From those received at baptism or upon becoming a dad and grandfather, names are intimate things
By Bob Hunt
There are only a few choices in life so significant that it changes who we are, and that change is symbolized by a new name. There is our baptism, a choice made by our parents if we were baptized as a child, or by us if baptized as an adult, by which we become a member of the Body of Christ. Who we are in the eyes of God and in the eyes of the Church is different now than before our baptism. We are truly a new creation. We are given a name to carry with us for the rest of our lives. At confirmation, when we choose to take responsibility for our faith, we are also given a new name, and we are looked upon differently among those in the Body of Christ.
Then there is marriage, where we choose to become one in Christ with another, so that when Christ sees us He no longer sees me and my wife, but He sees the one person we have become. The Church and society now see us as a unit, a unity, both legally and sacramentally. The two shall become one. Here, too, we are given, if not a new name, then a new title: husband and wife. We are something different than we were before.
When we become parents, making the choice to bring to fruition the love we share with our spouses, we become a new person yet again. When my wife and I had our first child, my relationship with the Church and society changed dramatically. I was now a father, responsible for this little one, and I would be held accountable for such. I also received a new name: Dad. In fact, as my oldest grew, in the eyes of many I was no longer first and foremost “Bob.” I was “Bernadette’s dad.” A couple of years later, I became “Genevieve’s dad,” then a few years later, “Felicity’s dad.” There are quite a few people on this planet who know me yet have no idea what my name is. They know me only as the “dad” of whichever of my children they have befriended.
Recently, I became still a new person, with a new name. My new name is “Papa.” I became “Papa” not by my choice, but by the choice of my oldest daughter and her husband, who chose to give fruition to the love they share. The fruit of their love is Hazel. I have no doubt that, as she grows, there will be many for whom I will first and foremost be “Hazel’s papa.” I look forward to that.
In the Book of Revelation, Jesus tells the visionary John to write to the angel of the Church in Pergamum. Part of that message is this: “Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the victor I shall give some of the hidden manna; I shall also give a white amulet upon which is inscribed a new name, which no one knows except the one who receives it” (Revelation 2:17). The hidden manna here is the food of life, a reference both to the manna God gave to the Israelites that sustained their physical bodies in the desert, and to the body and blood of Christ given to His Church in the Eucharist, which sustains our spiritual health. The white amulet is a symbol of victory in Christ, and the new name of rebirth in Christ.
Names are intimate things. They symbolize the relationships to which we have committed ourselves. “Robert” symbolizes my baptismal relationship with the Holy Trinity and the Church. “Christopher” symbolizes my relationship with the Holy Spirit, who strengthens me in faithfulness. “Husband” designates my relationship to the woman to whom I have committed my life in Christ. “Dad” is who I am to my children and all of what that has meant over the years. “Papa” is who I am to my granddaughter and all that promises to be in the years to come.
When we enter into the kingdom, we will receive a new name, given to us by God Himself. It will symbolize our having chosen Christ, our eternal life, and our sharing in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). We will have a new relationship with God and His angels and saints, caught up in the love of the Trinity with all the faithful over the course of the centuries. “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.
Bob Hunt is a husband, father, grandfather, and parishioner at All Saints Church in Knoxville and is a candidate for the permanent diaconate.