Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus



In the history of Christianity, we know no man who was so profoundly influenced, completely transformed, by the words, “I am Jesus,”[1] as was St. Paul. That word changed a Saul into a Paul. We know no saint who loved that Name so ardently and perseveringly as St. Paul. We know no apostle who was called so directly and explicitly by Christ to preach that Name and who fulfilled the mission so effectively as the apostle St. Paul. He is for every man of the Holy Name Society, especially for the Levites and the members of the priesthood, a perfect model. Before St. Paul understood the profound, the sacred meaning of that adorable Name, he hated it and persecuted it by persecuting those that adored it, “breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord.”[2]
When on the way to Damascus, “suddenly a light from heaven shined round about him. And falling on the ground, he heard a voice saying to him: Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? Who said: Who art thou, Lord? And He: I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest.”[3] He lost the light of his eyes, but received the light of Faith. Hate was burned out by the flame of love. The persecutor Saul became the apostle, the martyr, the great Saint Paul. The Name of Jesus changed a Saul into a Paul. Fully detached from the world and from self, miraculously, in an instant, totally and forever dedicated and consecrated to that King of Heaven, he said, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?”[4], and the final answer was “Carry My Name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel.”[5] Paul obeyed. “Immediately he preached Jesus in the synagogues, that He was the Son of God.”[6]

The Profound Meaning of the Holy Name
In the words “Carry My Name,” addressed by Christ from His heavenly throne to a Saul prostrated in the sand, Christ Himself gives His Name a profound, a comprehensive meaning. Jesus meant by the words, “Carry My Name,” — “Be a witness unto Me. Tell the Gentiles and the kings and the children of Israel all about My Name: My nature, divine and human; My life, from the cradle to the Cross; My mission for the redemption of the world; My reward, so great that no eye can see it, no ear can hear it, and no heart can feel it.” All this, and much more Christ, the Son of God, sums up in the word, “My Name.” No word in heaven or on earth has a meaning so profound. St. Paul, full of the Holy Spirit, understood the Name as Christ gave it, and he also understood His mission. He begins almost all his epistles with words similar to those addressed to the Galatians: “Paul, an apostle, not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead . . . and He gave Himself for our sins that He might deliver us from the present wicked world, according to the will of God and our Father, to whom is glory forever and forever.”[7] Or, again, as we read in his epistle to the Romans: “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle ... in all nations, for His Name.”[8]
These written words reflected, no doubt, the beginning, the substance and the nature of all the instructions in these discourses, in season and out of season, by St. Paul. In his fourteen epistles we are told he used the name of Jesus more than two hundred times, and the name of Christ more than four hundred times. That Name was constantly in his mind and always on his lips, to manifest and make known the “unsearchable riches”[9] hidden in it. The enemies of St. Paul and of the other apostles understood well the full meaning of the Name of Jesus. They persecuted them, even as Christ had foretold, and said: "Let us threaten them that they speak no more in this Name."[10] They hated that Name because they hated the Person who bore it, because they hated the doctrine and the commandments of that Divine Person. Peter and John answering said to their enemies: “We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”[11] All Peter and John had seen and heard in Christ and from Christ during the three years of Christ's public life was for them contained in “that Name.” The meaning the Church gives to that Name, we find clearly expressed in her liturgical prayers. St. Bernardine of Siena, who preached the Name so eloquently and effectively, with such ardor and fervor in all parts of Italy, illustrates his enlightened conception of it in his classic Litany of the Holy Name, which he composed, which the Church approves and recommends, which she has enriched with great indulgences, and uses so frequently in her liturgical services.

