Thursday, 3 January 2008

The Holy Name of Jesus

So great the glory of thy might,
if we by chance thy name to sound,
at once all heaven and hell unite,
in bending low with awe profound.

From Creator Alme Siderum, hymn for vespers in advent, translated by Fr. Edward Caswell of the Birmingham Oratory.

How accurate and relevant these words are today, in this age of the mass media and the Internet. Never before in history has the Holy Name of Jesus been so proclaimed from all corners of the globe, not only by those who worship and adore him, but also those who despise and hate him. For those who attack the teachings of Christ, of his mystical body the church and those of us who bear his name, ironically pay tribute to the Holy Name's very power and significance.

The name Jesus, a latinisation of Hebrew Yeshua and also transliterated as Joshua, means 'God Saves'. This name is holy because the one who bore it is none other than the second person of the Trinity, who assumed our full humanity both body and soul without in the least compromising his divine nature. A human name now is one of the names of God.

The Feast of the Holy Name is celebrated in the 1962 missal on the Sunday before the Epiphany, after the Feast of the Circumcision, when his parents named him. This feast was abolished in the liturgical reform of Paul VI, but one of the acts of Pope John Paul II in the last years of his pontificate was to restore the commemoration of the Holy Name of Jesus on January 3rd, along with the Holy Name of Mary on September 12th in the 1970 missal.

Not unnaturally this has not been popular among dissidents in the church, for the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus is a clear affirmation of the divinity of Jesus Christ, and a repudiation of the neo-arianism of modern theology. Its restoration is also a clear approval of the movement for reform of the liturgical reform, and in many respects, a foreshadowing of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum.

The Worship of the Holy Name of Jesus, by Gianlorenzo Bernini, on the ceiling of the nave of the Church of the Jesus in Rome.

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