The month of January is traditionally dedicated to the Holy Name of Jesus, with January 3rd being the feast of the Holy Name. After the Blessed Virgin Mary had conceived her Child by the Holy Spirit, the angel Gabriel appeared to St. Joseph and instructed him that the Child’s name should be called Jesus, which means “God Saves”.
A BIT OF HISTORY
Historically, this special feast reverencing Jesus’ name is closely associated with the Feast of the Circumcision of Jesus. According to Jewish law, on the 8th day after his birth a male child was circumcised, received his name, and became a full member of God’s covenant people.
This is what happened to Jesus, in fulfillment of the Law, as we read in Luke 2:21: “And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.”
According to the old Roman liturgical calendar, the Feast of the Circumcision of Jesus was celebrated on January 1st, eight days after his birth on Christmas, the same day that he was given his sacred name. Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Mother of God on January 1st and honor the Feast of the Holy Name on January 3rd.
For Catholics, Jesus’ sacred name is the object of a special devotion. Devotion to the Most Holy Name of Jesus was popularized by St. Bernardine of Siena, a 15th-century Franciscan, often symbolized by the monogram “IHS”, (sometimes called a Christogram), which is the first three letters of the Greek spelling of Jesus’ name.
INVOKING THE NAME OF JESUS
Invoking the name of Jesus in an ejaculatory and reverential manner is so powerful that it has historically been associated with the granting of indulgences by various Popes such as Pope Sixtus V, Pope Benedict XIII, Pope Clement XIII, and Pope Pius X.
It was even common in some places in the Middle Ages to greet one another in the name of Jesus, and to spontaneously exclaim, “Praise be to Jesus Christ!” with the response, “For evermore”, or “Amen”.
Invoking the name of Jesus goes back even further to the Early Church in the form of the “Jesus Prayer”. This penitential prayer very simply says, “Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner,” which can be repeated on a prayer rope or Jesus Beads just as the Hail Mary is prayed on the Rosary.
It’s a shame that the lovable name of Jesus, so powerful and salvific, is so often invoked in vain or in blasphemy. To more greatly honor the name of Jesus ensure that you and your family avoid making this mistake yourselves, and, whenever you hear the name of Jesus said in vain or blasphemed, make up for the sacrilege by praising the name of Jesus either in your heart, or even better, out loud. Jesus is the King of Kings, and this small act of love for His Name will not go unrewarded by him.
For this reason also,
God highly exalted Him,
and bestowed on Him the name
which is above every name,
so that at the name of JESUS
every knee will bow,
of those who are in heaven
and on earth and under the earth,
and that every tongue will confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
This article has been updated and was originally published in January 2013. (c) The Catholic Company