By Malachy Uzendu
The global community and Nigerians in particular, must be wondering why this year’s St. Valentine’s Day coincided with Ash Wednesday. It cannot but be ecclesiastical way or reminding us that we do not own ourselves; we are subject of immutable supreme supernatural being. Supreme being that did not create us to fight, maim, kill or annihilate, but to live in the service and love for one another.
But do Nigerians really live for and love one another, especially with the emergent invasions, killings, kidnappings and armed banditry all over the places? Much as we try to rationalise why we do what we do and take positions either for or against one action or the other, one thing is clear, and that is that God can never be deceived; God never make mistakes; God remains omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient. He was; He is and He will continue to be. He is the “I am that I am; the beginning and the end”.
We human beings are only ephemeral and will one day, fizzle out and be remembered in the past. When this happens, we shall be called upon to render account on how we lived; we shall be asked to account how we handled the responsibilities God bestowed on us; we shall be called upon to explain how we handled our inter-personal relationships; we shall all approach the judgment throne. People will write our epitaph, sing our eulogy and pronounce our funeral oration. In what language is yours to be written: positive or negative?
Some people think there is none to call us to account; but those nursing such ideas are totally misplaced; they are myopic; they are jaundiced. Account? yes, we all must and if we think it is very far away, you must be mistaken; it could come when one least expects. Sometimes, we call it sudden death; accident, poison; slumped; cardiac arrest, etc. Whatever we call it, the person bearing that body is no more and can no longer act same manner as he or she was before the transition.
We are used to the lascivious activities of the Valentine’s Day. To the married, it could help recount our memories and propel us to shower Agape love to our spouse and other members of the family. To the single, most often, it is a day one engages in foolery, exposing one to mundane infatuation and delusion.
But, let’s get to the basics. According to Wikipedia: “Valentine’s Day, also called Saint Valentine’s Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine, is celebrated annually on February 14. Originating as a Western Christian feast day honoring one or more early saints named Valentinus. Valentine’s Day is equally recognized as a significant cultural, religious, and commercial celebration of romance in many regions around the world. Martyrdom stories associated with various Valentines connected to February 14 are presented in martyrologies, including a written account of Saint Valentine of Rome’s imprisonment for performing weddings for soldiers, who were forbidden to marry, and for ministering to Christians persecuted under the Roman Empire”.
Similarly, the Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent and occurs 46 days before Easter. According to Church Theologians, “it is a moveable feast, falling on a different date each year, depending on the date of Easter. It can occur early in February, up to as late as early March.
“Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of adherents as a sign of mourning and repentance to God. The ashes used are typically gathered after the palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday are burned. It is primarily a time for fasting, prayer and almsgiving”.
Why did Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday meet on the same day this year? Of course, there is no straightforward answer, except that we should take it to the ecclesiastical realm. It could be that God is a Nigerian and felt he should use sweet and sour circumstances and occasion to extricate us from our nebulous acts. Sweet, because as some people would need to indulge in their usual self-delusion and extravagance associated with the Valentine’s Day; sour on the fact that there is high tendency they might pause and ponder over the significance of the Ash Wednesday.
Some people think God may have heard the prayers of specially Nigerians weeping and lamenting over needless spilling of blood which has been on-going in parts of the country for years. A country where certain people would stop at nothing but to swoop on sleepy community of people (people created in God’s image and likeness) and set them and their property ablaze. These acts of brigandage beats the imagination, but we have come to get accusomed to such level of carnage and infamy, to the extent some people even try to rationalise and lend tacit support to such unbridled cold-blooded murder.
As we plan what to make of today, which I chose to call Valentine’s Ash Wednesday, God in His infinite wisdom brought the two events together in order for us to pause and make deep-rooted introspection and ask ourselves the relevant questions. Do you do what you do out of love for self and neighbor, maybe because you quite honestly and sincerely appreciate that “thou are dust and unto dust thou shall return”?
Does the above remarks make any meaning to you or would you prefer to engage in epicureanism, believing that life ends now and no more and nowhere to account? Would you rather take a break, pause and ponder and make reverence and appreciate that we all need prayer, almsgiving and fasting to surmount the very innumerable challenges confronting us as individual and as a nation?
The option is definitely yours, but God certainly cannot be mocked, neither could He be deceived. Could we please make a difference with this year’s Valentine’s Ash Wednesday? The choice is yours and yours alone.