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Browsing Fr. Joel Hastings

What's in a name? Keeping God's name holy.

Would you comment on the “rights and wrongs” on using God’s name. So many people use God’s name – not in prayer, but just like it’s a word. I have taught [my children] that it’s okay during prayer, or talking nice of God. So tired of the “OMG!”  Please make this clear that God’s name is holy.

         Thank you for the invitation to address more directly the holiness of the name of God.

         Before commenting on the respect due for the name of the Lord, might I
invite all of us to first consider “what’s in a name,” so to speak. Each one of us has been given a name – usually by our parents to whom we were born or those by whom we may have been adopted; though in some instances it may have been another who gave us our name. At the time of baptism, our name (by whom our all-knowing, eternal God always has known us, mysterious as that is) was given even greater dignity, as it is by our given name at our baptism that will we be known for all eternity – for, in the act of being baptized, the one who offered each of our baptisms pronounced our name while carrying out the act of baptizing us with water, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” In this way, our name belongs to “who we are.”

That our name is who we are, consider this truth: that when we use the name of a person, we are referring to the person – not something about the person.  Whether we directly address the person by calling their name while in the same space with them, or when we refer to them when speaking to another about them, the name speaks to the reality of who the person is. Understanding this truth of identity as given in our naming a name is all the more true in reference to God – that His name is who He is. Thus, when we use His name, it is not just a word – but a reference to His very being.

When it comes then to respect for God’s name, consider that our ancestors of the Old Covenant (the people of Israel) considered the name of God so holy and demanding of such great reverence that the name by which He revealed Himself to Moses in Exodus 3:13-14 as YHWH was ONLY SAID in the sanctuary of the Temple by the High Priest on the Day of Atonement, and on a few other occasions by temple priests within sanctuary of the Temple – and these were always spoken in a very low voice. Any other time, they would call on God by using the word that we translate to “Lord.” Given the deep reverence held by Israel for God’s name, it is only proper that we would reserve use of God’s name to moments of prayer and to directly speaking of Him in ways of reverence and honor (in preaching, teaching, and other times of seeking to be in direct relation with Him or to lead others to relationship with Him).  These being the proper moments for saying His name, it is additionally important to say His name with only with the greatest reverence, honor, and in a humble tone (not blurting it out, pretending to be respectful). Accordingly, any other times when one says His name, including the saying, “Oh my G..” in moments of surprise (even when a happy surprise) do not befit the reverence owed to His holy name, nor the humility with which it ought to be said. For those who would respond that they believe that to say such an interjection is a prayer, I would simply invite you to examine your whole life of prayer, and in particular how you usually would pray in a humble, thankful
manner in real, deliberate times of your prayer time – as this would be the best model for acquiring as the response to moments of surprise in a way of prayer – not by
blurting out “OMG.”

A final thought/directive: if this is an area with which you struggle, remember to pray The Lord’s Prayer well. Indeed, all of us pray the “Our Father” regularly; but do we pray it with recognition that we glorify God’s name with the words “Hallowed be thy name”? Likewise, do we pray this prayer with faith, that by saying, “Give us this day our daily bread,” that God our Father will grant us the graces we need – including those to grow in deeper love, reverence, and awe in His Holy Name, that we might only say and think it in the most fitting way? Pray The Lord’s Prayer well, glorifying His name, to grow in love of His name.



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