Monday, January 2, 2012

Feast of The Most Holy Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Today in the Traditional Roman Calendar it is is the Feast of The Most Holy Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  Like the Feast of The Circumcision of Christ, this day was also dropped after Vatican II.  These two feasts are actually very closely connected to each other and that is probably why they were both dropped. 

Why would the Church dedicate an entire feast to the Name of Jesus.  In the traditional breviary, a passage from chapter 3 of the Acts of the Apostles is included in which a lame beggar asks Peter and John for alms.  Peter's answer is:
"Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk."
With this, the beggar is healed.  Naturally the people wondered at this great healing, and Peter says to them: 

"And in the faith of his name, this man, whom you have seen and known, hath his name strengthened; and the faith which is by him, hath given this perfect soundness in the sight of you all."

Later, the Jewish leaders, feeling threatened as they always did, questioned Peter and John.  Peter told them: 
Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, if we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other : for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
The above passage is somewhat controversial because it says that salvation can be found only in Christ - not in the Muslim religion, or Hindi, or Buddhism, or even in the Jewish religion.  Sets up quite a roadblock to what is now called ecumenism.  That could be a reason why this day was dropped from the calendar. 

The Traditional Breviary has two excellent readings from St. Bernard the Abbot.
When the Holy Ghost maketh the Bride to say unto the Bridegroom : Thy Name is as ointment poured forth : he likeneth that Name to the oil of anointing ; and his figure of speech is not an idle one. For, verily, oil giveth illumination, nourishment, and unction, in that it doth burn as fire, doth feed the flesh, and doth soothe pain. Thus, as oil is unto us as light, food, and healing, so also is the Name of the Bridegroom. For to preach the Name of Jesus, is to give light ; to think on it, is to feed the soul ; to call on it, is to win grace and unction. Let us consider this point by point. First, as to illumination, what (thinkest thou) hath made the light of the Faith so suddenly and so brightly to shine throughout the whole world but the preaching of the Name of Jesus? Is it not by the light of this Name that God hath called us into his own marvellous light? For in the light thereof we are enlightened ; and in his light we do see the light, of which Paul speaketh, when he so truly saith of us : Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord.
This is the Name which the Apostle was commanded to bear before Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel, the Name which he bore as a light to enlighten his people, crying everywhere : The night is far spent, the day is at hand ; let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light ; let us walk honestly as in the day. To all men he pointed out this Name as a candle set upon a candlestick, preaching in every place Jesus and him crucified. Yea, that Name shone forth and dazzled every eye that beheld it. Did it not come like lightning out of the mouth of Peter to give bodily strength to the feet of the lame man, and to clear the sight of many a blind soul? Cast he not fire when he said : In the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk?
Secondly, the Name of Jesus is not a Name of light only, but is our meat also. Dost thou ever call it to mind, and remain unstrengthened? Is there anything like it to enrich the soul of him that thinketh on it? What is there like it to restore the fagged senses, to fortify strength, to give nurture unto good lives and pure affections? The soul is fed on husks if that whereon it feedeth lack seasoning with this Name, which is the very salt of the earth. If thou writest, thou hast no meaning for me except I read of Jesus there. If thou dost preach, or dispute, thou hast no meaning for me except I hear of Jesus there. The mention of Jesus is honey in the mouth, music in the ear, and gladness in the heart. So far we have been concerned with the Name of Jesus as our spiritual food : now thirdly, let us mention the same as the medicine of our healing. Is any sorrowful among us? Let the thought of Jesus come into his heart, and spring into his mouth. Behold, when the day of that Name beginneth to break, every cloud will flee away, and there will be a great calm. Doth any fall into sin? Doth any draw nigh to a hopeless death? And if he do but call on the life-giving Name of Jesus, will he not draw the breath of a new life again?
There is another wonderful reading from St. Bernard about the connection between the circumcison of Jesus and His Most Holy Name:
Behold a mystery, great and full of wonder! The child is circumcised, and his Name is called Jesus. Why are these two things thus mentioned together? It would seem that circumcision should rather be for the saved than for the Saviour ; that the Saviour ought rather to be Circumciser than circumcised. But behold here the Mediator between God and men, how even from his childhood he joineth the things of the Highest to the things of the lowest, the things of God to the things of men. He is born of a woman, but her womb is made fruitful without the loss of the flower of her virginity. He is wrapped in swaddling-bands, but these swaddling-bands are a theme for the jubilation of Angels. He is laid in a manger, but a bright star standeth in heaven over the place. So also in his Circumcision, the ceremony gave proof of the reality of the Manhood which he had taken, and that Name which is above every name proclaimed the glory of his blessed Majesty. As very son of Abraham he underwent circumcision ; he assumed the Name of Jesus as very Son of God. [These two feast days proclaim the dual nature of Christ:  the circumcision had to do with the human nature of Christ; the Name of Jesus proclaims his Godhood]

My Jesus doth not bear this Name as an empty, honourific title, as did all others before him who were so named. In him this Name is not the mere shadow cast by the great Name of God as our Saviour ; rather it is he himself that giveth the true meaning to this Name. Wherefore his Name was revealed from heaven, as saith the Evangelist. After he was born, men called him Jesus ; but Angels called him Jesus even before he was conceived in the womb. Thus this same Lord is Saviour to the Angels as well as to man ; he became man's Saviour at his incarnation ; but to the Angels he was Saviour from the beginning of their creation. And therefore, as saith the Evangelist : His Name was called Jesus, which was so named of the Angel before he was conceived in the womb. And thus is fulfilled the Scripture which saith : At the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established. So it was that the Word which the Prophet saith was cut short for Jewry is made manifest in the Gospel in all fulness, to wit : The Word was made flesh.
However, it is fitting that the Child which was born for man should, at the moment of his Circumcision, be called Saviour by man : because from that moment he began to work for our salvation by shedding for us that most pure blood. Nor should Christians need to ask why the Lord Christ willed to be circumcised. He was circumcised for the same reason for which he was born, and for which he suffered. He desired none of these things for himself but all for the elect. He was neither born in sin, nor circumcised from sin, nor did he die for his own sin ; but rather, he did all these things because of our sins. He was called Jesus (saith the Gospel) by the Angel, before he was conceived in the womb. That is to say, this Name was not merely attributed to him ; he was truly what he was called, for it was his from the very beginning ; he was Saviour by his very nature, so that this Name was natural to him, and therefore it was not bestowed upon him by any creature, man or Angel.

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