02 Jan Most Holy Name of Jesus
Today is the feast day of the Most Holy Name of Jesus.
O GOOD JESUS, according to Thy great mercy, have mercy on me.
O most merciful Jesus, by that Precious Blood which Thou didst will
to shed for sinners, I beseech Thee to wash away all mine iniquities
and to look graciously upon me, a poor and unworthy sinner, as I
call upon Thy Holy Name. Therefore, O Jesus, do Thou save me for
Thy Holy Name's sake.
O God, Who didst appoint Thine only-begotten Son to be the Savior
of mankind and didst command His Name to be called Jesus;
mercifully grant that we may enjoy the vision of Him in Heaven,
Whose Holy Name we venerate on earth. Through the same
Christ Our Lord. Amen.
Blessed be the Most Holy Name of Jesus without end! (7)
by Father Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876
“Thy name is like oil poured out.”–Cant. 1.
The Church celebrates a special festival for the glorification of the sacred Name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. This is salutary and right, for it is the Name of the Redeemer of the world; and, therefore, with regard to its relation to Him who bears it, and to the work He accomplished, it is a most solemn, mighty, holy, sanctifying, sweet and consoling Name. But the most important point in its consideration is that it exercises a powerful influence upon our lives as children of God and His Holy Church.
But, to denote more clearly the person of the Redeemer, and what He accomplished by the institution of His Church, we add, according to the direction of Holy Scripture, to this Name still another, namely, Christ. We should frequently think of the signification of this Name and its relation to us; for after it we are called, in imitation of Christ, and as members of His Church, Christians. It can be said of this holy Name, as well as of the name Jesus, that it is a most holy, solemn, mighty, sanctifying, and consoling Name, admirably qualified to exercise an influence upon our lives, that we may not only call ourselves disciples of Jesus and of His Church, but also live as such.
I will, therefore, speak today of the dignity of the Name to be called a Christian, and of the influence which that Name should exercise upon our lives. O Mary, help of Christians, protectress of the Catholic Church, assist us, that we may not merely be called Christians, but may also live as such! I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, for the greater glory of God!
As we read the acts of the martyrs, we see that, at the time of the persecution of Diocletian, Christians, in the bright light of day, walked in the public streets having plates on their foreheads, on which were inscribed the words: “I am a Christian.” This confession was to remind the persecutors of the Church how useless it was to induce the faithful–who knew what the name Christian signified, and what relation it bore to the name of Christ Himself–to apostatize from the true faith.
To understand this more clearly, we need only first think of the glorification which is due to the Name of Jesus; and consider how all the circumstances, which elevate it to such a dignity, and surround it with the light of glory, refer also in manner and degree to the name “Christian,” which we bear as children of His Church. I say, first, the Name of Jesus is a most solemn Name, which, as the angel said to St. Joseph, was sooner named in heaven than on earth. It is the Name of the Incarnate Son of God. The name Christian is also a name which was sooner named in heaven than it was bestowed upon man on earth. There was indeed no necessity that we should receive the happiness of being children of the true Church of Christ. For this great privilege we are indebted to the decree of the love and mercy of God, who, from all eternity, ordained that we should be born of Catholic parents; or else, enlightened and encouraged by the assistance of God, receive grace to become children of the Holy Church. We shall the better estimate this happiness, if we think of the multitude of men throughout the world who lived before Christ, are now living, and will yet live in the future, without ever attaining it.
Yes, a precious, a glorious and gracious name is the name of Christian. The name Jesus is the Name of the Son of God, who became Man for us, and the name Christian is that of the children of God; it was imparted to us at baptism, through which we were regenerated, as children of the Church, and, at the same time, as children of our Father in heaven. The name of Jesus is glorious, through the properties of the person and dignity of Christ and His kingdom. All these circumstances are so many rays which glorify the name of “Christian” before the face of heaven and earth.
The name Christian indicates an extremely high and glorious position, which we maintain among the creatures of God; for, as Christians, we are changed from children and slaves of Satan into children of God,–citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem,–fellow-citizens of the angels, and brothers and sisters of the saints. We are permitted to call Mary, the Queen of heaven, our Mother; and Jesus, who sits at the right hand of His Father, our Brother. Through baptism, by which the name “Christian” is imparted to us, we enter into the visible kingdom of Christ upon earth; enjoy, with Holy Church, her victories and triumphs, and attain to the possession of the infinite merits of our Lord and Redeemer Jesus Christ, who deposits them in the treasury of the Church,–yes, we even attain to the personal possession of Christ Himself, in the most august Sacrament of the Altar.
