SERENDIPITY FOR SATURDAY

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Here’s a shocker! Did you know that the months of September, October, November and December are misplaced in our calendar? In fact they are two months off from where they should be. How did this happen? Well, we can blame it on the Romans.

You see, some 700 years before the birth of Christ the Roman calendar only consisted of ten months. It began in March, named after Mars the Roman god of war, to coincide with the vernal equinox when the sun was over the equator on its way back to the northern hemisphere. It ended in December after the winter solstice when the sun reached its lowest point on the horizon to the south. The Romans didn’t bother to name the months in between because it was winter when nothing was planted or harvested.

Then what happen? Well, King Numa Pompilius decided that the two unnamed months between December and March needed names so that the calendar would align with the seasons. So for the first month he chose the name “Januarius” after Janus, the god of beginnings, and for the second month he selected the name “Februarius,” after the festival called “Februa” because of “februum” a device used in ritual purification rites.

April, which some believe meant “to open” because it represented the opening buds and flowers, was the second month in the old calendar. But as a result of added these two new months it became the fourth month. May was named after “Maia” after the earth goddess of growing plants, and went from being the third month to fifth month. And June was named after “Juno” the queen of gods and the patroness of marriage and weddings, and was pushed out of fourth place into sixth.

But they weren’t through. They decided to rename the next two months. So they took the month of “Quintilis” meaning fifth, and rename it July after Julius Caesar, and followed that by renaming the month of “Sextillia” meaning sixth, and rename it August after Augustus Caesar. So this then created a twelve month calendar. But instead of adding the two new months at the end of the year, they put them at the beginning, and this then pushed September – December into ninth through twelfth places.

Yes, I know. Just when you thought everything made sense, now you are looking whose names do not match their place in the calendar. As William Shakespeare so famously wrote for Juliet to say: “What’s in a name?” She answered her own question this way: “Would that which we call a rose by any other name smell as sweet?”1 So here’s our problem. In Latin “septem” means “seven,” and yet September is now the ninth month. “Octo” means “eight,” but October is the tenth month. “Novem” means nine, but November is the eleventh month; and “decem” means ten, but December ends up being month number twelve.

We might use the same question Juliet to asked and formulate it this way for those who call themselves a “Christian”: “What’s in a name? Would any other person be called a Christian who acts and talks like you?” And like the misnamed months in the calendar, I wonder if in God’s list of virtues and ethics we someone like you be out of place? I guess one way to start is by looking at the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 and give yourself a test. I don’t think any of us want people calling us a bad name, but when you call yourself a Christian, are you right or wrong?

1Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene ii

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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