Janus, The Two-Faced God of the Romans

When one has a god who cannot do much, you may need several gods. The Romans worshiped many gods, as was the customary adorative practice of their day. The Greeks put so many gods up on their sacred places they feared they might miss one or two and so erected various altars to Unknown Gods.

We might say of the polytheists that, not knowing God, they created gods. Finally, they had created a god for every fear.

If preachers had a patron god, it would probably be Janus, the two faced Roman tutelary God of the doorway. Janus was to guard the doorway. Ergo, he had to have two faces, one to look outward as guard against the world and another, about the same, but looking inside, to defend against dangers from within the cloister.

Janus kept the doors of his temple open during war time. Unlike other gods, Janus remained the same during peace and war because, as his adherents knew, war could come from within or without and it was necessary for a god to be alert on both fronts. Janus is often used as an example of the two-faced, deceptive nature of fate, but look again. Janus looked the same no matter how he faced. He just had to be looking for civil rebellion while he defended the greater culture from foreign intrusion.

Janus was not deceptive. He just knew he had to have eyes in the back of his head, so he decided to go with the whole face.

In political crisis a silly hypocrite will choose an option that most serves himself, act on it and, when questioned, will spread empty arms and ask, “What else could we do?”

We could follow our conscience. We might sustain our guiding document. We might demand honor and righteousness of ourselves.

Or, we can take the line of least resistance, serve ourselves, abandon decency and salve our souls with a woeful exhibition of despair. We might pray, instead, “God, protect us from leaders who serve their own stomachs and then tell us they do not know what else to do.”

Or, we might pray…

Teach us, good Lord, to serve thee as thou deservest.

To give, and to to count the cost,

To fight , and not heed the wounds,

To toil, and not to seek for rest,

To labor, and to ask for no reward,

Save that of knowing that we do thy will.

—Ignatius Loyola

   I have watched low men judge the works of others only to cite the failures of those who act. These are the men whom Janus would see with his homeward face. They are the most dangerous men; honest enemies from without may spend themselves on our stout defensive walls unless a coward from within shows them the weakest place to breach it all.

   Please, tell me, how is it the weakest place in the wall is always and ever the place where the coward stands and spreads his arms in hapless gesticulation? And, if you cannot answer that question (which, as does any minor tautology, carry within it its own answer), then riddle me this one: why would the people within continue to send forth the cream of our manhood to fight the foe in the field, only to posit the most feeble elements in our order as leadership from within?

   No wonder Janus looked with two faces.

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