The happiness of being a Christian gives us, at the same time, the right to become heirs of heaven, and one day to enter into it, body and soul, to dwell forever there. Not only this; but this Name, if we live accordingly, gives us power to elevate our thrones in heaven always higher and higher, by the good works which we perform on earth in the state of grace, and to gather always more and more treasures, and so become richer and richer for eternity. What a great happiness to be a Christian! But, in order to reign one day royally with Christ in the strength of His Name, we must certainly do something on our part. We must lawfully combat against the powers of darkness, which endeavor to seduce us to deviate from the narrow path of salvation, and walk on the broad and pleasant road of eternal perdition.
In this regard, we must be zealous in overcoming temptation; we must avoid sin, and, with the zeal of the saints, perform good works. But the name Christian reminds us, furthermore, of a series of motives which, if we consider them properly, will inspire us with courage and strength to conquer in this manner victoriously, and to crush the head of the serpent of temptation, thus coming nearer and nearer each day to that perfection at which we all must aim.
I am a Christian, how could I, by sinning, sacrifice the dignity of having been created in the image of God, and every right and title to the triumphant kingdom of Christ in heaven? Never! ah, never! I am a Christian; and as long as I possess within my heart the power to feel, I will utter the triumphant cry: “Depart from me !” and endeavor, by my progress in the path of perfection, to remain close to Christ, and to become always more like unto Him, that He may not be ashamed to call me His brother before all the radiant angels of His heavenly realm.
The Name of Jesus is a holy and sanctifying Name, so also is the name of Christian. It was imparted to us in baptism, whose saving waters cleanse every stain of sin from the soul, and infuse into it the priceless boon of sanctifying grace. As true Christians we shine, as St. Paul assures us, like bright and sparkling torches amid the darkness, which, through idolatry, sins, and crimes of every kind, bury and enchain the nations of the earth.
“Let your light shine, that men may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” These are the words of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. How earnestly, therefore, should not the consciousness–” I am a Christian “–urge us to the imitation of Christ, and to the utmost solicitude in the momentous affair of our salvation. A martyr of Christ who, in the early ages of Christianity, was dragged before the judge because he was a Christian, gave to all the questions of the pagan judge the unvarying answer: “I am a Christian.” What is your name? “I am a Christian.” What is your occupation? “To be a Christian.”
If I can thus reply with truth, then indeed my salvation is secured; if not, then indeed I am in danger. Ah, yes! a Christian I am, and will ever be! The Name of Jesus is a Name which is full of the sweetest consolation and celestial benediction; so also is the name Christian. It whispers to us to look into the mystery of the Redemption of the world,–the passion and death of our Lord and Redeemer Jesus Christ.
Instructed by Christ's word, encouraged by His example to bear the cross, all troubles lose the appearance of evil, and shine with a lovely light along the way to heaven to increase our joy in the kingdom of eternal reward, if we, with Him, for Him, and through Him, have victoriously endured the trials which He has sent us here on earth. It was this that amazed the heathens, and was so often the means of winning them to confess the truth of our holy faith. What admiration filled them when they beheld how Christians, in the midst of torments, praised and thanked God that He deemed them worthy to testify in this manner their love to Him, and their fidelity to the faith He came to teach. “I am a Christian.” This one thought is a blessed source of consolation. Oh, what joy in the remembrance that we are in possession of a dignity the very name of which is a pledge of security for us for time and eternity!
Well is it for us if, through constant meditation on the above, a true appreciation of this dignity penetrates us. Thus we shall, after a joyfully happy and meritorious life, receive, upon our dying bed, that consolation which St. Teresa experienced when she yielded her pure soul into the hands of the Lord: “I die as a child of the Holy Catholic Church.” Amen! (1)
Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus
Adapted from The Liturgical Year by Abbot Gueranger
The Second Sunday after the Epiphany, which recalls the Marriage Feast of Cana, was at first chosen as the day on which to honor the Most Holy Name of Jesus in the universal Church. It is on the Wedding Day that the Bridegroom gives His Name to the Bride, and it is the sign that, from that day forward, She belongs to Him alone. The Church, therefore, wishing to honor a Name so precious to Her with a special feast, thought it appropriate to choose the day of the Marriage of Cana. But now She has chosen for the celebration of this august Name, a day closer to the Anniversary on which It was given—after eight days were accomplished, His Name was called Jesus. She leaves, however, the commemoration of the Sacred Nuptials to the Sunday of which it has ever been the glory. (In a Motu Proprio dated October 23, 1913, Pope St. Pius X moved this Feast to the Sunday between January 2-5, or January 2 if none of these days is a Sunday.)
In the Old Covenant, the Name of God inspired fear and awe: nor was the honor of pronouncing it granted to all the children of Israel. We can understand this. God had not yet come down from Heaven to live on earth, and converse with men; He had not yet taken upon Himself our poor nature, and become Man like ourselves; the sweet Name expressive of love and tenderness could not yet be applied to Him.
