Janus and the New Year

Do any of you ever set any New Year’s resolutions for yourselves? A few years ago, my wife and I had a discussion about this. My belief was that New Year’s resolutions were pointless. Why do you need the calendar to reset to implement a worthwhile change? 

My wife is, oftentimes, a little more insightful than I am. She explained to me that, for many people, the New Year is a symbol for change, and that symbolism can be a powerful tool.

Let’s shift our focus. Who was Janus?

Janus was a member of the Roman pantheon of gods. He was distinctly Roman. While the Romans often plundered the Greek menagerie of gods, where Janus is concerned, there is no Greek equivalent. He was the god of beginnings and endings; gates, doorways, and passages; time and transitions. He’s always depicted as having two faces: one looking forward and one looking behind; one looking to the future while one looks to the past.

Why am I writing about this mythological deity on a Masonic blog?

For a few different reasons.

  1. Each one of us, whether we realized it or not, found ourselves in the exact situation that Janus represents when we stood outside the inner door.
  2. With the approaching New Year, if we look, we find our current situation reflected in the lessons that Janus offers us.
  3. It is speculated that January takes its name from Janus. (or from Juno — but that doesn’t help this post!)

Freemasonry lifts many of the best — or most important — lessons from several different religions. This is especially noticeable within the Southern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite.

Let us do that now. With January quickly approaching, let’s be mindful that we stand at the threshold of a new year. Whatever is in the past is in the past. 

We live in a society where everything is becoming more disposable and convenient. Modern electronics are routinely replaced with “upgraded” versions. Social media has opened up new avenues for discourse, and it has taught us that relationships are disposable, and we can end them at our convenience. 

But meaningful relationships aren’t disposable, and maintaining them isn’t always convenient.

We often speak about “time” and how vital and precious it is to us. Society has become what it is, in part, because we value our time. But do we? Do we make our moments count? Is our time spent as quality time? Or are we rushing through each day so that we can put some kind of distraction in front of us? Television, video games, social media. Are these the things that are so precious to modern man that he crowds out Freemasonry?

Let’s all take a step back — a step away from convenience for convenience’s sake. Let us dedicate ourselves to a meaningful year in 2019, and let us rededicate ourselves to building meaningful relationships.

This is an important lesson to apply within our Lodges, but it’s even more important that it be carried out into the world and applied to our daily lives.

Janus could see where he had been, and he could look forward to where he was going. As we stand at the threshold of a new year, let us take this lesson to heart. Let’s venture into 2019, taking each step forward with care and deliberation.

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