Janus, the personification of thresholds, beginnings, and endings, has had many depictions over the centuries. Common to them all and distinguishing him from every other occupant in the pantheon of Roman deities were his two faces opposite each other on either side of his head. He looked both ways with his two faces, and this, the Romans thought, made him the perfect god to preside over the boundary between any two given situations: war and peace, earth and heaven, past and future. He was the doorkeeper, the boundary master.
One conspicuous difference you’ll notice among Janus’ many depictions is that in some, his two faces are identical, and his head a perfectly symmetrical mirror image; while in others, his two faces are markedly different, one side bearded while the other side is not, or one side visibly aged while the other side is youthful.
In A Charlie Brown Christmas, Charlie Brown is depressed. He doesn’t feel very uplifted by the approach of Christmas, ostensibly because it has gotten “commercialized,” but really, as he admits to himself early in the special, because he perceives that nobody likes him, so, “Why do we have to have a holiday season to emphasize it?” Charlie Brown’s self-derision is healed in the end by the kindness and closeness of his friends. But many more people besides Charlie Brown struggle at Christmastime, either because they also think that nobody likes them, or else because the memory of lost loved ones becomes more painful now, or else because the changes they’re seeing all around them—the increased crowds and clamor; the repellent false sentimentality and self-interestedness of actual commercialization; the growing darkness, both spiritual and literal—just puts extra stress on them.
In the Western Tradition of the Church, yesterday was Trinity Sunday. This always comes the Sunday after Pentecost, and it celebrates the reality that God has been revealed to us as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Eastern Tradition recognizes that this complete revelation of God occurs on Pentecost, when all three persons of the Trinity have been revealed to us, and so Pentecost doubles as Trinity Sunday in the East. Continue reading →
We’re currently in the season of Christmastide, in which the Church across the world celebrates the reality of the Incarnation of God. This central reality –inaugurated at Gabriel’s annunciation to Mary, first seen at Christmas, but then proceeding on through the entire life, death, and resurrection of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels– is what gives meaning and purpose to every faithful Christian. God has become a man. The ramifications of this central reality are manifold and profound (and are properly explored at length beginning at Epiphany/Theophany and throughout the rest of the year), but now at Christmas we tend more to celebrate the fact of God becoming a man. The King of all creation has decided to come and dwell with us; there’s so much to consider about what that means, but for now, “O come let us adore Him.” Continue reading →