A dear friend, Stewart Butler, holds dearly Valentine’s Day because it was the quintessential day for his life partner, Alfred. Alfred loved Valentine’s Day and all that it meant. To this very day one can meander down Esplanade Ave. and see the lovely hearts set about the ancient bricks in the Faerie Playhouse. To this very day Stewart loves Alfred who left us some time ago. To this very day Valentine’s Day is special.
Beyond the outward trappings of Valentine’s Day, beyond the history of Valentine’s Day, at the heart of Valentine’s Day is a day set aside for mutual and intimate love. Pagan, Christian, or Secular at the heart of Valentine’s Day is the heart. Valentine’s Day is not nor should be a good excuse to wear pink, indulge in rich chocolate, or buy doily laden boxes. It should be a day that honors the sentimental heart of Alfred. For Alfred, Valentine’s day was a day honoring love and in particular, that kind of love that is written about, that kind of love that is silly, that kind of love that is abiding, that kind of love that binds two humans together so, as our Lord said, “two become one.”
The Valentine’s Day that I think of is one that bears witness to a couple. Alfred tall and odd, Stewart less tall and odd. I watched Alfred as time wore on him. He had moments of clarity and moments of solemnity but when he looked up and saw Stewart it was Valentine’s Day. For years he encouraged Stewart to receive Communion. For his own reasons Stewart did not. Then one day whilst Alfred was in bed and communion brought to him, Stewart received communion, Alfred bore witness and it was Valentine’s Day.
To this very day when a Bible Study is going on, and Stewart attends, he lugs along this tattered, old, beaten, marked, used and dog eared Bible. It was Alfred’s Bible with all of the notes and ticks of a book well read and well used. When Stewart handles it and opens it a bit Alfred opens up and a bit of Alfred moves out of those pages and into Stewart. When Alfred’s Bible is opened up it is Valentine’s Day.
As we survey the landscape and particularly the sacred landscape that is called LGBT community we can all bear witness to those deep and intimate relationships that exist, not because of a construct or social expectation. The fact is there is or was no “social expectation to provide a framework” for most in this community. Rather we bear witness to intimacy and intimate contracts between humans that say, “I will be with you forever and forever will I care” – St. Valentine’s Day lived out.
Things are changing and one can only imagine what the future of LGBT community might look like. A younger generation is loud and being heard. Many traditional churches are at long last moving toward full inclusion, not integration but acknowledgment; not accommodation but commendation; all of the sacraments for all of the people. A framework is developing and may soon be available. We can only hope that the framework is not the undoing of such natural searching for communion with other humans. We can only hope and pray those sacraments, marriage, holy union will support what already exists for many – St. Valentine’s Day lived out.
I for one, and there are many of us, simply do not understand how anyone, let alone those that claim faith, can condemn two humans utterly devoted to one another. I for one cannot believe that Jesus would condemn two humans utterly in love with each other. I for one cannot understand a world that cannot or will not embrace Alfred’s St. Valentine’s Day. It is not about pink, it is not about pretty, it is not about doilies or chocolate or cute cards or even hearts on the side of a house; it is about an old tattered Bible; it is about kindness and adoration in the eyes beholding the beloved; it is about companionship and loyalty.
Stewart and Alfred even today are the framework of and reflection of the kind of love preached and taught by our friend Jesus. Stewart and Alfred are eccentric, different, unusual, Quarter Characters, and such as they are they are the heart of St. Valentine’s Day. That we all should aspire to their model of monogamy born out of care and chastity; out of profound regard for each other; born out of deep soulful care one for the other. “And the two shall become one.”
This Valentine’s Day celebrate this kind of love. If you are yet awaiting that love celebrate those around you who now have that gift and support and applaud them. This Valentine’s Day if you have no one to receive a card buy a card set upon a mantel or table and consider Alfred and Stewart and wait with hopeful expectation and with an open heart. This Valentine’s Day know that even if you have no partner you are a partner with a God who loves you. You are part of a community that understands you. You are part of a unique and special group that supports one another. Out of this world you LGBT community, with all that is wrong, have also presented an image of all that is and can be good; not of this world but of a world to come. Blessing upon you and let this be Alfred’s Valentine’s Day feast.