January 3 – The Most Holy Name of Jesus – Optional Memorial

Memorial: Liturgical Color: White

 

Names are powerful, and no name is more powerful than Jesus

Mary and Joseph did not sit across from each other at the kitchen table in the evenings debating a name for their child. They didn’t flip through the pages of a book of saints or bounce ideas off their friends and family. The baby’s name was chosen for them by God Himself. They were just taking orders. The Archangel Gabriel announced to Mary, “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus’”(Lk 1:31). And Joseph had a dream in which the angel told him, “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Mt 1:21). The Gospel of Luke further relates that After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb” (Lk 2:21). Jesus was named eight days after Christmas, January 3rd. The New Testament is filled with incidents where the name of Jesus is invoked to drive out devils, cure illnesses, and perform miracles. The Holy Name is explicitly exalted by Saint Paul: “at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth, and under the earth…” (Philippians 2:10). Jesus reinforces the power of his own name in St. John’s Gospel: “If you ask the Father anything in my name he will give it you” (Jn 16:23).

“Jesus” was the given name of the Son of Mary, while “Christ” was a title. “Christ” is the Greek form of the Hebrew “Messiah,” meaning the “Anointed One.” “Jesus the Christ” was the original formula for describing the Son of Mary. But over time, “The Christ” became simply “Christ,” as if it were His last name. The name of the God of the Old Testament was holy, not to be written out, nor to be casually spoken. Invoking “Yahweh” could be so egregious a sin as to provoke the tearing of the hearer’s shirt in protest and repentance. The Second Commandment enshrined this Jewish law: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord Thy God in vain.” This commandment prohibited the swearing of false oaths, that is, calling upon God as your witness and then making false statements. The opposite of a solemn oath is to invoke the name of God to damn someone or something: a curse, the inversion of a blessing.

Saint Bernardine of Siena, an electrifying Franciscan preacher of the early fifteenth century, was the saint who most spread devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. He ingeniously depicted the Holy Name with the well known monogram “IHS,” derived from the Greek letters forming the word “Jesus.” In the sixteenth century, the Jesuits built on this tradition and utilized the “IHS” to embellish their churches, even making it the emblem of their Society. The mother church of all Jesuit churches, in Rome, is officially named in honor of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, although its name is commonly shortened to simply “The Jesus.” There is raw power in the name Jesus. It makes polite company cringe. It divides families. It floats across the dinner table, letting everyone know exactly where you stand. A comfortable, vague euphemism like “the man upstairs” or “the big guy” just won’t do. “Jesus” does not convey an idea that everyone can interpret as they wish. It’s someone’s name. And that someone taught, suffered, died, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven.

Some people don’t like their names and seek to legally change them or to use a nickname instead. Names convey meanings. “Thor” sounds like a mythical god carrying a hammer. “Vesuvius” sounds like a boiling volcano about to erupt. And “Jesus” sounds like a God-man beyond reproach. A child, when once asked to define love, said that “when someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. Your name is safe in their mouth.” The Holy Name of Jesus should be safe in our mouths even when we’re not receiving communion.

Son of Mary, may our same tongues that receive your Holy Body and Blood prepare themselves for your visit by saying your Holy Name with great reverence. And may we not refrain from invoking that same Holy Name in our daily conversations with all whom we meet.


Litany of the Most Holy Name of Jesus

Lord, have mercy. 

Christ, have mercy. 

Lord, have mercy. 

Jesus, hear us. 

Jesus, graciously hear us.

