The ordinary rite of the baptism of a child begins with a question fraught with difficulty. It is this: What name do you give your child? The priest asks the question and the parents respond. Now with nephews called Zephaniah, Ptolomeus and Epiphanio, I am not the person to give advice about keeping names simple! The eldest is Isaac which is easy to spell. I love these names and my nephews, their bearers, but, on the whole, my advice to struggling parents would be keep it simple.
Of course the name, the Christian name, has crucial importance above and beyond a convenient handle for a new human being. The Christian name, at the beginning of these rites of baptism, symbolises (on the part of parents or individuals) that radical commitment to follow Christ as the saints and holy ones of old have followed him.
The name is just that – the Christian name – for we are immersed into Christ’s life and death in the waters of the font so that we might rise with him to new and eternal life.
In these waters of rebirth we are taken back to the moment of creation when the Spirit moved on the face of the waters and we recall the beginnings of our own existence in the wombs of our mothers. We face too, the lie which negates this basic human truth and always resolve to thank God for life.
In these waters of rebirth we are taken back the beginning of our own life of grace when we were baptised into Christ and became His. We face too the lie which says there is no Godand always resolve to uphold our holy faith.
In these waters of rebirth we look forward to the gift of eternal life and each time we bless ourselves with this lustral water we look forward to the pure life of heaven. We face too the lie which says that this life is all about ‘me, me, me’ and nothing else matters and we resolve to live for others and when life is ended, to live happy for ever with God.
In the beautiful gospels of the Easter octave and season many will be called by their name, denying Peter and fervent Mary amongst the most conspicuous. The Lord will call to us too, to finish with sin and live again with him, alive for God in the only name which ultimately matters: the name of Jesus Christ, the name of Christian.