FEATURE ARTICLE

Sunday, February 11, 2024
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REMARKABLE 2024 FEBRUARY

ebruary is the second month of the year in the Julian and Gregorian calendars. It has twenty-eight days in common years or twenty-nine days in leap years. According to the explanation found in the free encyclopedia called Wikipedia, the month of February is the third and last month of meteorological winter in the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere, it is the third and last month of meteorological summer, which is equivalent to what is August in the Northern Hemisphere. The word 'February' is derived from the Roman festival of purification known as "Februa" during which the participants were ritually washed. In those days the ancient Romans celebrated a festival of spiritual cleansing. That's how the month of February originated. Does it mean that we must cleanse ourselves in this month of February from the impurities that stained our souls and bodies in the month of January? Let's begin by observing cleanliness from within and without always. Is cleanliness not next to godliness?

The month of January 2024 has come and gone. May it rest in peace for now as we await its resurrection in the Year 2025. On behalf of the assorted human beings on earth, I hereby heartily welcome the month of February 2024. It is a leap year with 29 days. A normal year has 365 days. On the other hand, a leap year has additional day making it 366 days. According to experts, the 366th day is added in order to make the calendar year synchronize with the astronomical year or seasonal year. This happens every four years. The unfortunate persons born on 29 February celebrate their birthday every four years. Their luck shines this year. Opportunity, they say, comes but once. Hence they should smile this leap year 2024 and happily celebrate their once-in-blue moon birthday in pomp and pageantry. They should do so because they are not sure of being alive in the next four years. I hereby cordially invite you to my special birthday coming up on 1st April 2024, which is Easter Monday. I thank God it does not fall on Good Friday. Instead of fasting we shall eat and drink on that Easter Monday because Christ has risen from the dead. Because it is April fool day, I invite all fools to grace the occasion. Are you one of them? If yes, then you are qualified to attend freely.

This year's month of February is very special in varied ways. It has four Sundays, four Mondays, four Tuesdays, four Wednesdays, four Fridays and four Saturdays. Thursday is five in number. This occurs in every four years. The numerical number 4 plays an important role in this year's month of February.

There is a certain man who is popularly called Mr. February because everything he has is incomplete. He did not complete his secondary school career. In other words he is a school dropout. He has an incomplete motorcycle and drives it without light at night. He lives in an uncompleted house. He is an incomplete man because some of his body parts are missing. He also married an incomplete woman whose senses are not complete. Despite the incompleteness, they are happily married without children. At last the incomplete couple adopted a child who grew up to be an incomplete stubborn boy.

This year's month of February is very remarkable liturgically and socially. Ash Wednesday and Valentine Day coincided on 14 February. Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the Lenten season. It is a day dedicated to Prayer, fasting and abstinence from meat. All Christians are bound to observe these three tripods of Ash Wednesday as well as the Lenten season. Ash Wednesday is not a day of merriment at all. On that day we go to church to be signed with ashes on the forehead, which reminds us that we are dust and unto dust we shall return again at death. It is also a sign of penance whereby we are asked to repent and believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Valentine Day is named after a young Roman Catholic Priest who lived in the third century. He lived a heroic life during the period of Christian persecution by the Roman Emperor Claudius the second, who forbade Christian marriage. Being courageous, Father Valentine wedded Christians secretly. Later he was arrested, condemned to death and was sent to prison as he awaited his martyrdom. While he was in prison, the daughter of his jailer offered him charitable assistance from time to time. This made Valentine to feel happy while he was in custody. A day before his execution, Valentine wrote an appreciative letter to the girl who offered him humanitarian assistance in prison. He ended the letter with the slang "Yours Valentine." He reciprocated the love shown to him by the lady in form of lovely appreciation. On the following day, the young priest Valentine was executed by the order of the Emperor. Having lived a heroic life, Valentine was declared a Martyr and a Saint by the Church. His memorial was earlier celebrated annually on 14 February. As time elapsed, due to complications and abuses attached to the memorial of Saint Valentine, his name was removed from the Roman Missal. Despite this, his Sainthood is not in doubt. He remains a Saint in God's Kingdom. When you go to heaven you should confirm this by searching for Saint Valentine among the Heavenly Hosts.

Today, Valentine Day is a day of joy and merriment mixed with abuses. It is known as lovers' day. Friends offer special gifts to their loved ones, ranging from special cards, flowers, jewelries, cash, etc. Parties are held here and there by birds of the same feather (youths). They eat, drink and dance. Corrupt ones commit immoral sexual acts in the name of love. Valentine did not promote immorality. Rather he championed genuine love for others (Agape). He shed his blood for the sake of the Gospel. It is unfortunate that the boys and girls of nowadays portray Valentine in negative attitudes. Erotic love is unchristian. The love of Agape is the ideal.

The question now is: How can we do penance and make merriment on 14 February 2024? Some will be in the church while others will be somewhere else doing parties in the guise of love. True Christians should mark this year's Ash Wednesday and Valentine Day for the glory of God. Prayer, fasting and abstinence should be done. Also we should mark Valentine Day on the same date by offering precious gifts to our loved ones and to the less privileged. To love others is not a sin; after all Jesus Christ commanded us to love one another. Love of God and love of neighbor is the summary of the Decalogue. You should tell God, "I love you" by going to church on Valentine-Ash Wednesday to be signed with ashes to remind you that mortality awaits you. Tell your beloved ones and the less privileged in your midst on that day that you love them too by words and sacrificial deeds. Ash Wednesday and Valentine Day are not contradictory. They are worth celebrating together, if we abide by the teachings of Christ and the legacy Saint Valentine left behind. Happy Valentine Day and fruitful Ash Wednesday!

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