HOLY NAME- today is the Feast of the Holy Name, the remembrance of the day when Jesus was given his name and circumcised, recognition of him as a member of the tribe and his identity. In his day, and in our day in some places one has no identity outside of one's tribe. A person without a clan was a non person. Many kinship groups have rituals of inclusion and naming. Christians have baptism - which is available to all persons regardless of gender, family of origin, or tribe. It is a sign of inclusion into the family of God, which of course, already exists with our birth. The ritual makes that fact visible to the community and the community commits itself to recognizing and supporting the person being baptized as sister and brother.
Naming is an act of power. God does not easily give God's name to us - because it was believed that having that name would give humans power over God. We see in the story of Moses - that God gives a name which is really a verb - I AM, or I am who I am, or I am whom I am becoming - all possibilities in the original language. It is the essential of God's being but not a name which can be "fixed" and used for power over God. When we name children we often give names that contain our hopes for them or that connect them to their heritage and family. I think of the parent's who gave the name to Zaccheus - what were their dreams for the son whom they named "innocent" and who grew up to be a hated tax collector for the Roman occupation. Could Jesus see through the layers of life to the child who began as Zaccheus-innocent? Was the name reclaimed in the breaking of bread in Zaccheus home that day?
Often people write my name and spell it Anne - when it is really Ann. It makes me think that they do not really know me or that I am not really important enough for them to care. Probably they just don't know or are more used to the other spelling. My husband gave me a gift of my name by telling me if we had a boat he would call it annnoe- Ann-no-e. I loved it because I felt known and affirmed. Kind of nutty, I admit - but nevertheless important to me.
In the Bible words have power - Jesus is the Word made flesh. He is the ultimate word beyond our written and spoken words. It is in relationship to him that we learn Truth. The words of the Bible and their stories point to the Holy One. Often the stories are hard to comprehend as we move from a culture of centuries ago to our day. For me, they all need to be held and examined in the Light of the Christ to gain clarity. There is a rabbinic tradition of binding and loosing when interpreting scripture and the laws of the Bible. When Jesus says he gives us power to bind and loose - this is what he is saying. Binding is like a strict interpretation. Loosing is saying that the law does not apply in these new circumstances. For more on this subject Click Here.
In my book of daily meditations, Streams of Mercy I wrote:
"You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life;..."
--John 5:39 (NRSV)
Sitting at the desk of my days
Pages pile up
Paper and ink
Yellowed and curling
While the Word knocks on the door of my room
A friend with a cup of tea.
This is the heart of faith for me - the relationship with the Holy who is so familiar and yet unknowable. When Jesus is taken to the Temple to be circumcised and named - God is brought near to us in this life. The blood and the joy.