Devotion to the Holy Name
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Luke 2:21 “…Et vocatum est Nomen eius IESUS”
(“And His Name was called JESUS”)
Psalm 90:14 “Because he hoped in me I will deliver him:
I will protect him because he hath known My Name.”
Zacharias 10:12 “I will strengthen them in the Lord,
and they shall walk in His Name, saith the Lord.”
Apocalypse 3:8 “I know thy works. Behold, I have given before thee a door opened, which no man can shut: because thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied My Name.”
Apocalypse 15:4 “Who shall not fear Thee, O Lord, and magnify Thy Name?…”
Throughout Sacred Scripture, God Himself names or renames those who have a great role to play in our salvation. As recorded in the fifth chapter of Genesis, He named the first man Adam, which means “Man of the Earth”, 1 and He changed the name of our spiritual Father from Abram to “Abraham,” which means “Father of Many Nations.” Abraham’s wife, Sarai, had her name changed to “Sarah,” which means “Princess” and foretells that she would be the spiritual mother to kings (Genesis 17). “Moses” means “Drawn from the Water,” and “David” means “Beloved.” Our first Pope had been named “Simon” before he became “Peter” to signify his status as the earthly rock of the Church as Christ is the Foundation and Head.
And so, too, does the Name “Jesus” have meaning: The Name of the One also known as “Emmanuel” (“God Saves”) is a transliteration of the Hebrew Jehoshua, or Joshua, and it means “Jehovah is Salvation.” That Our Lord would receive this Name was foretold by the divinely inspired Prophet Isaias:
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel. He shall eat butter and honey, that he may know to refuse the evil, and to choose the good.
Our Lady learned how she was to name her Child from the Archangel Gabriel:
And in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. Who having heard, was troubled at his saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God. Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the most High; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father; and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever. And of his kingdom there shall be no end.
… and St. Joseph heard it from an angel in a dream:
Now the generation of Christ was in this wise. When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child, of the Holy Ghost. Whereupon Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing publicly to expose her, was minded to put her away privately. But while he thought on these things, behold the angel of the Lord appeared to him in his sleep, saying: Joseph, son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her, is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son: and thou shalt call his name JESUS. For he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which the Lord spoke by the prophet, saying: Behold a virgin shall be with child, and bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. And Joseph rising up from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him, and took unto him his wife. And he knew her not till she brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.
Then, when He was circumcised on the 8th day after His Nativity, He received the Holy Name:
And after eight days were accomplished, that the child should be circumcised, his name was called JESUS, which was called by the angel, before he was conceived in the womb.
And what of it? St. Peter sums it up after he healed the lame man and was then asked by the high priest, “By what power, or by what name, have you done this?”:
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said to them: Ye princes of the people, and ancients, hear: If we this day are examined concerning the good deed done to the infirm man, by what means he hath been made whole: Be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God hath raised from the dead, even by him this man standeth here before you whole. This is the stone which was rejected by you the builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other. For there is no other Name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved.
When we say the Name “Jesus” (or “Iesus,” “Iesu,” etc.) consciously, with deep reverence, we are re-realizing the core Truth of the holy Faith: “God Saves” — and all gratitude and humility are summoned. Say that Holy Name, ponder it, feel it in your mouth and in your heart! “IESUS — GOD SAVES!” When you pronounce it, know its meaning and humble yourself before it; feel in your heart how you are addressing and referring to Lord Christ. “IESUS — SAVIOR!”
So holy is His Name that uttering it piously is an indulgenced act. So revered is it that:
- Catholic men remove their hats any time and anywhere it is heard or spoken by them, and all Catholics bow their heads when speaking it or hearing it.
- when His Name is taken in vain, the Catholic in the room will (or at least should) make reparation by crossing himself and praying “Sit nomen Dómini benedíctum!” (“Blessed be the Name of the Lord!”), to which another Catholic who might be in the room replies, “Ex hoc nunc, et usque in sæculum!” (“from this time forth for evermore!”) or “per ómnia saecula saeculórum” (“unto ages of ages”).
- Another prayer of reparation to pray is “The Golden Arrow,” which is simply: “Admirable is the Name of God.” (You can read more about the fuller Golden Arrow prayer on the page dedicated to the Holy Face).
- inspired by the example and words of St. Bernardine of Siena (see below), we place the monogram of His Name (“IHS”) over our doors for protection, in the same way that the Israelites in Egypt used lamb’s blood during the first Passover:
And Moses called all the ancients of the children of Israel, and said to them: Go take a lamb by your families, and sacrifice the Phase. And dip a bunch of hyssop in the blood that is at the door, and sprinkle the transom of the door therewith, and both the door cheeks: let none of you go out of the door of his house till morning. For the Lord will pass through striking the Egyptians: and when he shall see the blood on the transom, and on both the posts, he will pass over the door of the house, and not suffer the destroyer to come into your houses and to hurt you. Thou shalt keep this thing as a law for thee and thy children for ever.
For a pattern to use as a stencil for such purpose, click here.
- His Name is invoked in times of fear and temptation, and devils flee at the sound of it.
This Catholic attitude of deep respect toward the Holy Name is exactly as it should be according to Sacred Scripture:
He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. For which cause God also hath exalted him, and hath given him a Name which is above all names: That in the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth:
It is “in His Name” that the Gentiles shall hope (Matthew 12:21); “in the Name of Jesus Christ” that the Apostles baptized (Acts 2:38), healed (Acts 3:6, 16), cast out demons (Acts 16:18), preached (Acts 9:27), and anointed (James 5:14); it is “by the Name” of Jesus that signs and wonders were seen (Acts 4:30).
