Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day – A Curious Conjunction by Rev. Yanchy Lacska, PhD

As Valentine’s Day approaches, stores everywhere display heart-shaped candy boxes and Valentine’s Day Cards adorned with hearts and flowers conveying sentimental or loving thoughts.

The heart is associated with love worldwide. This connection began in the Western World with the ancient Greeks. In Chinese culture, the word for love contains a pictograph meaning heart, next to a pictograph representing walking slowly. Combining these two images signifies that love is the guiding force in one’s life. After thirty-plus years, when I catch sight of my beloved wife, Wendy, in an unexpected place, my heart tingles or flutters. This is true for many lovers says Dr. Reginald Ho, a cardiac electrophysiologist at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. So it seems, that even science connects the heart with love. The heart strives for loving relationships and finds joy in union. The loving heart also allows our emotions to transcend the earthly realm and connect with the Divine. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8). The Sufi mystic and poet, Rumi said, “I looked in temples, churches, and mosques, but I found the Divine One within my heart.”

This year, Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday fall on the same day. This is a seemingly incompatible pairing since Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent. Ashes traced on our foreheads in the sign of the cross remind us of our mortality, and the Lenten practices of fasting, penitence, and almsgiving, do not conjure up images of romantic love.

But maybe Valentine’s Day hearts and Lent do harmonize. The English term Lent comes from an Old English word referring to spring cleaning and the practice of Spring cleaning in the Christian world began with the Jewish tradition of cleaning the house before Passover. Besides love, however, the heart holds sadness, anger, and old wounds. When Jesus announced his ministry in Luke’s gospel, he quotes from the prophet Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, and has sent me to heal the broken-hearted” (4:18). Perhaps this Lent, we should do some Spring cleaning of our hearts. We can clean out any fear, anger, anxiety, and old wounds we hold in our hearts, and pray along with the Psalmist, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me… Restore to me the joy of your salvation” (51:10 &12). Psychotherapist and teacher of Jewish mysticism Estelle Frankel writes, “A broken heart may launch us on a healing journey; the goal of healing is the ability to live wholeheartedly from the depth of our true being” (Sacred Therapy).

The writer of John’s first letter tells us, “God is love. Anyone who leads a life of love is joined to God. And God is joined to them” (4:16). Meditation is an excellent way to connect with this God who is Love. I recommend the meditation advice of the young Mattie J.T. Stepanek, who began creating his poems, he called Heartsongs, at age three until his untimely death at age thirteen. Mattie wrote:

To meditate, to really really meditate, you must believe in your heart. 

To meditate, to really really meditate, you must believe in your heart.

You must be in your heart. When you meditate, you must try not to lose it.

 You do this by not thinking about it. Only you think hard from your heart.

Think lighter and lighter and lighter, but still thinking.

You are like a feather, floating out of yourself, And into the wind-song, the life-song, the Heartsong.

And then, when you are finished, you come back into yourself, your mind, your heart.

(On Meditation, Reflections of A Peacemaker)

During this Lent, may we clean out our hearts and open them to love. Join me in this prayer adapted from John Philip Newell:

          Clear our hearts O God, that we may see you.

          Clear our hearts O God, that we may truly see ourselves.

          Clear our hearts O God, that we may know that there are ways of seeing     

                     and sensitivities of knowing hidden deep within our hearts and souls,       

                         waiting to be discovered and set free.

          Clear our hearts, O God, that we may know the sacredness in every moment,

                    and see you as the living presence in every presence.


Rev. Yanchy Lacska, PhD is an Orthodox Catholic priest, an interfaith minister and a Jungian oriented pastoral counselor. He has been a hospital chaplain, a college professor, psychotherapist, and has taught qigong for 20 years.


  1. Karen on February 14, 2024 at 5:24 pm

    Love this! Thank you!

  2. Jim on February 14, 2024 at 9:24 pm

    Thank you for sharing! A treasure trove of wisdom.

  3. Chris Ketelsen on February 15, 2024 at 10:02 am

    Chris on Feb.15thI have been pondering this juxtaposition for a while and you have put it into words!
    Thankyou for your message!