If you haven’t heard, our daughter was born March 15. She was born Carmel Ariadne. Almost everyone who hears her name asks about the origin, so it seemed fitting (if a bit self-indulgent) to provide the definitive guide to her name here at Verdickmoja.
The name immediately brings to mind Mount Carmel, the place of Elijah’s battle with the prophets of Ba’al. His prayer to God to send down fire upon his sacrifice was, assuredly, the high point of his prophetic ministry. God answers his prayer in spectacular fashion and Elijah slaughters the false prophets and tears down their altar. But no sooner has he proven Yahweh to be the true God of Israel than he is running for his life from Jezebel, brought low and hiding in a cave in the wilderness. We see ourselves and our ministry in Karamoja in the story of Elijah—the great progress of the Gospel and the manifold setbacks that we encounter. We take comfort in the fact that God may not be seen in the wind and the fire, but he is present in the still small voice that calls us onward in our ministry, that calls us to be faithful in his work whether or not we see the results.
In Hebrew, Carmel means “vineyard of God.” The image of the vineyard and the vine are frequent in the Bible. It is Israel growing up before God. It is Christ telling his disciples “I am the vine, you are the branches.” It is a parable of the kingdom of God and a prophecy of Christ’s crucifixion. It is the promise of the new heavens and the new earth where God’s people “shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.” This is the promise that, as Christians, we all wait anxiously for—that God’s vineyard, his people, will grow and be fruitful, filling the earth with the knowledge of his name.
The name itself means “most holy.” Ariadne is best known in Greek mythology for helping Theseus navigate the Minoan labyrinth and slay the minotaur. Following this account, she is found by Dionysus (the god of the grape harvest and wine) who makes her his wife. As the story goes, when she dies, Dionysus descends into Hades and brings her back, granting her immortality and a home on Mount Olympus.
Because of the obvious Christological parallels, early Christian funerary art picked up this story as an allegory for the resurrection to eternal life after death. Perhaps the most famous example is a sarcophagus uncovered beneath St. Peter’s basilica depicting Dionysus descending to take Ariadne up from Hades.
As Chesterton writes, “The substance of all such paganism may be summarised thus. It is an attempt to reach the divine reality through the imagination alone; in its own field reason does not restrain it at all. It is vital to the view of all history that reason is something separate from religion even in the most rational of these civilisations…[I]n reality the rivers of mythology and philosophy run parallel and do not mingle till they meet in the sea of Christendom.”
As Paul declared to the Athenians the true nature of their unknown god, we hope that the Karimojong, steeped as they are in their traditional religion, will come to know the truth about God (Akuj, as they call him). We pray that their myths and superstitions will be transformed into right understanding and worship of the true and living God. We pray that Carmel Ariadne will also grow to know and love this God, that she would be counted in his vineyard, that she would be raised from death to life through the work of Christ on her behalf.