It is in His Name that we should place our faith, do our works, and say our prayers:
I John 3:23
And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the Name of his Son Jesus Christ: and love one another, as He hath given commandment unto us.
All whatsoever you do in word or in work, do all in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him.
…Amen, amen I say to you: if you ask the Father any thing in My Name, He will give it you. Hitherto you have not asked any thing in My Name. Ask, and you shall receive; that your joy may be full.
And it is by His Name that we are protected from deception and the snares of the Evil One. St. Vincent Ferrer, in a sermon on the end of the world, made on the second Sunday of Advent, said,
If you do not wish to be deceived, then place the whole of your faith and confidence in the Name of Jesus Christ., and refuse to acknowledge any miracle unless it is worked in that same Name; and so you will be strong against seduction. David says : “Blessed is the man whose hope is in the Name of the Lord; and who hath not regard to vanities and lying follies.” The Name of the Lord is Jesus. “And thou shalt call His name Jesus”. If you should receive any wound or hurt you should sign it devoutly with the Sign of the Cross.
Antichrist arrogates to himself every other name of Christ, but as many of the saints tell us, he flies from the Name of Jesus. Therefore, for that reason, the Name of Jesus should receive the greatest respect from all Christians. Moreover, all the Names of God, according to Saint Thomas Aquinas, should be honored in a sevenfold manner. Because the Name of God is great it is to be feared; because it is holy it should be venerated; because it is sweet it should be savored in meditation; it is strong to save; rich in mercy; efficacious in impetration; and hidden in order to be discovered and known. He says also that the Name of the Son of God is also the name of the Father in a threefold way: for by it He is honored, invoked and manifested. He also says that in all the names given is also signified the Name of Jesus, which is the sign of salvation, and therefore exceedingly to be honored.
Formalized devotion to the Holy Name is the fruit of the work of St. Bernardine of Siena, A.D. 1380-1444, the Franciscan who reformed his Order and preached fiery sermons all over Italy. An excerpt from one:
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. So when Paul’s voice was raised to preach the Gospel to the nations, like a great clap of thunder in the sky, his preaching was a blazing fire carrying all before it. It was the sun rising in full glory. Infidelity was consumed by it, false beliefs fled away, and the truth appeared like a great candle lighting the whole world with its brilliant flame.
By word of mouth, by letters, by miracles, and by the example of his own life, Saint Paul bore the Name of Jesus wherever he went. He praised the Name of Jesus “at all times,” but never more than when “bearing witness to his faith.”
Moreover, the Apostle did indeed carry this Name “before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel” as a light to enlighten all nations. And this was his cry wherever he journeyed: “The night is passing away, the day is at hand. Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves honorably as in the day.” Paul himself showed forth the burning and shining-light set upon a candlestick, everywhere proclaiming “Jesus, and Him crucified.”
And so the Church, the Bride of Christ strengthened by his testimony, rejoices with the psalmist, singing: “O God from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.” The psalmist exhorts her to do this, as he says: “Sing to the Lord, and bless His Name, proclaim His salvation day after day.” And this salvation is Jesus, Her savior.
During these very popular sermons, he would hold up for veneration the monogram of Christ’s Name — the letters “IHS” (or “JHS”) — surrounded by rays. This ancient monogram is a Latinization of the Greek monograms for Iesous Christos, “IH XP” and “IC XC,” and it became even more popularized after St. Bernardine encouraged a playing card maker in Bologna — a man whose business had been ruined because of the Saint’s preaching against inordinate gambling — to make holy cards depicting it instead of making his usual fare. St. Bernardine’s apostleship of the Holy Name was carried on by St. John Capistran, A.D. 1385-1456, and to them both is attributed the Litany of the Holy Name
Because of the influence of St. Bernardine’s work, the Name “Jesus” was added to the Hail Mary prayer, and the Feast of the Holy Name was later added to the calendar (celebrated on the 1st Sunday of the year, or 2 January if this Sunday falls on the 1st, 6th, or 7th). The office of this Mass was written by Bernardine dei Busti, and it makes use of the beautiful 12th century hymn, Iesu Dulcis Memoria which speaks of His Name and was written by another who had devotion to it, St. Bernard of Clairvaux (A.D. 1090-1153). The entire month of January is devoted to the worship of the Holy Name and to Christ’s Divine Childhood.
Honor the Holy Name of Our Lord, and use it with only the deepest reverence. As St. John the Evangelist described his vision of the end of time when writing from the island of Patmos:.
And He showed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street thereof, and on both sides of the river, was the tree of life, bearing twelve fruits, yielding its fruits every month, and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no curse any more; but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. And they shall see His face: and His Name shall be on their foreheads.
“Iesus” is the nominative case of His Name, used when His Name is the subject of a sentence (e.g., “Iesus saves,” “Iesus wept,” etc.). “Iesu” is the vocative sense, used when addressing Him (it’s also the genitive, ablative, and dative forms of His Name). Early Latin had no letter “J,” hence the spelling. But “J” was introduced later, so in Latin texts, you may see His Name spelled either with an “I” or a “J.”
The custom of bowing the head at the mention of His Name was formally written into law at the Second Council of Lyons, A.D. 1274, convened by Pope Gregory X: “Those who assemble in church should extol with an act of special reverence that Name which is above every Name, than which no other under Heaven has been given to people, in which believers must be saved, the Name, that is, of Jesus Christ, Who will save His people from their sins. Each should fulfil in himself that which is written for all, that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow; whenever that glorious Name is recalled, especially during the sacred Mysteries of the Mass, everyone should bow the knees of his heart, which he can do even by a bow of his head.”