Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus

Today, January 3 is the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus.

As far back as the first entries in the Gospel of St; Matthew, we see that the name had significance. Gabriel said to Mary, “You shall name him Jesus”, a command, more than a suggestion. The angel who visited Joseph said, “You shall call his name Jesus”. Both mother and stepfather were given that instruction. After Jesus’ Resurrection, Paul wrote in his letter to the Phillippians “In the name of Jesus every knee should bow.”

The letters HIS, derived from the Greek word for Jesus, dates back to early Christianity. That monogram was placed on altars, vestments and liturgical ornaments for centuries. A Jesus prayer, from as far back as the fourth century, is still recited: “Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Medieval devotions to the Holy Name were promoted by Anselm of Canterbury, England, in the twelfth century. The same veneration was encouraged by St. Bernard of Clairvaux in the thirteenth century. Richard Rolle soon after claimed that saying the Name was like a healing ointment for the soul. Other saints followed his suggestion and made it a major part of their day. Official recognition of such a devotion was provided by Pope Gregory X at the Council of Lyons in 1274.

The Jesuits adopted the monogram, with variations, as their logo in the 1500s.

The Litany of the Holy Name was a private prayer until Pope Pius IX approved it in 1862.

Consider saying this Name often in prayer, bowing your head at the same time. It has power for the soul.