During my last visit to the monasteries in Egypt, I was asked by family members to baptize their child at the monastery. When I went there the day of the baptism, the monk priest in charge of baptisms asked me to baptize all the kids that came that day—which totaled 12 kids. It was a great experience for me. During my last three years of priesthood, I had only baptized three kids!
What caught my attention during this event was how the monk priest went around taking the names of the kids who are getting baptized and asked them for baptism names. Many of the kids already had saint’s names, but he insisted they chose a new name for baptism. This has been a biblical tradition in the church, from the time of Abraham in the Old Testament until today.
When God made his covenant with Abram, He changed his name to Abraham (Genesis 17:5). In the New Testament Jesus changed the name of Simon to Peter when he called him to be his disciple (John 1: 42). Today when the church comes to ordain a priest, monk/nun or a bishop, they give her or him a new name as a sign of her of his new life. In the book of Revelation, it is said that to those who are victorious, “I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.” (Revelation 2:17)
So our names are an important part of who we are, and the day we are given a new name is a decisive day in our life when we receive a promise or are called to serve Christ in one way or another. When we come to celebrate our name day, we should take this chance to remember the promises and calling that we had from God the day we were baptized. We can use the saint we are named after as an example of someone who lived out his true calling.
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