Valentine’s Day has become the high holy day of the cult of romantic love. It began as a pagan celebration that, in the 5th Century, became a Christian religious holiday still observed across the world by a variety of faith communities. In contemporary America, however, it has shed most Christian associations, and now billions of dollars (and countless anxieties) are spent on a day that embodies our culture’s extraordinary emphasis on romantic love.
Catholic thinker Michael Novak locates the myth of romantic love in our unfulfilled passion. He distinguishes romantic love from an embodied, other-oriented Christian love. But it’s worth exploring the possibility that elements of the same basic human desire lie at the core of both: a deep and abiding need for profound and lasting—indeed eternal—emotional and spiritual intimacy, the dream of shared meaning and unified fulfillment of our deepest hopes with the “one.”