Salvete, omnes! I'm sure you've heard a rumor to this effect by now, but in case you missed the news (there are still plenty of rocks to live under...hey, we don't judge here (we totally judge here)), Pope Benedict resigned at the end of last month. In a rather unprecedented move, the pontiff cited lousy health as the reason why he left the office, the first Pope to do so since Gregory XII way back in 1415 AD (duh). Even then, Gregory was forced to resign the office. You'd have to go back to Celestine V (Pope for half of 1294) to find another Pope who quit, and he was rewarded for his resignation with a prison term that ended his life. In case you were wondering, it was the Pope who took over after Celestine, Boniface VIII, who imprisoned Celestine; Celestine ended up dying in prison. Wait, that's not good work!
In fact, it was Celestine who even made it possible for a Pope to quit. His one act was to provide the Pope with the right to leave his seat in Rome, take his ball, and go home. Boniface VIII, who we can probably guess did not much care for Celestine, wiped out all of Celestine's work other than the right to abdicate. Celestine was canonized for his piety and service; before this turns into a feel-good story, remember that sainthood is always given posthumously.
The Pope, of course, rules from Rome and, with the notable exception of a few years in Avignon, France, the Pope has always ruled from Rome. In fact, the Pope ruled in Rome even before Jesus was born. Quid dicisne?
The Pontifex Maximus was a title given to the head priests of Rome, even back during the days of the Republic. Most of the time, these were leaders of the state religion--which, of course, pre-Constantine, was a pagan, polytheistic belief system--and as such the Pontifex Maximus was allowed to determine how the temples were run, when and what services would be provided, animals to be sacrificed, and he was even able to shuffle priests and priestesses around from one temple to another as he pleased. Sounds kind of familiar, eh?
When Julius Caesar was murdered, a man named Marcus Aemilius Lepidus (his name means "charming" or "effeminate"; you make the call) was the Pontifex Maximus. However, when Octavian took over and became Augustus Caesar, the first Emperor, Marcus Aemilius went into exile. As Lepidus was an ally of Julius Caesar's, he represented power that Augustus wanted, so Lepidus did the sensible thing and ran. He kept the title of Pontifex Maximus until his death (again, sound familiar?). After he died, it was decided that the Emperor of Rome should also be the head of the church--after all, he was the head of state already. Augustus then added the title Pontifex Maximus to his long list of accolades. The Emperor of Rome kept the title Pontifex Maximus (though it was seldom actually used) until Emperor Gratian decided he didn't want it anymore sometime in the fourth century.
It is unclear as to whether the Pope assumed the term Pontifex Maximus (which means "the great pontiff") and then Catholic bishops became known as pontifices, or if it happened the other way around. Whichever, the Bishop of Rome, aka the Pope, became the Grand Pontiff. Pontifex itself is an interesting word. It is believed to come from two words, pons meaning "bridge" and the -fex coming from the verb fecere, which means to make, do or build. Literally, the pontiff is one who builds and bridge between men and the gods. Or, in the case of the Pope, he is the man who serves as the bridge between Man and God. We still have the verb "to pontificate" in English, which means to serve as a bishop, or to speak as if you are infallible, especially at length. The noun pontificate means serving as a bishop. *yawns* Boring!
In case that was not enough of a Latin for you, let's get down to the actual lesson, shall we?
I was on the phone with the Ex-, back in the time when we were doing more talking than physical interaction (part of that being that it was a long-distance relationship...) but our relationship was spiraling downward toward being a sexual one. We were talking one night and we were actually talking about sex, as in sex with each other even! Being a