Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The Holy Name of Jesus

Above is a painting by El Greco (1541-1614) depicting the Adoration of the Holy Name of Jesus. (c. 1578)

The letters IHS in the heavens are an abbreviation of Jesous, the Greek name for Jesus. The name Jesus means "Yahweh saves" or "Yahweh is salvation."

The Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus has been celebrated since 1530. When Pope Paul VI revised the liturgical calendar in 1969 the Feast was dropped, but Pope John Paul II reinstituted the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus to be celebrated on Jan. 3.

St. Paul in his Letter to the Philippians writes, "So that at Jesus’ name every knee must bend in the heavens, on the earth and under the earth, and every tongue proclaim to the glory of God the Father: Jesus Christ is Lord" (2:10-11).

An old spiritual manual lists four benefits of devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus.

1. Invoking the name of Jesus brings help in bodily needs. After Pentecost, St. Peter met a beggar at the Temple Gate who asked him for money. But St. Peter answered, "I have neither silver nor gold, but what I have I give you! In the name of Jesus Christ, the Nazorean, walk!". The beggar got up and began to walk (Acts 3:1-10).

2. The name of Jesus gives us help in spiritual distress. It is by invoking Jesus' Holy Name that our sins are forgiven. At Pentecost, St. Peter said, "Then shall everyone be saved who calls on the name of the Lord" (2:21).

3. The name of Jesus protects us from demons and their temptations.

4. We receive every grace and blessing through the Holy Name of Jesus. Jesus said, "I give you my assurance, whatever you ask the Father, He will give you in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you shall receive, that your joy may be full" (Jn 16:23-24 ).

St. Bernadine of Siena and his student St. John of Capistrano promoted the Holy Name of Jesus in the 15th Century. Many miracles were reported after St. Bernardine and St. John invoked the name of Jesus and blessed the faithful a monogram of the initials IHS that they carried around with them, invoking the name of Jesus. They encouraged the faithful to place the over the city gates and the doorways of their homes.

In 1454, Pope Callistus asked St. John to preach in Austria and Germany asking the faithful to invoke the Holy Name of Jesus and to recruit soldiers to fight against Turkish Moslems who were ravaging Eastern Europe. Plague had depleted the population of Europe and left it vulnerable to attack. St. John of Capistrano encouraged many Christian men to join the army of the Hungarian General Janos Hunyadi. The Christians won a great victory at the Battle of Belgrade in 1456. St. John, himself, led one wing of the army.

St. Bernadine of Siena said: “Glorious name, gracious name, name of love and of power! Through you sins are forgiven, through you enemies are vanquished, through you the sick are freed from their illness, through you those suffering in trials are made strong and cheerful. You bring honor to those who believe, you teach those who preach, you give strength to the toiler, you sustain the weary”.

Many parishes have Holy Name Societies. This Society was first formed to make reparation for blasphemies against the Holy Name of Jesus.

If you wish to participate in this devotion, I recommend you recite the Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus Pope Leo XIII promoted this litany because he was hoped to see " ... an increase in the devotion toward this glorious name of Jesus among the faithful, especially in a period when this august name is shamelessly scoffed at."

I also recommend reciting the Divine Praises as an expression of love for God and reparation for offenses of blasphemy. We should also pray these litanies for protection against terrorists and for a greater respect for innocent life from the womb to the tomb.

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