God, the Father of Heaven, 

have mercy on us 

God the Son, Redeemer of the world, 

have mercy on us 

God, the Holy Spirit, 

have mercy on us 

Holy Trinity, one God, 

have mercy on us 

Jesus, Son of the living God, 

have mercy on us 

Jesus, Splendor of the Father, 

have mercy on us 

Jesus, Brightness of eternal Light, 

have mercy on us 

Jesus, King of Glory, 

have mercy on us 

Jesus, Sun of Justice, 

have mercy on us 

Jesus, Son of the Virgin Mary, 

have mercy on us 

Jesus, most amiable, 

have mercy on us 

Jesus, most admirable, 

have mercy on us 

Jesus, the mighty God, 

have mercy on us 

Jesus, Father of the world to come, 

have mercy on us 

Jesus, angel of great counsel, 

have mercy on us 

Jesus, most powerful, 

have mercy on us 

Jesus, most patient, 

have mercy on us 

Jesus, most obedient, 

have mercy on us 

Jesus, meek and humble of heart, 

have mercy on us 

Jesus, Lover of Chastity, 

have mercy on us 

Jesus, our Lover, 

have mercy on us 

Jesus, God of Peace, 

have mercy on us 

Jesus, Author of Life, 

have mercy on us 

Jesus, Model of Virtues, 

have mercy on us 

Jesus, zealous for souls, 

have mercy on us 

Jesus, our God, 

have mercy on us 

Jesus, our Refuge, 

have mercy on us 

Jesus, Father of the Poor, 

have mercy on us 

Jesus, Treasure of the Faithful, 

have mercy on us 

Jesus, good Shepherd, 

have mercy on us 

Jesus, true Light, 

have mercy on us 

Jesus, eternal Wisdom, 

have mercy on us 

Jesus, infinite Goodness, 

have mercy on us 

Jesus, our Way and our Life, 

have mercy on us 

Jesus, joy of the Angels, 

have mercy on us 

Jesus, King of the Patriarchs, 

have mercy on us 

Jesus, Master of the Apostles, 

have mercy on us 

Jesus, Teacher of the Evangelists, 

have mercy on us 

Jesus, Strength of Martyrs, 

have mercy on us 

Jesus, Light of Confessors, 

have mercy on us 

Jesus, Purity of Virgins, 

have mercy on us 

Jesus, Crown of all Saints, 

have mercy on us .

Be merciful, spare us, O Jesus! 

Be merciful, graciously hear us, O Jesus!

From all evil, 

deliver us, O Jesus 

From all sin, 

deliver us, O Jesus 

From your wrath, 

deliver us, O Jesus 

From the snares of the devil, 

deliver us, O Jesus 

From the spirit of fornication, 

deliver us, O Jesus 

From everlasting death, 

deliver us, O Jesus 

From the neglect of your inspirations, 

deliver us, O Jesus 

Through the mystery of your holy Incarnation, 

deliver us, O Jesus 

Through your Nativity, 

deliver us, O Jesus 

Through your Infancy, 

deliver us, O Jesus 

Through your most divine Life, 

deliver us, O Jesus 

Through your Labors, 

deliver us, O Jesus 

Through your Agony and Passion, 

deliver us, O Jesus 

Through your Cross and Dereliction, 

deliver us, O Jesus 

Through your Sufferings, 

deliver us, O Jesus 

Through your Death and Burial, 

deliver us, O Jesus 

Through your Resurrection, 

deliver us, O Jesus 

Through your Ascension, 

deliver us, O Jesus 

Through your Institution of the Most Holy Eucharist, 

deliver us, O Jesus 

Through your Joys, 

deliver us, O Jesus 

Through your Glory, 

deliver us, O Jesus .

Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, 

spare us, O Jesus! 

Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, 

graciously hear us, O Jesus! 

Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, 

have mercy on us, O Jesus!

Jesus, hear us. 

Jesus, graciously hear us.

Let us pray. O Lord Jesus Christ, you have said, “Ask and you shall receive; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you”; mercifully attend to our supplications, and grant us the grace of your most divine love, that we may love you with all our hearts, and in all our words and actions, and never cease to praise you.

Make us, O Lord, to have a perpetual fear and love of your holy name, for you never fail to govern those whom you solidly establish in your love. You, who live and reign forever and ever.

Amen.