Sermon given by Father Pancras Raja on January 5th, 2020
Sunday between the Circumcision and the Epiphany
Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus
“His name was called Jesus, which was called by the Angel before He was conceived in the womb” (Lk. 2:21)
The Second Sunday after Epiphany, which recalls the Marriage Feast of Cana, was at first chosen as the day on which to honor the Most Holy Name of Jesus in the universal Church. But now She has chosen for the celebration of this august Name, a day closer to the Anniversary on which It was given—after eight days were accomplished, His Name was called Jesus. In a Motu Proprio dated October 23, 1913, Pope St. Pius X moved this Feast to the Sunday between the Feast of Circumcision and the Feast of Epiphany.
In the Old Covenant, the Name of God inspired fear and awe: nor was the honor of pronouncing it granted to all the children of Israel. God had not yet come down from Heaven to live on earth, and converse with men; He had not yet taken upon Himself our poor nature and become Man like ourselves; the sweet Name expressive of love and tenderness could not yet be applied to Him.
But when the fullness of time had come—when the mystery of love was about to be made known—then did Heaven send down the Name of Jesus to our earth. The Archangel Gabriel said to Mary: Thou shalt call His Name JESUS. Jesus means Savior. How sweet will this Name not be to poor fallen man! It seems to link earth to Heaven! No name is so amiable, none is so powerful. Every knee in Heaven, on earth, and in Hell, bows in adoration at hearing this Name! And yet, who can pronounce It, and not feel love spring up within his heart? But we need such a Saint as St. Bernard, to tell us of:
The power and sweetness of this Blessed Name.
“The Name of Jesus is Light, and Food, and Medicine. It is Light, when it is preached to us; It is Food, when we think upon It; It is the Medicine that soothes our pains when we invoke It. Let us say a word on each of these.
The Name of Jesus is Light So bright and sudden a light came into the whole world, from the preaching of the Name of Jesus. Was it not by the light of this Name that God called us unto His admirable Light? Wherewith being enlightened, and in this light, seeing the Light, St. Paul truly addressed to us: “Heretofore you were darkness; but now, light in the Lord.” (Eph. 5:8)
The Name of Jesus is also Food.
We are strengthened, as often as we think of this Name. What is there that so feeds the minds of those who meditate upon this Name? What is there that so restores the wearied faculties, strengthens virtue, gives vigor to good and holy habits, and fosters chastity? Every food of the soul is dry, that is not steeped in this unction; it is insipid, if it be not seasoned with this salt of the Name of Jesus. Jesus is honey to the mouth, and music to the ear, and gladness to the heart.
The Name of Jesus is also Medicine.
Is anyone among you sad? Let but Jesus come into his heart, and the mouth echo Him, saying Jesus! Have any of you committed sin, and is despair driving you into the snare of death? Invoke the Name of Jesus the Life, and life will come back to the soul. Was there ever a man that, hearing this saving Name, could keep up that common fault of hardness of heart, or drowsiness, or sluggishness, or rancor of soul, or languor of sloth? If anyone, perchance, felt that the fountain of his tears was dry, did it not gush forth more plentifully than ever and flow more sweetly than ever, as soon as he invoked the Name of Jesus? If any of us were ever in danger, and our hearts beat with fear, did not this Name of power bring us confidence and courage the moment we pronounced it? When we were tossed by perplexing doubts, did not the evidence of what was right burst on us as we called upon the Name of Jesus the Light? When we were discouraged, and crushed by adversity, did not our heart take courage, when our tongue uttered the Name of Jesus the Help? All this is most true; and the Name of Jesus is our Medicine.
Call upon the Most Holy Name of Jesus
But let us see how all this comes to pass. The Lord says: “Call upon Me in the day of trouble, I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me” (Ps. 49: 15). There is nothing which so restrains the impulse of anger, calms the swelling of pride, heals the wounds of envy, represses the insatiability of luxury, smothers the flame of lust, quenches the thirst of avarice, and dispels the fever of uncleanness—as the Name of Jesus. For we pronounce this Name, we bring before our mind the Man, Who, by excellence, is meek and humble of Heart, benign, sober, chaste, merciful, and filled with everything that is good and holy, nay, we bring before our mind the Man, Who is the very God Almighty—Whose example heals me, and Whose assistance strengthens me. I say all this, when I say Jesus. Here I have my Model, for He is Man; and my help, for He is God—the Man provides me with precious medicines, the God gives them efficacy; and from the two I make a remedy such as no physician knows how to make.
“Here is the Name Jesus; believe me, says St. Bernard, it is wholesome, and good for every ailment you can possibly have. Ever have the name Jesus with you, in your bosom and in your hand; so that all yuor affections and actions may be directed to JESUS.” (15th Sermon on the Canticle of Canticles)
The Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus
The Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus is of comparatively recent origin; its first promoter was St. Bernardine of Siena, who lived in the 15th century. This holy man established the practice of representing the Holy Name of Jesus surrounded with rays, and formed into a monogram of its three first Greek letters, I H S. The custom spread rapidly through Italy, and was zealously propagated by the great St. John Capistrano, who, like St. Bernardine, was of the Order of Friars Minor. The Holy See gave its formal approbation to this manner of honoring the Name of our Savior, and in the early part of the 16th century, Pope Clement VI, after long entreaties, granted to the whole Franciscan Order the privilege of keeping a special Feast in honor of the Most Holy Name of Jesus.
Rome extended the same favor to various churches; and at length, the Feast was inserted into the universal Calendar. It was in the year 1721, at the request of Charles VI, Emperor of Germany, that Pope Innocent XII decreed that the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus should be kept throughout the whole Church.
In celebrating the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, let us rejoice in the glorious name of Jesus, the title of our eternal predestination, because our names are written in heaven.
Catholics should not cause the Name of Jesus or of His Church to be profaned by our own conduct or by our evil words and actions. But on the contrary, by clean speech and good example, we ought to excite others to exalt the Name of Jesus, to respect the faith on His doctrines and to honour His Church.
In order to make reparation for profanities and blasphemies against the Name of Jesus, let us always say the divine praises with great devotion.