Advent 3 – Wednesday
The First “O” Antiphon – 17 December “O Sapientia”
O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti,
attingens a fine usque ad finem,
fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia:
veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.
O Wisdom, which camest out of the mouth of the most High,
and reachest from one end to another,
mightily and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of truth.
you have created the heavens and the earth
and made us in your own image.
Teach us to discern your hand in all your works,
and to serve you with reverence and thanksgiving;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who with you and the Holy Spirit,
reign supreme over all things,
now and for ever. Amen.
No, I’m not talking about the end of my life. Or anything morbid. Or even TEOTWAWKI. What is about to end for me is my working year. For the first time this year, I am actually going on holiday. I have had one or two days off this year, but they haven’t been to relax. They’ve mainly been so that I can do stuff at home, with and for Mom and Dad. But now, I am actually taking time off to chill out and have a holiday. Of sorts. Sure, there’s the trip to Melbourne in January for NCYC, but I have days off before it and after it to just bum around the house and help to do some work around the house (which for all intents and purposes, in monastic terms, is my “cell”).
But before that, I still have two more days of work to go. And I’m somewhat looking forward to tomorrow morning. A public information session on the Rudd Government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme White Paper is on tomorrow morning at the Brisbane Convention Centre and I and a couple of colleagues from work will be in attendance. I’m somewhat looking forward to it. A bit giddy with excitement even.
It took me a while today when talking with one of my work colleagues who is Greek Orthodox to figure out why he said his name day is on Christmas Day and it’s a big deal for him. Like, I had the conversation with him at about 2pm this afternoon. And only while in the car driving back home from CMCA-EMP’s combined Christmas choir practice at about 10pm did I realize what he meant. God with us. If you had your name day on Christmas Day, you’d understand why it’s a big deal.
I think I have mentioned on here before that I bear a name that is an Old English relative to a saint. St. Brendan of Clonfert, to be precise. And I’ve been thinking about the whole concept of names meaning things and being in a sense, a wish and blessing (or alternatively a curse) by parents on a child. Or, if an English/Western name is chosen to by someone who ordinarily has a non-Western name.
In the Chinese culture and language, parents name their children with one of the various homophonic chinese characters (differentiated only by tones). They hope to choose a name for their child that sounds nice with the existing family name but also has meaning and what they hope their child will become. Mine in Chinese means something along the lines of bright direction. Or bright square or bright room. My parents say that was prophetic of who I am now, but I quite frankly think I’m a dunce.
But then my parents gave me an English/Western name. And it was somewhat prophetic of them (even if they didn’t know it at the time). Because here I am twenty-something years later finding that my name is the same as a monks’ name. Well, two abbots to be precise, who would not only have been administrators of monasteries but who also would have had a teaching role to the brothers, priests and even laity that would have been in the surrounding areas of the monastery, that were under their abbatial care (they’re Celtic, things are more holistic than in a typical Western understanding of Christian monasticism). As my Dictionary of Christian Biography puts it about these two.
Brendan of Birr – Sixth-century Irish abbot. Little is known of Brendan’s life except that he was associated with Brendan of Clonfert. He appears only as a figure in accounts of other saints but was referred to as ‘the chief of the prophets in Ireland’. His primary monastery was located at Birr, County Offaly. Feast day 29 November.
Brendan of Clonfert – Saint and abbot, born, perhaps near Tralee, Ireland, c.486, died Clonfert, Ireland, c.578. Little is known about his life, though his father’s name is given as Findlugh, and it is claimed he was for some years as a child in the charge of St Ita. He became a monk, and possibly the founder c.559 of the monastery at Clonfert, to which he gave a rule of life. There is a well-known story of his setting off with some 60 monks in coracles to find the ‘Islands of the Blessed’: these are usually discounted as legends, but he may well have travelled to Scotland. Feast day 16 May.
And now, here I am, living a lay-monastic life (for the time being). My birthday also happens to be very close by to that of Brendan of Clonfert’s feast day too. God (and his providence) works in mysterious ways.
So, apart from my name day (which is May 16), dare I say that I have chosen a confirmation name for myself too (notwithstanding that I have never been confirmed, this rite seems to have been dropped out of use amongst Methodists of late). It’s Anselm. I owe the title of this blog to him (and a lot of how my faith interacts with who I am too).
I think now also back to my grandfather. He only ever had a Chinese name, but he did tell me, when I was much younger than I am currently, that the English/Western name he chose for himself was “Frank”. A derivative of “Francis”. And that is somewhat prophetic as well. I hear my Dad recalling the times when he was a young lad. When parishioners and church members came to visit my grandfather and grandmother for help in any matter, they gave till it hurt. Even down to the last things and amounts they had in the pantry or purse. Heck, my grandfather could have chosen Ambrose as his name because his actions remind me a lot about the actions of St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan who took charity and service to poor and those deprived of justice seriously as part of his pastoral and episcopal duties.
But yet, while my Dad’s family was never fully poor and destitute, they were never truly lacking of anything that they needed. They left everything in God’s care and God provided. Like another Francis did. And who is the most famous “Francis” of them all? St. Francis of Assisi. Who, while he gave himself up to God and “lady poverty”, he always found that God provided just enough, no matter what. St. Francis’ witness continues to endure today in the religious order that he founded, the Order of Friars Minor (and all other spinoffs from them, including the Poor Clares and the Capuchins, of whom Padre Pio is a well known example).
The meaning of all this? Names do matter. They tell something about the ambitions of us as humans, the hopes entrusted to God and the receiver of the name by their parents, grandparents and even godparents. Naming a child, a future son or daughter, is something that I am even thinking seriously about now, though I don’t even have a girlfriend yet (let alone a wife).
Just as in Scripture, we find names prophesied about the Christ, the Messiah. They gave the ancient Israelites, and now us, an indicator and a pointer to who this child is going to be and what he is and will become.
In this season of Advent, we do, however, remember one name that truly sums up the entire reason for this season. Emmanuel.
+ bf 2336hrs