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A few years ago, while my husband and I visited London, I came across a copy of an oil painting titled, An Allegory of Truth and Time by the Baroque painter Annibale Carracci. Completed in 1585, it is one of the earliest Renaissance depictions of Father Time. Father Time is illustrated with wings sitting on the wall of a well. Under his right arm is his bare daughter, Truth. His other daughter, Deceit is heavily clothed and is being trampled underfoot by her sister Truth. An allegory is a poem, picture, or story used to convey a hidden message, meaning, or moral. In this allegorical painting, Truth looks backwards into a mirror and radiates luminous light and peace, while her sister Deceit, wriggles, and struggles near the ground. The three characters are framed by two caryatids. On the left stands a red-robed, winged Buona Fortuna (Good Luck), and on the right stands a white and green-robed Bonus Eventus (Happy Ending). The moral or messages being conveyed is all is well that ends well and the truth will prevail. The artist’s theme may have been that decisions and judgements, whether good or bad, have consequences.
It is noteworthy that Truth is reflecting backwards into a mirror with sereneness, and her father Time is jubilantly guiding his hourglass forward in the direction of the character representing a happy ending to life. There are many times in life when we reflect upon time, how we’ve spent it, how we could spend it. There are decisions we make every day in life. As we draw towards the close of another calendar year, there are decisions to make and questions to ask ourselves and one another. While it is helpful to reflect into the rear view mirror to see what is coming up behind you. You do not want to keep staring into that mirror of the past with regret, remorse, or rumination. If you do, you will be distracted from what is in front of you. However, it can be helpful to reflect honestly upon the past, to see what is disturbing you presently and threatening to disrupt your future. Such questions invite good decisions where peace and freedom can prosper. As humans, it is natural to think about the past, what we used to be, do, and wish for. It is natural to think about who we use to know, and the experiences we had that were satisfying, and the experiences we’ve had that hold sorrow, or lack closure so we can repair them. Honestly reflecting on how you’ve spent your time is important. Looking into a mirror to see who you are, and what you honestly reflect can promote validation, realization, and intentional decisions that are liberating, empowering, and fulfilling.
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. 2 Timothy 3:1-5
In Carracci’s painting, only Truth and Time have wings. Deceit does not. Wings symbolize many things: freedom (fly), escape, an association with messengers of God (angels, doves), aspirations, new directions, an ability to overcome, and a better perspective. Truth is good. Time is good. Truth will set all well with and in time for those who believe in the Savior. On occasion we can feel and/or believe we are restricted and constrained by time. We hear the clock ticking and see the years fading. That is when deceit can derail us from making good judgments and decisions. The word deceit comes from the Latin word cheat. It is an intentional falsehood, misrepresentation, dishonest, unfaithful, misdirecting, limiting cloak that masques the freedom that truth can bring. This is just one of the possible reasons that Father Time often gets misunderstood as the Grim Reaper. The Grim Reaper wears a dark cloak and carries a scythe that symbolizes the end of growth and harvesting for winter. Father Time on the other hand, wears a white robe, has wings, and an hourglass to remind us of our freedom to make good decisions with the passage of life. Time is life. Time is change. It is time to reflect.
I wish for you a mirror that has the beauty of some tarnish gleaned from taking risks and loving, successes and struggles, laughter, and tears. Do not let deceit confuse you or limit your vision of yourself or others. Choose clarity, honesty, truth, and wisdom as your companions as you march towards Christ’s manger and another year.
Until next time!
Dr. Marie Yvette Hernandez-Seltz is the founder of Candescent Counseling, Consulting & Coaching. She holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and an M.S. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. She has spent the past 15 years studying self-esteem, self-confidence, responsibility, and the effects of environment and culture on the individual.