Thought for the Day by Hannah Lievesley (St Chad’s)
This week Harry and Meghan announced the birth of their baby daughter, Lilibet Diana Mountbatten-Windsor, named in honour of Queen Elizabeth and the late Princess Diana.
The nickname ‘Lilibet’ was coined when the then Princess Elizabeth was just a toddler and couldn’t pronounce her own name properly. Her grandfather King George V would affectionately call her Lilibet, imitating her attempts to say her name. It stuck and came to be used by close family, including her late husband the Duke of Edinburgh, who would have reached the grand age of 100 yesterday.
Names are personal and precious. Especially names given to us and used by those who know us and love us best. Today we commemorate the apostle Barnabas, who was originally named Joseph, but was given the name Barnabas, meaning ‘Son of Encouragement’, by the other apostles. The giving of second names was not uncommon in the early church. These second names often expressed laudable qualities – like Peter, the ‘Rock’ on whom the church was built. They also functioned bilingually, which was a particular help to the apostles who were crossing borders and language barriers to preach the gospel.
The names we are given at birth can’t really speak of our adult character, but names given later in life can tell of who we’ve become. The name ‘Barnabas’ tells of the encouraging nature Joseph developed as he grew up. The interesting thing about the name ‘Lilibet’ is that it celebrates who the queen was as a little child, rather than professing any particular laudable characteristic she developed in later life. It is a name given by those closest to her at her most vulnerable age – a toddler learning to speak. I love that she has allowed it to remain used, by those who know her best, into her adult reign. I wonder if she did so to help her retain a sense of humility, and a sense of being truly known and loved, by some at least, as a humble child of God rather than the nation’s monarch.