Today we celebrate the memoria of the Holy Name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Whilst at the conventual Mass in the Canonry this morning, I began to wonder what’s in a name?
The liturgical feast of the Holy Name dates back to 1530 when Pope Clement V approved an office of the Triumph of the Holy Name for the Franciscans, this was later extended to the universal Church in 1721 by Pope Innocent XIII.
The Holy Father did this because of St Bernadine of Siena OFM, a fourteenth century Franciscan missionary and reformer of the order whose devotion and zeal for the Holy Name was legendary.
He spent most of his life travelling around Italy preaching and administering the sacraments, so much so that no corner of the country was untouched by his words.
St Bernardine used the Holy Name to overcome the everyday warfare of Italian city-states, he used this “name that is above every name” (Phil 2:9) to raise people’s minds from their rivalries and jealousies to think of their own salvation, and their saviour.
St Bernadine said that,
[T]his name must be proclaimed, that it may shine out and never be suppressed…When a fire is lit to clear a field, it burns off all the dry and useless weeds and thorns. When the sun rises and darkness is dispelled, robbers, night-prowlers and burglars hide away.
This is the power of the Holy Name in a beautiful image by St Bernadine. We must remember that to the Jews of the old covenant a name was highly important, giving someone your name gave them a part of you and naming someone (or something else) put you in a particular relationship with that person.
So what of the Holy Name of Jesus?
Traditionally the month of January is given over to worship of the Holy Name and meditation on the child Jesus, so perhaps we can take this opportunity to think of our reverence for the name of our Lord.
St Paul tells us that, “That at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth.” (Phil 2:10), and St Peter tells us (Acts 4:12), “For there is no other Name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved”.
Do we take the Holy Name in vain? Using it to insult, to swear, to joke, to ridicule others? Do we make any sign of devotion when we hear the Holy Name of our Lord spoken in public; the angels prostrate and the demons flee at the name of our Lord, might we bow our heads momentarily? When we hear someone using the Holy Name inappropriately what reparation do we do? There are many traditional practices, such as saying “Blessed be the name of the Lord now and forever” (even under your breath) when you hear someone using the Holy Name inappropriately. Our Lord died for us, might we offer some reparation to Him for those who insult His Holy Name?
When we venerate and worship the Holy Name we worship our Lord,
The psalmist exhorts [the Church] to [sing], as he says: Sing to the Lord, and bless his name, proclaim his salvation day after day. And this salvation is Jesus, her saviour.
If you get a chance consider saying the litany of the Most Holy Name in reparation for all those who insult our Lord.
Today also several members of our community will be attending Mass for the patronal feast of one of our parishes in Chelmsford dedicated to the Holy Name, so please keep our apostolate and the parishes we care for in your prayers!