I wonder how many of us feel particularly attached to our names, or in some ways think that our names capture something of the essence of our personalities; names you see have meaning. Does anyone here know the meaning of their names?
I like my name for apparently Andrew means ‘manly.’ So, there you go! In the gospel reading we have heard just now Jesus isn’t actually called by name, instead he is called ‘Son’ and ‘Beloved’, the one with whom God, the Father, is ‘well pleased.’ These words replicate the words heard at Jesus’ own baptism. The notions of baptism and transfiguration are therefore closely related. The whole purpose of baptism, and indeed the sacrament of the Eucharist, which we will be sharing in later on in the service, is to both affirm us and change us, or transfigure us, so that we like Jesus might shine, or, in the words of the Prayer of Preparation, which I increasingly believe to be one of the most majestic prayers in the liturgy, might ‘magnify His Holy name.’
In baptism God calls us by name, assures us that we too are ‘His beloved’ in whom He is ‘well pleased’ and invites us into what the Prayer Book refers to as ‘newness of life.’ Felicity is shortly going to be baptised into such ‘newness of life’ in the hope and firm expectation that she will come to ‘magnify His Holy name.’
The reason that Gwen and Robert have brought Felicity for baptism is very straightforward: they want her to know that she is loved and cherished by both themselves and the family and by God. They want her to know that her very name, like yours and mine, is held in God’s hands and inscribed in the Book of Life. And what a name Felicity is. It is a name full of nuance and meaning. I think that it is also the only name used in the Book of Common prayer as a common noun; more of this in a second or two.
Felicity means joy and happiness and as I baptise Felicity today, I know that we will all be praying for her joy and happiness. But the name Felicity also has connations of faith and hope. Felicity is a profoundly Christian name. In the prayer for the Queen in the Book of Common Prayer we pray for our sovereign lady’s ‘everlasting joy and felicity.’ I think this is a wonderful praise!
My prayer for Felicity is that as a baptised Christian her life will be grounded in the surety of love, lived with infectious joy, grounded in faith and hope, in the sincere belief that she will, therefore, live a transfigured life; one that truly ‘magnifies his Holy Name.’
Come to think of it that is my prayer for each and every one of us here today, Amen.