I recently had the honour and privilege of being the responder for the Eucharistic Celebration of the Holy Matrimony of a pair of amazing friends.
While I have been for many weddings, I never really gave much thought to the proceedings. The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony really brings to mind in a surprising way, the parable, “And no one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for when the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; if it is, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved” (Matthew 9: 16-17). The couple enters the Church as their old selves, with their individual names – Mr So-and-so and Miss So-and-so but leave the church as a Mr. and Mrs. So – a new unit has been formed as a result of a new covenant before God and with each other. The invitation for the wedding couple is to thus put away the old wineskins of their old individual selves and pour themselves into the new wineskins of matrimony.
The imagery of putting on the new – is carried across the sacraments, where the old is left behind and the new person is put on. In the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, we literally put on new garments, and we are bestowed through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, new names and identities in Christ.
St. Paul elaborates upon this:
“…assuming that you have heard of him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus, that you should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth” (Ephesians 4: 21-24).
In Scripture, there are many instances where an invitation is extended to forsake the old, because a greater mission awaits. On Elijah’s invitation Elisha says without hesitation, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” (1 Kings 19:20) and immediately cooks the oxen in his possession and distributes the meat to the people who ate, and then “…arose, and went after Elijah” (1 Kings 19: 21)
The urgency to which Elisha puts aside everything to follow Elijah is a foretaste of a Christian’s call to follow Christ. This echoes the words of Luke 9:62, “no one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Elijah in this case is an archetype for Christ. True and authentic discipleship requires a willingness to be detached from all things and a complete and utter dedication and will to fulfil the Will of God (CCC. 2427). This is relevant to the extent that if God so wills, we would even be willing to lay down our name, representing our core identities and who we are at His feet, and take on a new name that He gives us.
It is interesting to note that a call from God, is so radical that often a new name and a new mission is given to accompany the call. The Lord God tells Abram, “No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.” (Genesis 17: 5) Abram’s name is changed to Abraham, and Sarai’s name transformed to Sarah.
Now God our Father does not do things in half measures. Patterns are often repeated to give testimony to the unity of Scripture. In the New Testament, we see Jesus giving Peter a new name and his mission: “Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16: 17-18).
There is actually a secret in the bestowing of a new name by Christ or by God our Father. While the new name signifies a new covenant, a new identity, and a new mission field, this earthly name change is in fact a foretaste of when all of us Redeemed will receive a new name in the beatific vision. In Revelation 3: 12, we read, “He who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God; never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem which comes from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.”
This statement should not come as a surprise as it is echoed in Isaiah 44: 5, “This one will say, ‘I am the Lord’s’, another will call himself by the name of Jacob, and another will write on his hand, ‘The Lord’s,’ and surname himself by the name of Israel.”
How tremendous it is! First, God calls each of us by name, and invites us to know Him, to love Him, and to share in His divine plan and life (CCC. 2591). Second, we will receive a new name when we meet God, and the name will spell out clearly our very core identity in God our Father, our territories, the difference that we made in each and every person’s life, and the very purpose as to why we lived on Earth.
Perhaps our Baptism and Confirmation names deserve a closer look. Perhaps, they already contain hints about what our mission here on Earth is. Pertinent, as well, is the reminder that we cast aside the names we and others call ourselves – lousy, good-for-nothing, shameful, ugly… and dwell deeper on the names that we are called by God our Father – Beloved, Ransomed, Forgiven, A Signet Ring, His Own, Salt of the Earth, Light of the World…
What is your name?
What is the meaning of your name?
If you had a name of endearment or nickname from God our Father, what would it be?
By the Grace of God,
Brian Bartholomew Tan
Catechism of the Catholic Church. (n.d.). Vatican Publishing House.