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 my last post I hoped to convey the importance and gravity of choosing good and proper songs for church. I suggested using the triple test of “everywhere, always, and by all” (universality, antiquity, and consent) as a guide for choosing songs, relying on the judgment of the Church through the ages instead of following the unbalanced judgment of isolated times and places. This approach guarantees orthodox content and a worthy quality of song to be sung in church, and it gives occasion for those doing the choosing to exercise prudence and humility, relieving them of the temptation to assert their own wisdom and will. Continue reading →
What are the limits of love? The phrase “I love you” is one of the most ubiquitous and inescapable phrases in the English language. I’m sure its counterpart phrases are almost equally ubiquitous in other languages. I doubt you’ve never heard the phrase or spoken it yourself. But what does it mean? Fifteen seconds’ thought reveals that we don’t know what it means. Or maybe we know parts of what it means but are unable to articulate in one succinct explanation the full gamut of the ramifications that come from uttering the words “I love you” to another person. And I am talking about those words applying to another person, and not just a thing. I can say I love my can opener, but this is necessarily an objective (in the grammatical sense) love, since there’s no chance of reciprocity of love with an object. The distinction between subject and object when it comes to love is important, but I think we regularly confuse the two in our love of both people and things. Continue reading →
The horrors of the scourging and crucifixion of Jesus, had we the eyes to see them, would undoubtedly haunt us for our entire lives. Every year on the Friday before Easter, Christians try to have the eyes to see that horror. Good Friday is the day “to know nothing … but Christ and him crucified.” Because reconciliation with our loving maker came at the greatest cost imaginable, the Church unites in the personal work of trying to feel that pain as acutely as possible. We visualize the scenes from the accounts we have — the trail, beating, mocking, and crucifixion of Jesus. We don’t eat much food, because, since we’ve put ourselves there in Israel on that day, we wouldn’t desire food anyway. While full time ministers and monastics are more fully able to enact their own presence at and participation in the events of that day in the early 30’s A.D., the rest of us have to try while we’re at work or otherwise interacting with a thoroughly secular world that can’t grasp what this day is. Continue reading →