January 3rd, the Holy Name of Jesus
What is this day all about? Well, let me ask another question? What does your name mean? Does it signify anything special about you? How about your nickname? Diminutive names are usually given to us by others and usually represent something personal about us. Our family name marks us as a person with a particular strand of DNA — in other words, it tells another something about us. It speaks of who we are at an intimate level.
The sacred name of Our Lord, Jesus, has a deep meaning, too. But His is not a name hidden from us. Jesus, as Matthew tells us, means “God saves”. His whole life, mission, ministry is for our salvation. God saves us from our sins and He does so through the person of His Son, Jesus.
Now then, why celebrate this? I mean, every November I celebrate my birthday but I don’t have a special day to commemorate when my parents decided to name me. We celebrate this day because the name of Jesus is far more powerful than your name or mine.
…that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father!
In his letter to the Philippians, St. Paul gives us a glimpse just how powerful and sacred Our Blessed Lord’s name really is. So revered should it be that he teaches us to genuflect when we pronounce it! Over time the common custom arose of simply bowing one’s head. I try to do this myself (especially during mass, the six or seven times Jesus’ name is spoken) and I’ve noticed others doing this too.
I suppose, and more to the point, that His name is only part of the greater revelation of God’s great love for us. Not only did He enter into our race, take on our flesh, our blood, and our nature; but to seal the deal He’s got a name by which we can call him. There is intimacy there. We call our friends by their names. He wants to be our intimate, our friend.
There is also a whole related issue of the representation of His name. It is not uncommon to see a beautifully adorned “IHS” in sacred art going back centuries. These letter alternately stand for IHSOUS (Greek form of Jesus) and for Iesus Hominum, Salvator (Latin for Jesus, Savior of Mankind). Again, this is further proof of the devotion Christians have shown the name. And down to our own day — Mother Teresa’s dying words: “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus…” bear witness to the great power, the great communion with God in the child who was born and given a name to save us.