FEAST OF THE MOST HOLY NAME OF JESUS
FEAST DAY – 3rd JANUARY
The Church celebrates on 3rd January, the Memorial of the Most Holy Name of Jesus. With the release of the revised Roman Missal in March 2002, the feast has been restored as an Optional Memorial on January 3. The Church relates to us the greatness of the Incarnate Word through melodious praises in glory of His name. Jesus means Savior, the name conveyed in a dream, to Joseph, together with its meaning and to Our Lady at the Annunciation by the Archangel Gabriel, the sweetest Name for the babe to be born, who would be their Son, on earth.
This Devotion, to the Holy Name of Jesus, is firmly entrenched in the Sacred Scriptures, more so, in the Acts of the Apostles. St. Bernard, St. Bernardine of Siena, St. John Capistrano and the Franciscan Order, promulgated celebration of this feast. It was expanded to the whole Church in 1727 during the pontificate of Innocent XIII. The month of January has been traditionally dedicated to the Holy Name of Jesus.
The Feast purely furnishes and observes the occasion when the Child received the Name Jesus as had been arranged by the angel, and is meant to emphasize the dignity of the Holy Name. It is not difficult to find in it some liturgical or ancient meaning in accordance with Christian doctrine.
Thus, we are told that Adam in paradise, gave the animals names in accordance with their being. Among the Jews, God’s Name, Yahweh, meant I (alone) am who am (and cause all else to be). The Jews had the highest esteem for the name of God, a holy acclaim that finds continuation in the Our Father: “Hallowed be Thy Name.”
Those who played prominent roles in the history of salvation received their names from God Himself. The Savior’s forerunner was named John, the name God assigned him. According to divine precedent, then, the name of the Redeemer should not be accidental, but given by God Himself. For His name should express His messianic mission. We read in the Holy Gospel, how the angel Gabriel revealed that name to Mary: “You shall call His name Jesus.”
And to St. Joseph the angel not merely revealed the name but also its meaning: “You shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.” The Messiah should not only be the savior, but should be called Savior.
With Jesus, therefore, the name actually spells out the purpose of His existence. This is why we must esteem His name as sacred. Whenever we pronounce it, we should pay obeisance by bowing our heads, for the very name reminds us of the greatest favor we have ever received, the eternal salvation of our souls.
The Holy Name of Jesus has been venerated since the beginning of Christianity and appears in the earliest Christian manuscripts in Greek. In the second century the final Greek character was added to the IH abbreviation making it IHƩ. This in turn was transliterated into Latin or English characters as IHS, the monogram later adopted by the Jesuit Order as an abbreviation for Iesus Hominum Salvator which we see today on Pope Francis’ coat of arms.
Though there was a steady growth of devotion to the Holy Name in the middle ages, through the writings of St Bernard and others, it was St Bernardine who depicted the Holy Name superimposed on yellow rays, representing Jesus the Sun of Righteousness, shedding His grace and light on us. The Franciscans made the devotion popular among ordinary people in the fifteenth century. Some of Bernardine’s own paintings of the monogram are still preserved.
Dear God our Father, you gave our Redeemer the beautiful name “Jesus” meaning “God saves.” True to his mission, Jesus our Savior was sent by you as the Son of Man, the Sun of Justice, to save the whole world from darkness, death and eternal damnation. His Name, by its meaning, states the purpose of His existence, reminding us of the incredible blessing of salvation. Lord, we bow in reverence, therefore, giving that name great honor!
We devote the month of January to Jesus’ Most Holy Name, and give him praise, glory and honor, for his sacrificial death, resurrection and ascension into heaven. Jesus has reconciled us with you, Father, and has awarded us sonship, and the mighty status of co-heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven, where he makes a place for all believers saved by faith. We bless his Holy Name, consecrating our lives to him.
Father, Jesus has promised that everything we ask of you, in his Holy Name, will be granted to all who abide in him. We invoke his Holy Name, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind, by which we must be saved, but the Name of Jesus. Amen