The power of naming

Daily Reading for January 1 • The Feast of the Holy Name

Naming in myth and fairy story has always been associated with power and identity. Thus, Adam named the beasts; in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost; let his name not be remembered; thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; and so on. The process by which we name things and by which we are named is one which gives life its focus and meaning. Our spiritual journey is undertaken in order that we may discover our real name, that is, our true identity. Only God knows our real name, who we really are. We are on the voyage to that discovery.

Naming is the clue to such identity and purpose as we have. It is also the source of inner power. In the famous fairy tale, as soon as the princess had guessed the true name of the dwarf, Rumpelstiltskin, his power over her was destroyed. It can, of course, be taken to mean too much. The fact that my name is Alan has very little to do with my identity and sense of purpose. . . . When a total stranger calls me Alan, the name is virtually meaningless. When my wife calls me Alan, name and identity are very close. When God calls me by name, then and only then, is Alan my real name. . . .On the journey with God and to God in the power of the Spirit, we slowly increase our capacity for bearing reality, for bearing glory. In this way we see, with the professor in Tom Stoppard’s play Jumpers, that “atheism is the crutch for those who cannot bear the reality of God.” Belief in God entails fearful risks. For in him we find our true identity. By him we are known by name. As we begin to know who we are, so also the final and eternal imprint of the imago Dei takes hold upon us and fills us with a new spirit even as we are called by name.

From Journey Into Christ by Alan Jones (Cowley Publications, 1992).

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