Poor Juliet struggles as she wrestles with the fact that her new-found love is for a hated Montague. Romeo listens as she says her famous line “‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy; Thou art thyself, though not a Montague. What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot, Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part Belonging to a man. O, be some other name! What’s in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet…”
Would it? Would a rose smell just as sweet with another name? Or does the name “rose” somehow capture and convey something essential to the nature of that flower? What is in a name after all.
Johnny Cash had a famous song about a Boy named Sue. That didn’t turn out so well for the young man. New moms and dads think hard about what they will name their new baby. We humans name buildings. We name roads. We name towns and even stars. I have several catechumens who are moving toward being received into the Church this Pascha and they often labor over what their new “name” is going to be! Why are we so intent on “naming” people and things?
This labor occurs because our God has built into we humans the desire to know who we really are; to know our own names. So much so that the first “job” God ever gave a human was to “name” things!
Look at our Scripture Lesson today in Genesis 2:4-19 and especially the last several verses:
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” So out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.
The very fact that the first job God gave our father Adam in the Garden was to name animals is really a powerful insight into our “why.” We humans were made to understand, grasp, and them proclaim the essence of creation. We were made to participate in God’s creative work and to be so like Him we are able to see what something, or even someone, should be called.
Do you begin to see the power in that calling? You were made to be so free, so honest, so clear and discerning that you can know the essence of what you see around you. You were created with the ability and the calling to “name” things!
Through the history of our faith there have been many moments when people have been so changed by their encounter with God that even their name was affected. Abram becomes Abraham, Cephas is now Peter, Saul is renamed Paul, and on and on. So is the stunning power of a man being transformed by their encounter with God. Even those of us who convert to the Orthodox faith often take a new name to mark this significant transition of our spiritual lives.
But this principle is at work in every aspect of our lives even today. The proper diagnosis, the ability to see clearly what exactly is wrong with a physical body by the doctor, is essential for that doctor to know how to apply the right medicines to cure the patent. The counselor struggles with her patient to help the patient “name” and pinpoint the emotional or mental challenges gripping the struggling person. Even our spiritual fathers in confession work with us to see beyond the symptoms of certain behaviors and mistakes to “name” the root cause of our spiritual illness. Our ability to “name” is part and parcel of our “why.” And the marring of our ability and calling to name by the delusion of sin is a great barrier to our own spiritual health. It is no wonder then the Church offers us the spiritual discipline of Great Lent to focus on an honest and dispassionate confession of what our potential is and the distance we are from that potential!
Today, it is time for you to embrace the spiritual disciplines of Great Lent as the primary “medicine” to help you recapture and renew your calling to “name” that which troubles your life. You are called to clarity, peace, insight, and a life of discernment. You are meant to know yourself so well that you mature in your relationship with God and others AND you increasingly avoid the pitfalls of life that cloud your ability and calling to “name” yourself. What’s in a name? Potentially, everything. So, who are you? What’s your “name?” Are you actively laboring to live up to the “name” you’ve been given? Do you even know how? Are you really Orthodox on Purpose?
P.S. How are you doing on this first week of Great Lent? Did you know that the work of Repentance is key to discovering your real self? This Sunday we will have a new Faith Encouraged LIVE program where Fr. Stephen Freeman and Fr. Barnabas will discuss with you the Orthodox understanding of Repentance. Join us this Sunday night at 8 PM for Faith Encouraged LIVE on AncientFaith.com.