2014 or on Holy Helpers
by Thomas Wagner | 1/1/2014

Soon we will once again be toasting the New Year! At no other season in the year is there such a collective awareness of time passing. Essentially, we are turning just another leaf of the calendar, but when caught up in the frenzy of every day weeks and months, we tend not to notice it. On the eve of a new year, however, for a brief moment we find ourselves treading the thin line that spans past and present, like tightrope artists waltzing across the precipice that is time. Oh!, we exclaim at the transience of time. Where did it all go? Only to catch ourselves the very next moment getting excited about what the year, having barely just started, might hold in store. So what can we expect?

Whether we want to or not, the new number entices us to speculate about certain constellations that are ensconced in the calendar’s combination of figures, which will see us through the coming 12 months: 2014.

2014, that’s basically: 20 – 14; or 20 + 14. What do these figures allude to? If we leave aside 20 as the numeric that symbolizes the century (a figure we have got well used to by now), we soon come to realize that 14 is not very productive as far as numerical symbolism is concerned. Sure, 14, that’s twice 7, and 7 is the sum of 3 + 4. In medieval Christian numerology 3 represented the soul, as derived from the image of the triune God, and all things spiritual. The number 4 is the number of the elements, and as such it symbolizes all things material, which according to ancient philosophy have in their entirety originated from various combinations of these four elements. However, does the compound that is 14 still entail the potential combination of the spiritual and the material? After all, the number 7 is just a covert factor in the 14. It does not feature by itself. By contrast, 1 alludes to the one and only, a union that has the potential to unfold on four levels.

Most importantly, however, 14 is one of the essential lunar numbers: The ascendant moon takes 14 days to reach its zenith. It is quite possible that the 14 gods who accompanied the Babylonian god Nergal down into the underworld have evolved from such numerical concepts. As have the 14 holy helpers rooted in Christianity. Disregarding minor local variations, the group of holy helpers includes three female and eleven male saints, and, with the exception of St. Egidius, they all died as martyrs. Catholics appeal to them as patron saints in their prayers, while Protestants regard them as good examples of faith.

So are we, in today’s agnostic times, willing to depend on such special helpers in 2014? Will we be counting on assistance? And if so, what will we need assistance with? Or is this small gang of patron saints indeed able to instill some calm in us, enabling us to await what is to come with patience, because fate isn’t solely resting on our shoulders?

Take St. Achatius for example, who led 10,000 martyrs sentenced to death on the cross by order of Emperor Hadrian. They were to die on the flanks of Mount Ararat for their faith. Hardly surprisingly, St. Achatius helps people suffering from necrophobia. St. Barbara, who tends to be depicted along with the tower in which she was incarcerated, abused and decapitated, not only is the patron saint of the dying, but moreover protects us against lightning and fire, and, true to form, she is the patron saint of architects. St. Eustachius, originally the patron saint of hunters, assists us in difficult circumstances and states of bereavement. St. George, among others, protects pets, while St. Catherine looks after girls, virgins and wives. St. Vitus helps those suffering from mental illness. Needless to say, the list goes on.

So is the 14 in next year’s numeric constellation an invitation to trust, more than in previous years, that help will be forthcoming when help is most needed? Will 2014 be the year to celebrate and cherish social relationships? Who is to know? But first of all the New Year will simply make its debut – so here’s to 2014!