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Question 29.

Greetings Father.
I have visited your website many times and consider it a great source of information and an archive of Church Scriptures/Rubrics. Though, I have a question regarding the practices of our Orthodox Faith.
Are all unmarried clergy (ie. archimandrites, bishops) required to receive a new name at their first ordination (that of deacon)?
I always thought a new name was given, but I have discovered that this is not the case for some clergy/hierarchs.

Answer to Question 29

Dear. Evangelos,
Greetings in Christ.
The practice of receiving a new name when entering holy orders has been a practice of the Church from Apostolic times. It reflects a new life in Christ and thus a new beginning with a new name. A good example of this is the Apostle Paul who before his conversion to Christianity was called Saul and was given the name Paul by Christ himself to show that he was not the same man who persecuted the Church, but had repented and became a new man in Christ. Married as well as celibate clergy can change their name or with the Bishop’s blessing can keep their old name if desired. In our times it is common for married priest to keep their original name but certain Bishops insist on giving them a new name and in some cases the name is not known to the recipient until the ordination. The new name is not given during ordination into the priesthood but rather at the service of the Making of a Reader. There are four services where a name can be changed and in these services a tonsure (cutting of the hair) takes place. It often seems that the change of name takes place when someone is ordained into the diaconate because in many cases the candidate is made a Reader, Subdeacon, and then Deacon all on the one day. One is usually made a Reader at the end of the Mattins Doxology and a Subdeacon just before the start of the Liturgy. The service for the ordination of a Deacon begins just before Holy Communion when the Bishop says: “Και έσται τα ελέη του μεγάλου Θεού και Σωτήρος ημών Ιησού Χριστού, μετά πάντων υμών” (And may the mercies of our Great God and Saviour Jesus Christ be with you all.)
With Celibate Priests they can change their name when they become a Reader, when they become a Rasoforos, when they take the Small Monastic Schema and again when they take the Great Monastic Schema. Many change their name at each occasion or use the opportunity to revert to their original name, in other words someone might change his name from Andrew to Peter and then back again to Andrew so that it appears that they haven’t changed it at all. Celibate Priest, who although are monastics, but serve a parish Church, prefer to keep their secular name for legal reasons. In the West, civil laws do not recognize the spiritual new name and to have it changed on legal documents like I.D. and passport, one must change it through Deed Poll. I was rather lucky in that when I changed my name from Christos to Christopher, the Cypriot authorities accepted the new name when I provided a signed declaration from the Bishop that both names belong to one and the same person, but my British Passport still carries my old name.

Fr. Christopher.