“He that would inherit with Christ must first suffer and die with Him” – Valerius Herberger on St. Valentine

St. Valentine’s Day

Bajulatio Crucis Prodromus Lucis

He that would inherit with Christ must first suffer and die with Him.

In the name of the Lord Jesus, who will show abundant grace to all steadfast Christians, who deny themselves, and live not according to their own imagination but the counsel of Christ, and daily take up the cross appointed them, and carry it in Christian patience, and who follow after Him, love Him in their heart, glorify Him with their lips, honor Him in their life, and remain steadfastly true to Him; that they too, before their death, may in their greatest misery perceive a foretaste of eternal salvation and, in addition, blessedly obtain eternal life—in the name of this same Jesus, ever worshiped and adored with the heavenly Father and the Holy Ghost, world without end. Amen.

My beloved friends, that we may speak of St. Valentine in such wise as we may all come to delight, according to St. Valentine’s example, to remain true to the Lord Jesus until our last breath, let us heartily pray “Lord Jesus, in Thy knowledge / And love let us increase!” etc.

Hear the appointed Gospel from Luke 9:23–27.

23. The Lord Jesus said unto His disciples, “He that will follow Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24. For he that will keep his life shall lose it, but he that will lose his life for My sake shall keep it. 25. And what profit would that man have if he should gain the whole world and lose himself? Or injure himself? 26. But he that is ashamed of Me and My words, of him shall the Son of Man also be ashamed, when He shall come in His glory, and His Father’s, and the holy angels’. 27. But truly I say unto you, that some of them that stand here shall not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.

Devout lovers of Jesus Christ, St. Valentine was a godly priest and preacher in Rome. Emperor Claudius called on him to defend his religion, saying, “Dear Valentine, you might find in me a gracious lord, if only you would be at peace with the new religion. Why do you harp so upon your opinion?” Valentine answered forthrightly, “Most gracious lord Emperor, I cannot in good conscience deny the divine truth. If your Majesty had so clear a foundation in my religion as I (praise God), you would not require this of me. Whereupon a courtier said, “What sayest thou of our gods?” Valentine replied, “I regard that they were all simple men on whom such reverence was bestowed after their death only out of good will. And it is much to be lamented that you revere dead men who were like unto you,” and no doubt filled with great sin and vice. (In the same manner Tertullian writes in his Apology: “It were better that Socrates should be made god of wisdom, Aristides god of justice, Themistocles god of war, Cicero god of eloquence, Sylla god of fortune, Crassus god of riches, Pompey god of majesty, and Cato god of valor, for they far surpassed the invented gods in those things.”) Thereupon Valentine began in a loud voice to preach of the proper knowledge of the true God, and admonishing the Emperor to right faith, said that he would thereby have not only temporal welfare but also life eternal. God granted grace, that the Emperor’s heart might be stirred. And he said to his courtiers, “O lords and knights of Rome, what think ye of this preaching? Are these not wise and prudent words?” Whereat a captain began to cry out, “Even if our Emperor be persuaded, how can we forsake that faith wherein we were raised from our youth up? Are all our good ancestors now made fools?” At this Claudius was troubled, and drew back.

He who knows no better foundation in his faith than that his ancestors shared his opinion, I would not give a farthing to such a man for all his devotion. We see here what is deficient in many great people who are so reluctant to accept the truth of the Gospel. Most look to their ancestors. Such was Rotoboldus, who about the year AD 718, having his foot even in the baptismal water, drew it out again because his father confessor, Wulfram, would not declare that his ancestors were in paradise; and three days later he died suddenly. The servant which knows his master’s will and does it not, invites on his poor soul double condemnation (Luke 12:47; John 15:22). If I had not come, and had told them, they would not have sin, says Jesus; but because I offered them heavenly wisdom, how will they give answer, since they have purposefully stopped the window of their heart to the light of truth? Some are proud and think it will be a great shame if they are proven to have been so long in error, and learned only in maturity what they did not know before. Pride was never justified. Arrogance only gives offense. Others worry that they will lose face and invite on themselves the enmity of important people, which seldom vanishes completely. Others cast it to the wind, and think, “I will not weep myself to death for religion. I am a man of the world. I will grow no gray hairs over the pope’s business.” Some imagine great glory, benefit, and advantage, if they might only help to afflict the Gospel, and stand with the evil party. God convert all such wandering sheep, lest they become goats entirely!

Next, by the emperor’s decree, a false plot was devised against St. Valentine in the house of an important knight. When he stepped over the threshold, he prayed, “Lord Christ, who art the Light of the world, be also a light to this house, and a light to the hearts that dwell herein, that I may not be here in vain, but may pay for good lodging.” Psalm 145:19: “The Lord fulfills the desire of them that fear God.” St. Valentine’s prayer was doubly answered. The host’s blind daughter regained her sight, and the whole house was converted by St. Valentine’s preaching. Here you see the power of God’s Word, as stated in Isaiah 55:11.

When these tidings reached the emperor, Valentine’s death was called for, and he was destined for martyrdom. Valentine allowed his head to fall, but held fast in his heart the Lord Jesus, the Head of the precious Church, and proved him an honest Valentinus. For Valentinus means he who is stout and without reproach in faith, upright and honorable in life, and for his faith and life is accounted highly in the sight of God and all angels and honorable men. This is a beautiful Christian name. For no one is stout in faith as he who believes in Christ. He who does not believe is sick unto everlasting death. But where faith is alive, it is evident in an honorable life; yet if a man’s life is ungodly, his faith is false and dead. And if both faith and life are unimpeachable in a Christian, he is accounted highly in the sight of God. When he prays, he is certainly heard. In cross and tribulation he is comforted. When he dies, the holy angels are given charge over him. That is a blessed prestige and authority! God also grants to such honorable Christians the favor of honorable men in the world for as long as they have need of it.

Candles used to be offered to St. Valentine long ago in the belief that he would release children from falling sickness or epilepsy. People came to this conclusion by deriving the name Valentine from the German word “fallen.” I mention this only so that no one would use the curse “St. Valtin!” People do this with the intent of a terrible disease upon their neighbor’s head. Honorable hearts will receive instruction. But if you parents wish to do the right thing when God visits your children with this miserable condition, submit your complaint to the Lord Jesus and implore Him to act even as a “Master to save” (Isaiah 63:1).

Inasmuch, then, as St. Valentine endured his cross to the glory of Christ and, willingly forsaking temporal life, found instead the eternal, and in so doing faithfully followed his Lord Jesus, the words of Luke 9:23ff. or Matthew 16:24ff. have long been read on the day of his commemoration. Let us briefly consider two points:

(1) No one should become a Christian for good days in this world, or he will be greatly disappointed.
(2) What cause we have to consider that our heart may endure patiently such cross-bearing in the counsel and will of Christ, that we may not acquire a spiritual falling sickness, but become steadfast Valentines, and persevere unwavering and steadfast in the faith and Christian life until we die.

O Lord, open Thou my lips, that my mouth may declare Thy praise (Ps. 51:15).

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(From Heart-Postils — Festival Postils, p. 107f; Translation 2017 © Matthew Carver. Used with permission.)

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