A temple or sacred space is a physical link between earth and heaven, a portal for our hearts through which we pass to touch the heart of the Divine. Services in sacred spaces are designed to slowly bring our awareness to the importance of the space we are in and of Who that space enables us to be in contact with. Music and singing used within sacred services are meant to give wings to the soul. I want to share with you one of the most important sacred services held within the Orthodox Christian tradition.
After a baby is born it is brought to the Temple for a service of “Naming and Churching.” In the first part of the service the child’s name is officially bestowed and recognized in the congregation as belonging to that child. The Priest takes the baby in his arms and walks partway into the Temple announcing in chant that the child is “churched,” meaning that it has been brought into the House of the Divine for the very first time. The Priest walks a bit further in and does the same thing. Repeating this a third time he ends up at steps leading to the altar area. In our tradition the altar is considered the Throne upon which the Divine is present and is enclosed within an icon-covered wall called an Iconostasis. The Priest ascends steps through a doorway in the Iconostasis with the baby and slowly proceeds three times around the altar each time committing the child to a dedicated lifelong relationship with the Divine. When the Priest comes out of the altar he hands the baby back to the parents and entrusts them to rightly care for the gift they have just offered to the Divine to Whom the child now belongs.
The construction of a formal sacred service to emphasize the importance of naming is also found in Hawaiian culture. The tradition of naming a child in Hawaii roots them within the genealogy of the family and connects them to their ancestors. When I entered the monastic life I was given the new name of “James” and I definitely experienced my naming as a new beginning! It sums up and expresses for me my whole monastic journey and is therefore extremely important to me. Today some make up names they bestow or inflict upon their children which don’t mean anything! I heard of a woman who named her daughter “Placenta” because she liked the sound of the word! How seriously do you take the name(s) by which you are known? Does your name anchor you in your family’s genealogy? Would you like a new name? If so then what would it be?