Naming the Divine

Jun 2, 2024

What do you call God? Do you have a special way of referring to the Divine? Have you even thought out giving God a different name? Linda Mastro, a regular retreat presenter, shares this exercise to create a deeper bond with God.

Linda will be at the Center for a weekend retreat June 21-23 for a women’s retreat: Re-imagining Prayer. The weekend will include conversation, silence, movement, and contemplation, all of which create an environment for deep listening and heartfelt response. Learn more about Linda’s retreat and register to save your spot by clicking here.

Naming the Divine

As spring turns into summer, weeds and flowers vie for my attention. Pulling out vines and dandelions, I remember a gardener friend’s advice: “There are no ‘weeds,’ just plants growing where we don’t want them to grow.” She added, “Once we name something in the garden, it is a flower, not a weed.”

The name we give something reflects our judgment about that person, object, or situation. I think this is especially true when naming God.

I like to open some of my women’s retreats with an exercise in which participants introduce themselves by sharing their name for God. The answers are as different as each woman sitting in the circle. For some women, the answer is simply “God.” Others name God “Father,” “Universe,” “The Divine,” “Mystery.” One of my favorites was the time a woman (a bit tentatively) said she calls her higher power “Betsy.”

Naming God is an act of intimacy. Giving God a special name can open up playful and hopeful channels in the way we pray. Naming can also put the Holy One in a box that is too small to contain the vastness of divinity.

My June women’s weekend retreat at the Bon Secours Retreat and Conference Center, “Re-Imagining Prayer,” is an opportunity to practice new ways of praying and to look at some traditional prayers with new eyes. As we re-imagine prayer, we may also re-imagine our relationship to the Divine.

One of my favorite books of prayerful reflections is Joyce Rupp’s Fragments of Your Ancient Name: 365 Glimpses of the Divine for Daily Meditations. Using Scripture, poetry, and other inspirations from many spiritual traditions, Rupp offers a different name for the Divine for every day of the year. A few of the names that Rupp created for the Divine are Force of Life, God of My Bitter Hours, Laughing One, and Labyrinth of Mystery.

Words — and thus names — create our world. When I refer to a weed with the name of a flower, I can ask, “Is that a flower I want in my garden? Is it in the right place?” This shift from ‘weed’ to ‘flower’ helps me create a more welcoming and discerning experience in my garden.

We can do the same thing by how we name God. Who is the God of your prayers? What version of God travels with you? Look around your home or office to see the symbols and icons you have chosen to represent your faith. How do these treasures reflect who God is for you?