“For a child is born to us, a son is given to us; upon his shoulder dominion rests.
They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6)
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign; the young woman, pregnant and about to bear a son,
shall name him Emmanuel” (Isaiah 7:14; cf. Matt 1:23)
“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. “ (Luke 1:31; cf. Matt 1:21)
The Christmas Season, in many respects, opens up to us a reflection on the power and importance of names. Names fill the Nativity as well as the events leading up to the Nativity – we hear the genealogies in both the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke, we hear of the events surrounding the naming of St. John the Baptist by his parents Elizabeth and Zechariah, a name foretold by the angel Gabriel, we hear of the names of Simeon and Anna who are waiting for the appearance of the Christ, at the beginning of the Annunciation, St. Luke tells us that “the virgin’s name was Mary” (Luke 1:27). Of course there is also the name of Jesus, who is given that name from on high because it is He who “will save His people from their sins” (Matt 1:21).
No wonder, then, as the Christmas celebration stretches into January, the Church would give us as our monthly devotion the name of Jesus. The name of Jesus is powerful – we hear in the Acts of the Apostles how the Apostles heal the sick “in the name of Jesus the Nazorean” (Acts 3:6) and St. Peter when bearing witness before the Sanhedrin to the miracle of the crippled man being healed says, “it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead; in his name this man stands before you healed” (Acts 4:10) – we hear of the Apostles casting out demons in the name of Jesus, we hear of them preaching with power in the name of Jesus, and we hear St. Paul exhort the people of Colossae, “and whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17). And finally, we hear from St. Peter the Apostle himself, that “there is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved” (Acts 4:12), St. Paul says to the Philippians, “because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,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” (Philippians 2:9-11).
It is from this admonition from which comes the ancient custom of a bow of the head when the name Jesus is mentioned, especially at the Mass.
There is a power in the name of Jesus, a power which we should invoke by the reverent and holy use of His Name. This month we celebrate the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, in the Collect of which we hear:
O God, who founded the salvation of the human race on the Incarnation of your Word,
give your peoples the mercy they implore, so that all may know
there is no other name to be invoked but the Name of your Only Begotten Son.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
As we begin this new year, may we invoke the name of Jesus – its power and protection – as we seek to grow in holiness over this year of grace, the Year of Our Lord 2018. May His name be exalted throughout the whole world.
(This article is part of a series that will appear over the course of this year on the Monthly Devotions of the Church’s year).