But when the fullness of time had come—when the mystery of love was about to be made known—then did Heaven send down the Name of Jesus to our earth, as a pledge of the speedy coming of Him Who was to bear it. The Archangel Gabriel said to Mary: Thou shalt call His Name JESUS. Jesus means Savior. How sweet will this Name not be to poor lost man! It seems to link earth to Heaven! No name is so amiable, none is so powerful. Every knee in Heaven, on earth, and in Hell, bows in adoration at hearing this Name! And yet, who can pronounce It, and not feel love spring up within his heart? But we need such a Saint as Bernard, to tell us of the power and sweetness of this Blessed Name. He thus speaks of It in one of his sermons:
“The Name of Jesus is Light, and Food, and Medicine. It is Light, when it is preached to us; It is Food, when we think upon It; It is the Medicine that soothes our pains when we invoke It. Let us say a word on each of these. Tell me, whence came there into the whole world so bright and sudden a light, if not from the preaching of the Name of Jesus? Was it not by the light of this Name that God called us unto His admirable Light? Wherewith being enlightened, and in this light, seeing the Light, we take these words of St. Paul as truly addressed to ourselves: Heretofore you were darkness; but now, light in the Lord.
“Nor is the Name of Jesus Light only; it is also Food. Art thou not strengthened, as often as thou thinkest of this Name? What is there that so feeds the mind of him that meditates upon this Name? What is there that so restores the wearied faculties, strengthens virtue, gives vigor to good and holy habits, and fosters chastity? Every food of the soul is dry, that is not steeped in this unction; it is insipid, if it be not seasoned with this salt. If thou write, I relish not thy writing, unless I read there the Name of Jesus. If thou teach me, or converse with me, I relish not thy words, unless I hear thee say the Name of Jesus. Jesus is honey to the mouth, and music to the ear, and gladness to the heart. (3)
And here are the thoughts of St. Bernard of Clairvaux (who wrote the hymn “Iesu Dulcis Memoria” which is sung today) on the most holy Name of Jesus:
The sweet Name of Jesus produces in us holy thoughts, fills the soul with noble sentiments, strengthens virtue, begets good works, and nourishes pure affections. All spiritual food leaves the soul dry, if it contain not that penetrating oil, the Name Jesus. When you take your pen, write the Name Jesus: if you write books, let the Name of Jesus be contained in them, else they will possess no charm or attraction for me; you may speak, or you may reply, but if the Name of Jesus sounds not from your lips, you are without unction and without charm. Jesus is honey in our mouth, light in our eyes, a flame in our heart. This name is the cure for all diseases of the soul. Are you troubled? think but of Jesus, speak but the Name of Jesus, the clouds disperse, and peace descends anew from heaven. Have you fallen into sin? so that you fear death? invoke the Name of Jesus, and you will soon feel life returning. No obduracy of the soul, no weakness, no coldness of heart can resist this holy Name; there is no heart which will not soften and open in tears at this holy name. Are you surrounded by sorrow and danger? invoke the Name of Jesus, and your fears will vanish.
Never yet was human being in urgent need, and on the point of perishing, who invoked this help-giving Name, and was not powerfully sustained. It was given us for the cure of all our ills; to soften the impetuosity of anger, to quench the fire of concupiscence, to conquer pride, to mitigate the pain of our wounds, to overcome the thirst of avarice, to quiet sensual passions, and the desires of low pleasures. If we call to our minds the Name of Jesus, it brings before us His most meek and humble heart, and gives us a new knowledge of His most loving and tender compassion. The Name of Jesus is the purest, and holiest, the noblest and most indulgent of names, the Name of all blessings and of all virtues; it is the Name of the God-Man, of sanctity itself. To think of Jesus is to think of the great, infinite God Who, having given us His life as an example, has also bestowed the necessary understanding, energy and assistance to enable us to follow and imitate Him, in our thoughts, inclinations, words and actions. If the Name of Jesus reaches the depths of our heart, it leaves heavenly virtue there. We say, therefore, with our great master, St. Paul the Apostle: If any man love not our Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema. (2)
Pope Innocent xiii. who, in the year 1721, commanded that the most holy name of Jesus should be festively honored throughout the Catholic world, although, a few centuries before this, St. Bernard, with the sanction of the Apostolic See, had esablished the solemn veneration of this most holy name, in his order.
In the Introit of this day's Mass, the Church thus shows the glory of this name: “In the name of Jesus every knee should bow of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth; and every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. ii. 10. 11.) “Lord, our God, how admirable is Thy name in the whole earth!” (Ps. vii. 1.) Glory be to the Father, etc. (5)
Image: Holy Name of Jesus altar – Lublin Dominican Church. Baroque pulpit, photo by Kazimierz S. Ożóg (8)
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff