Sunday, December 28, 2014

"For last year's words belong to last year's language

And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning."
                                                      ~T.S. Eliot
2015 in our calendar sights...survived that grey/black/24/7 Christmas...maybe we can make some resolutions to keep that holiday a little saner next Christmas. 

Anyway, in pre-Christian times,  Babylonians celebrated the new year in March, but the Romans changed it to January.  Janus was the two-faced god who looks backwards into the old year and forwards into the new. Janus was the patron and protector of arches, gates, doors, doorways, endings and beginnings. He was also the patron of bridges, and the bridge Ponte Fabricio which crosses the Tiber River in Rome to Tiber Island survives from its original construction in 62 BC during the time of Julius Caesar.
Even today it is believed that if you touch the Janus head as you cross the bridge, it will bring good fortune.
The custom of setting “New Years resolutions” began during this period in Rome, and they made such resolutions with a moral flavor: mostly to be good to others. When the Roman Empire took Christianity as its official state religion in the 4th century, these moral intentions were replaced by prayers and fasting--so much for being good to others?

In the 17th century, Puritans in Colonial America avoided the indulgences associated with New Year’s celebrations and other holidays. In the 18th century, Puritans avoided even naming Janus. Instead they called January “First Month.” (Echoes of Harry Potter and "he who must not be named...aka...Voldemort!)
Puritans urged their children to spend their time reflecting on the year past and contemplating the year to come. In this way they adopted again the old custom of making resolutions.  American theologian and New England Puritan Jonathan Edwards took the writing of resolutions to an art form. During a two-year period, when he was about 19 or 20 following his graduation from Yale, he compiled some 70 resolutions (You can read all 70 on that link if you are interested), and they focused on various aspects of his life which he committed to reviewing each week.  A couple caught my eye: 5. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can, 17. Resolved, that I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die, and 36. Resolved, never to speak evil of any, except I have some particular good call for it.

So, as the new year begins this week, I leave you with words from Mother Teresa...“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”

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