The Most Holy Name of Jesus A Sermon by Servant of God, Isaac Hecker (Part One: 12 January 2015)
“From the rising of the sun until its going down, the name of the Lord is worthy of praise.” (Psalm 113)
The devout Christian who has learned to know the Redeemer, comprehends the glory and happiness of Christ’s love for us. Every feast in Christ’s honor is celebrated with unspeakable spiritual joy and devotion. The feast of the Holy Name which we celebrate today is one of special glory because its focus is Christmas. Every mystery of Christ, every mercy, every title of honor, every benefit, every effort of divine love which we adore forms a whole sequence of our redemption and justification. The sacred name of Jesus presents to our minds the majesty and glory of his divinity while at the same time we are aware of the endearing charms of his sacred humanity. His name is the title of his supreme majesty and dominion, his glorious victory over sin while at the same time it is to us the expression of all graces and blessings of which he is the inexhaustible source.
In times past we have directed our attention on this feast to the contemplation of the great mystery of the Incarnation. We have celebrated with joy and gladness the festival of the birth of the eternal Son of God the Father among us. On this occasion he first shed his precious blood in the feast of the circumcision and we have come with the wise men from the East to adore Him and lay our treasures at His feet. Today holy mother church invites us to pay homage to his sacred name. The church seeks to cherish and to direct our love and veneration to that blessed name and together to increase our reverence for it. Surely there is no one among us, no one worthy of the name of Christian who needs to be reminded of why this sacred name is venerated.
In the first place it comes from God Himself. It was necessary for God the Father to give a name to Him who is the Son of God. It was necessary that the Father give the name to His own Son, for God alone understood the consubstantial eternal Word, the boundless perfection of His divine nature and the unsearchable mystery of the Incarnation and His office as the Redeemer of the world. Therefore was this glorious name conceived in the infinite intelligence of the Almighty. Therefore was it declared by the ministry of an angel that He should be called Jesus because He will save His people from their sins. Therefore it becomes to us to honor and revere this name that comes from a source which none can be higher or more exalted.
Commentary by Rev. Paul Robichaud CSP
The feast of the Holy Name of Jesus has its origin in the New Testament. In the Gospel of Luke an angel tells Mary that God has chosen a name for the infant and this same message is delivered to Joseph in the Gospel of Matthew. Saint Matthew also discusses the meaning of the two names of the child, “Jesus” for “Yahweh saves” and “Emmanuel” for “God is with us.” Father Hecker makes the same point in his sermon when he states that God the Father has named God the Son - who is the Word of God made flesh. In chapter 16 of the Gospel of John, Jesus says ”whatever you ask in my name, my Father will give you.” This same point is made by Paul in his letter to the Romans. This is the origin of ending prayers in a variety of styles such as “in his most holy name,” or “through Christ Our Lord.” Reverence for the name of Jesus goes back to early Christianity.
At the time of Father Hecker, a feast day had been set aside during the Christmas season for the Holy Name of Jesus. In time it was eventually merged with the feast of the Circumcision and today has replaced this feast day, de-emphasizing the circumcision rite and like Father Hecker’s sermon, placing emphasis on the power of the name of God. Just as Moses asked God for his name on Sinai so that Moses could call upon him, so Christians know the name of the God man and live in the grace, blessing and power of his name.
Paulist Father Paul Robichaud CSP is Historian of the Paulist Fathers and Postulator of the Cause of Father Hecker. His office is located at the Hecker Center in Washington D.C.