The name by which we know St John Chrysostom is, of course, an anglicized version of the Greek Chrysostomos, which means ‘golden mouthed’. For many, that name will have sprung to mind when Archbishop Rowan Williams became Lord Williams of Oystermouth – ‘Rowan Oystermouth’ (suggesting pearls of wisdom) echoing ‘John Goldenmouth’
The Archbishop’s choice of his new name was doubtless influenced by the fact that it was in All Saints’, Oystermouth, the parish church of the Mumbles district of Swansea where he grew up, that he first encountered Anglicanism (in the Prayer Book Catholic tradition). But surely, with Rowan, nothing could be quite as simple or unequivocal as that?
The main Greek word for ‘Oyster’ is στρειδι, but there is another, ησυχια, whose principal meaning is ‘quietness, stillness or silence’ but which has the derivative meaning ‘oyster’. It must surely be this word, with its rich layers of meaning, that gives us the Greek for Oystermouth: ησυχιαστωµος, which we can anglicize as Esychiastom
So Lord Williams of Oystermouth might appropriately be known ecclesiastically as ‘Rowan Esychiastom’ – ‘Rowan the silent-mouthed’. In choosing his new name, was he trying to tell us something – if only in a Mumble?
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