By Engr. Carlos V. Cornejo
According to St. Thomas persons are named after saints which would be a name dependent on the day the person is born and coincides on the feast day of that particular saint.
Our Christian belief is that when we are named after saints or a personality in Scripture that saint you are named after would be your intercessor in heaven.
It’s like having an extra guardian angel. Another reason for a name according to the angelic doctor (St. Thomas) is with respect to some blood relation such as a son named after his father.
Or from some event that happens when a child is born such as a teacher of mine in graduate studies who was born on the day General Douglas McArthur landed in Leyte, on October 20, 1944 and is named “Liberato” from the event that signals the liberation of the Philippines from Japanese occupation in World War II.
In philosophical terms, a name points to the reality, identity and destiny of a person or a thing. God would not just name things but creates their reality. When God says, “Let there be light…” He is not only giving a name to light but gives reality to it as well. God has given man the right to give names to things He created.
Thus, Adam named the animals and plants. Adam did not create the plants and animals but completes their reality by giving them names. Identity is in a name as well, because God is our creator.
We have no identity outside of Him than Frodo Baggins has no identity outside JRR Tolkien, the writer of the famous book and movie, “The Lord of the Rings.” Our identity is always tied up to God who gave birth to us and destiny, because God writes the story of our lives.
When God changed someone’s name in Scripture, He changed their destiny: Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, Simon to Peter. In heaven, we have a name reserved for us by God that corresponds to our eternal destiny. We will get to know that name when we get there. “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)
Names are not arbitrary labels. Names have meanings like a “Stop” sign in a street. St. Thomas says, names “answers to the nature of the thing.” For persons, a name points to the unique personality or unique nature of that person. Even if persons have the same first names you would know that this “John” is different from that other “John” because of their different personalities.
Devotion to the “Holy Name of Jesus” is devotion to Christ Himself because the name is not just a label. “In the name of” means “in the real presence and power of”. Think of your name signed on checks or other documents.
Thus, when we invoke Jesus’s name, we really are referring to Him as a Person and not just to His designated name. The name Jesus, means “Savior” or “God saves” and He really lived up to his name. The name Jesus was His reality, His true identity and His destiny, the reason He came into the world.