The Analytical Concordance to the New Revised Standard Version of the New Testament to see just how many references were listed. The word “Heart” had more than 150 references to New Testament scripture verses. “Love” cited three pages of scripture verses!  Perhaps it was St. Valentine’s knowledge of these verses rich in expressions of love that has caused this age-old celebration to remain important to lovers of every time and place.

 We sincerely believe that in its fullest expression this day also points us to a greater love --- that of Christ’s love for us and of his two greatest commandments: “…To love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. And to love your neighbor as much as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39; Mark 11:29-31; Luke 10: 27-28)  This February 14, we encourage you to look at the many “Valentines” in the New Testament for a real blessing!

                                                                                                 -- Angela and Maury Sweetin

God loves you and has chosen you as his own special people.  So be gentle, kind, humble, meek, and patient.  Put up with each other, and forgive anyone who does you wrong, just as Christ has forgiven you.  Love is more important than anything else.  It is what ties everything completely together.

-- Colossians 3:12-14

Show love in everything you do.

--1 Corinthians 16:14

We know what love is because Jesus gave his life for us.  That’s why we must give our lives for each other.

-- 1 John 3:16


In the early years of the Second World War, a 25 year-old Christian from Switzerland named Roger Schutz-Marsauche, acquired a small farm in the almost abandoned village of Taize (pronounced te-say’) in eastern France.  His dream was to establish a place of refuge for those displaced by the ravages of war.  Roger wrote:  “The defeat of France awoke powerful sympathy.  If a house could be found there, it would offer a possible way of assisting some of those most discouraged, those deprived of a livelihood; and it could be a place of silence and work.”

There in Taize Roger toiled alone, working the farm, studying the Bible, praying, and offering welcome to refugees, especially Jews fleeing from the Nazi occupation.  After the War, Roger dreamed of founding a monastic community in Taize, which would be a place of reconciliation and prayer.  Gradually others began to join him, and at Easter 1949 seven brothers committed themselves to a common life together.  Roger was from a Protestant background, and the others who joined him were from various Protestant church traditions.  But within twenty years a Roman Catholic brother had joined the community, followed by a Roman Catholic priest, with the encouragement and blessing from his bishop.  Thus the first truly ecumenical monastic community came into being.   

In the years that followed other brothers entered the community at Taize, coming from Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox backgrounds.  Today almost a hundred brothers from twenty-five countries are a part of the Taize community, having made a life commitment to live together in joy, simplicity, and mercy.  Not all the brothers are at Taize.  Some of them live in small groups in poor communities in Asia, Africa, North America, and South America.  The brothers accept no gifts or donations, not even family inheritances.  They earn their living through their own work.  Their goal is to live out a “parable of community,” to be a living sign of peace and reconciliation in a hostile world. 

In the late 1950’s word about this unique Christian community in Taize spread, and pilgrims, especially youth and young adults, began to come from all over Europe and beyond to worship with the brothers.  Three times every day, the brothers and their guests would come together for common prayer in the Church of the Reconciliation, built in 1962 when the village church could no longer contain them all.  The brothers never wanted to create a “movement” around themselves.  Following the monastic tradition the brothers simply sought to create a community of reconciliation around three centers of focus—prayer, work, and hospitality. 

In 1966, the Sisters of St. Andrew, an international Catholic community, established a base of operations in a neighboring village to assist the brothers in welcoming pilgrims to Taize.  Today tens of thousands of people from many different countries come to Taize every year to spend a week or a day with the brothers in worship, prayer, Bible study, and fellowship.  The three times of worship create the daily rhythm at Taize.  Because the congregation is made up of people from many different cultures and traditions and languages, the style of worship is intentionally simple and ecumenical.  Simple songs are sung repetitively in a style that has been described as “meditative singing.”  Some of the songs are sung in Latin, as a kind of universal language of worship.  Other songs are sung in various languages.  These short songs, sung again and again, create a meditative mood.  With only a few simple words, the songs sung repetitively become a way of listening to God.  From the Eastern Orthodox tradition, worship at Taize includes candles, a cross, and icons around the altar.  Passages of scripture are read aloud, and meditated upon silently.  The whole focus is on prayer, both spoken and silent.  In such a setting persons from different cultures and churches, speaking different languages, can worship God together.              

As people have experienced this type of worship, they have returned to their own homes and churches with a desire to continue to worship God in the simple meditative style of Taize.  Jenny Youngman, an editor for the United Methodist publishing house Abingdon Press, spent a week in Taize, to deepen her own walk with God and to learn about this style of worship.  She wrote:

            Time in Taize is more like a melodic, holy rhythm than the frenzied pace of everyday
            life.  Three times a day visitors are called to prayer by the chiming of bells.  Instead of
            coming together to talk to God, the community gathers to listen.  Instead of talking about
            the Scripture, the Scripture is read and left to speak for itself in silence.  By singing
            simple songs of prayer over and over again, the mind calms and the soul opens up;
            God speaks and the heart hears.

 On Maundy Thursday, March 24, at 7:30 p.m., our church will experience something of the meditative spirit of Taize.  We will gather in our sanctuary to worship through simple songs, scripture readings, prayer, silence, and to share the Lord’s Supper around the cross.  Come that your mind may calm and your soul open up; that God may speak, and your heart may hear.