The Catholic Medical Guild of Singapore

The Significance of a Name Posted on 1st Jan 1970, 12:00am by Colin Ong

Most people would agree that there are few joys in life which can compare to that of becoming a first-time parent.

Our New baby

Our New baby,Isaac.

First, there is the excitement of preparing for your little one, the
appreciative gratitude to your wife for going through much suffering during the labour process, and then finally, the joy of seeing your little one snuggled tightly in his or her swaddling clothes looking back at you. In the midst of all that, there is also the joy of naming your child, a task that is perhaps reminiscent of the privilege given to Adam in the Creation story, where he named the animals brought before him, and it is this particular joy that I would like to share more about here.

In the Creation story, the task to name the animals was symbolic of the power that God had given to man to have dominion and stewardship over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth (Genesis 1:28). Thus, to name something, as man have done throughout the centuries, naming different species of plants, animals and wildlife, is not only associated with a certain power: a power to identify and to confer meaning upon something, but also brings at the same time a certain responsibility and accountability to God for what we have been given charge of. As spiderman was once told pithily, “With great power comes great responsibility”. To name another human being moreover, brings an added significance: we are here given charge of another imago dei, another image of God, a son or daughter of the Father.

As such, it was with a mixture of humility and awe, that we, as parents, undertook the task of naming our first-born son. As we prayerfully allowed different names to sit in our hearts, we also look at the meaning of the names. Most Christian names have meanings attached to them; most of them are high-sounding and noble, such as Aaron which means “exalted” in Hebrew; though some have less inspiring roots, such Leah which means “weary”. Others have implicit in them a particular relationship with God – Isaac could mean “May God smile” and Daniel, “God is my judge”. We favoured these latter ones because, for us, they explicate a relationship with God. In our modern times, we rarely think about the “christening” or consecration of a child to God; however, this was not so in ancient times. In those days, a name-giving ceremony was done to present the child to God (think of the presentation of Jesus). As such, we have lost the sense that a Christian name not only gives the person a unique personal identity, but also confers a specific Christian identity – that this person has a personal relationship with God. Furthermore, names confer upon the person a sense of belonging to a certain tradition and the Christian name identifies the one-who-is-named as a member of the Christian family, the Church. As such, most of the names which appealed to us were either biblical or are pagan names that have been absorbed into the church through the martyrs and saints. A famous example of the latter is “Francis” meaning Frenchman, but now a common Christian name after the indomitable St. Francis of Assisi.

I suppose we could have chosen a modern name for our child, names with a unique spelling or pronunciation that are chosen possibly for their uniqueness or ability to make people sit up and notice. While we certainly believe that our child is a unique and special individual, we chose to name our son Isaac, because we are proud to acknowledge as Eve did when she gave birth to Cain, that we have “gotten a child with the help of the Lord” (Gen 4:1); that this child is, like us, a child of a loving God; and that we are all, together, members of the family of God “the Father, from whom every family on heaven and earth takes its name” (Eph 3:15). Is there a greater joy than knowing that there is a loving Father who loves us and takes delight in us and in our children?

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