In the packet that the
NHS is handing out to pregnant women at their first pre-natal check
is a booklet with an article about naming the baby. It seems that
“naming ceremonies” are all the rage. More and more local councils
in the UK are establishing guidelines and providing facilities for
naming ceremonies, much as they do for weddings at the registry
The author of the article
suggests how significant this event can be and how it can formally
make the baby a part of the extended family.
The author of this article
is oblivious (or assumes that the reader is oblivious) to the fact
that naming ceremonies are nothing new. They are called baptisms.
In the Church, a child has always been named at baptism. This is
still true throughout the Church, except in that small fraction
of Protestant denominations finding their theological identification
in the Anabaptists, and their more recent non-denominational progeny.
Popular in some of these
churches are the alternative “dedication” services. These services
seem to derive from the dedication of the first born to the Lord
in the Old Testament. It seems really odd that a service to set
aside a small group is the model for all children, instead of the
service that was for the whole community (representative in all
males), circumcision, to which the New Testament equates baptism.
I suppose it takes a few extra theological hoops to welcome a child
into the Church, without really welcoming it into the Church.
For it is in baptism
that the child is truly welcomed into the family of God. That is
why forenames have traditionally been called “Christian” names.
They are given when a person is “christened” – a term for baptism
because it is when Christian names are given.
In Eastern Orthodoxy
it is common for adults who are baptised to adopt a new Christian
name. This is a way of demonstrating that the person baptised into
Christ is a new creation, that old things have passed away and all
thing have become new. (II Cor. 5:17) This isn’t exclusive to Orthodox
folks, though. I have a good friend who is an evangelical Protestant
who took a new name at baptism.
But why is naming done
at baptism? Because, like baptism, naming is a divine act. The first
naming is at creation. “And He called the light Day and the darkness
He called Night.” Once Adam is created, this authority is vested
in him as God’s vice-regent. “And whatever Adam called each living
creature, that was its name.” It was part of his dominion mandate.
As parents we stand
in the place of God, in loco Deus as it were. We have stewardship
over our children for Him. That is why we have the responsibility
to name them. We are not naming them for us, we are naming them
for Him. This is why the Church has always bound naming and baptism
together. God names what is His.
Often today parents will
pick whatever name strikes their fancy. This is why there are so
many name books and websites out there. Most of them will tell you
the relative popularity of the name – how trendy it is.
Trendiness was not always
a major factor in choosing names. It used to be the case that names
weren’t picked haphazardly. It is still the case that after someone
finds out the name of a new baby, they usually want to know after
whom the baby is named. Some will name their child after great heroes,
Christian or otherwise. I have an acquaintance who is planning give
his son the forenames Robert Lewis Dabney, after the great 19th
century Presbyterian theologian and chaplain and Chief-of-Staff
to Stonewall Jackson. Others have appropriated the names of politicians
(from a time when politicians were worthy of the honour) with names
such as George Washington or Patrick Henry.
For others it is important
to carry on family connections. I am named after two great-grandfathers.
When we named Aidan, I understood the pressure exerted on poor Zachariah
when he named John the Baptist. “Why would you call him Aidan? There
is no one in our family named Aidan!” I was tempted to find a tablet
and write across it, “His name is Aidan!”
In fact, we did name
him for a family member. We named him for a member of the family
of God. We named him for someone whose life’s work was bringing
other members into family of God from a heathen people called the
Angles. Now in post-Christian Angle-land his life will be a witness
to the heathen people that once again dominate this land. For most
of the Christian era, it has been customary to name children after
the great saints of the Faith.
I had originally written
this to send out and publish on the day of our ultrasound scan.
It was to be my way of announcing the impending birth of our second
child. However, things were not as we expected. I have delayed sending
this out while Kelly and I worked through the emotions of this experience.
One of the things we
needed for closure was a name. It is difficult to say goodbye to
a nameless child. Normally, I would exert my patriarchal prerogative
to name, but my connection with the child was physically and psychologically
less strong than was Kelly’s. Since we didn’t know the date that
our child’s soul passed from this very brief life to the next, Kelly
chose to name it for the day its body was born.
Because of both dreams
and internal conviction, Kelly knows that the tiny child was a boy.
We have named him in honour of the Holy Apostle James the son of
Zebedee, whose feast day is celebrated on April 30. James is also
a good patron as he knows about early death. He was the first of
our Lord’s Apostles to exchange earthly intercessions for heavenly
We have printed off a
temporary icon of St James to add to our icon shelf. I’m sure we
will eventually purchase a proper wooden one. It serves as a reminder
to us that our little one safe in heaven. Through it we will venerate
the seasoned veteran of heaven looking after him. Though we will
never get to watch our James grow and mature through the stages
of this life, we will one day see him in that state we will all