Feast Day: January 3rd
Scripture places great emphasis on a person’s name. In the ancient world, the giving of a name implied an exercise of authority: a creator or dominant figure bestowed a name and so helped set the destiny of the person receiving the name. The name of Jesus Christ is equal in holiness and power to the name of God. Since Jesus is divine, his name (IHS, Jesous, the Greek name for Jesus) is divine, for he is Lord and Savior. Only in Jesus’ name may salvation be found.
The use of the name of Jesus gives power to heal and perform miracles (Mk 16:17; Acts 3:6), to forgive sins (Lk 24:47; Acts 10:43), to exorcise (Lk 10:17), and to baptize (Acts 2:38; 1Cor 6:11).
St. Paul might claim credit for promoting devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus because he wrote in Philippians that God the Father gave Christ Jesus “that name that is above every name” (2:9). This devotion became popular because of twelfth-century Cistercian monks and nuns but especially through the preaching of Saint Bernardine of Siena, a fifteenth-century Franciscan.
Bernardine used devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus as a way of overcoming bitter and often bloody class struggles and family rivalries or vendettas in Italian city-states. The devotion grew, partly because of Franciscan and Dominican preachers. It spread even more widely after the Jesuits began promoting it in the sixteenth century. In 1530, Pope Clement V approved an Office of the Holy Name for the Franciscans. In 1721, Pope Innocent XIII extended the feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus to the entire Church.
Jesus died and rose for the sake of all people. No one can trademark or copyright Jesus’ name. Jesus is the Son of God and son of Mary. Everything that exists was created in and through the Son of God (Col 1:15-20). The name of Jesus is debased if any Christian uses it as justification for berating non-Christians. Jesus reminds us that because we are all related to him we are, therefore, all related to one another.
Ultimately, the entire activity of the Church is undertaken in Jesus’ name, because his name brings life to all who call upon it in faith (Jn 20:31; 1Jn 5:13). The believer is thus called upon to do all things in Christ’s name (Col 3:17), even if doing so provokes the opposition and persecution of the world (Mk 13:13; Acts 5:41; 1Pet 4:14-16).
Quotes related to the Holy Name of Jesus:
“He is the circle of all powers rolled and united into one unity. For that reason, the Word is called the Alpha and the Omega, of whom alone the end becomes the beginning… For that reason, also, to believe in Him and by Him, is to become a unity, being indissolubly united in Him.” –St. Clement of Alexandria (c. 195)
“It is necessary to inquire in what sense Christ is to be understood to be the Door, and in what sense He is the Vine, and why He is called the Word.” –Origen (c. 228)
“Christ is called a Sheep and a Lamb who was to be slain… Christ is also called a Stone… He Himself is both Judge and King.” –St. Cyprian (c. 250)
“He was never called Emmanuel, but Jesus. In Latin, He is called Saving, or Savior, because He comes to bring salvation to all nations. So by this name [of Emmanuel], the prophet declared that God incarnate was about to come to men. For Emmanuel means “God with us.” Because He was born of a virgin, men should confess that God was with them—that is, on the earth and in mortal flesh.” –Lactantius (c. 304)
“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.” –St. Bernardine of Siena (c. 1380-1444)
Bercot, David W., ed. “A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs.” Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1998.
Foley, Leonard, O.F.M., and Pat McCloskey, O.F.M. “Saint of the Day.” Cincinnati: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2009.
Hahn, Scott. “Catholic Bible Dictionary.” New York, NY: Doubleday, 2009.