Until the time comes (and I think it will eventually, at some point in the future) when we decide to fix the date of Easter, the various dates of Ash Wednesday, Easter, Ascension and Pentecost will all continue to move around. As things stand now, the date of Ash Wednesday, from year to year, can vary from 4th February (the earliest possible date) to 10th March (the latest). By my reckoning (which is doubtless flawed!), that means that the probability of it falling on 14th February is approximately 1 in 34. So it doesn’t happen that often. But that’s what’s happened this year. And I think there’s something worth pondering about that coincidence.
On the surface, the two days don’t sit together that naturally. Valentine’s Day is a time for celebration and, for those who are romantically involved, quite possibly an evening to go out for a meal. Ash Wednesday, on the other hand, being the start of the penitential season of Lent, is traditionally a time for abstinence, and even fasting.
On the other hand, love is a theme that links them. Clearly, love is at the focus of Valentine’s Day, as it’s now marked. But in a sense, the same is true for Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the period of preparation leading up to Holy Week, Good Friday and Easter. Good Friday speaks about the love of God, so great that Jesus died for us to bring us freedom; and Easter is the sign that love has overcome the darkness. And of course, because love is right at the heart of the whole gospel message, any Christian celebration has love at its root.
So maybe the two days are not quite so incompatible after all? Certainly it will be a day of love from more than one perspective!
Wishing you a blessed Lent, however it begins.