When we recite that Litany thoughtfully, we know that “Jesus” means, first of all, “Son of the Living God,” and, as Son of God, the “Splendor of the Father,” the “Brightness of Eternal Light,” the “King of Glory,” the “Sun of Justice.” Secondly, “Jesus” means the “Son of the Virgin Mary,” and as Son of man, the “Model of all Virtues,” “amiable,” “admirable,” “most powerful.” Thirdly, “Jesus” means “our Redeemer,” “zealous for souls,” who by the mysteries of His life from His Incarnation to His Glory, “must deliver us from all evil,” from “eternal death,” to be our “Christ of Glory.” The life of Jesus explains and illustrates the Name of Jesus. Our devotion to the Holy Name must not be separated in thought or word from the personality of Jesus, even as the Church forbids us to picture or paint the Sacred Heart separate from the Divine Body. All the devotions to the Son of God have in common that sacred personality of Christ, even as in the Masses which commemorate the various mysteries, the Canon is practically the same. The Collects, Epistle, and Gospel differ. They call our attention to and fix it upon some special mystery or some special virtue of Christ, thereby casting a new, bright, heavenly light on the Canon of the Mass. They make the whole Mass, for instance, in honor of the Holy Name, seem to differ much from that of the Sacred Heart, or from that of the Precious Blood, thus proving the greatness of Christ, and our littleness.

As St. Paul was called to carry that Name to the Gentiles, to the kings, and to the children of Israel, every priest has that same sublime mission. Even every Catholic layman, in this respect, belongs to the “Kingly Priesthood.”[12] “Carry My Name to all nations,” said the Master to all His disciples. A great, providential help to bring that adorable Name in its full meaning before the people is the Holy Name Society. Its end is not merely negative, to avoid and prevent sins against the Second Commandment. Its first and most important end is positive, to make known the meaning of that Name, to plant it in the heart of every individual that it may take root, grow and bear fruit that every man may feel the sweet, adorable sentiments so well expressed in the hymn of the Vespers of the Holy Name:

Jesus, the very thought of Thee
With sweetness fills my breast;
But sweeter far Thy face to see,
And in Thy presence rest.
No sound, no harmony so gay,
Can art or music frame;
No thought can reach, no word can say,
The sweets of Thy blest Name.
Jesus, our hope, when we repent,
Sweet source of all our grace;
Sole comfort in our banishment;
Oh, what when face to face!
Well, therefore, may Levites, priests and prelates, join the Holy Name Society themselves, fully to enjoy its many advantages, to gain its great indulgences, to pledge themselves publicly and solemnly to endeavor to fulfill the first obligation of membership, namely, “to labor individually for the glory of God’s Name, and to make it known to those who are ignorant of it.”
The Crucifix, the Great Book of the Holy Name
St. Paul studied that Name as he saw it nailed over the Sacred Remains on the Cross of Calvary. He knew nothing “but Jesus Christ, and Him Crucified.”[13] The Passion of Christ was the great subject of His meditations, as it has been that of all the great Doctors and mystics of the Church. “Pilate wrote a title also, and he put it upon the Cross. And the writing was: Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” “This title, therefore, many of the Jews did read: because the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, in Greek, and in Latin.”[14] As we see the Holy Name there, blood-stained, we perceive its value. The cold, pale, wounded, pierced, nailed, thorn-crowned corpse indicates clearly the price a God paid for that Name. “You are bought with a great price,”[15] says St. Paul. There we see that it cost our Saviour much to become a Jesus, a Redeemer, a Christ, which means the Anointed, the King.
In that book St. Paul and others study to see the divine power of that Name. It darkened the sun; it shook the earth; it tore the rocks in two. “Holy and terrible is His Name,”[16] but to the good it is like “oil poured out.”[17] It healed the wounds of the penitent robber, it strengthened the soul of the adoring, loving Mary Magdalen. Like oil poured out, it gave light that enlightened the centurion. Like oil consumed, it consoled the Blessed Mother and the Beloved Disciple St. John. On the Cross, St. Paul studied it and learned to realize its breadth. He saw that it is Catholic, all-embracing. He saw it in the three languages of the world, indicating that it was meant for the whole world. He saw representatives of all nations standing under it, looking up to it, and for all of them it was as “music to the ear,” as “honey to the lips,” as “joy to the heart.” St. Paul saw its breadth, and his own mind began to broaden in it. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 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.”[18] Notice in this quotation how St. Paul indeed saw its breadth and depth, reaching from the heights of heaven to the lowest regions of hell.
Saul, who had been breathing out threats and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, became the Paul, the lover of all nations. The Name on the Cross taught him to “become all things to all men,” that Christ-like he “might save all.”[19] That Name on the Cross taught him to “count all things to be but loss for the excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ; for whom,” he says, rejoicing, “I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but dung.”[20] That Name caught his mind, broadened and purified it, lifted it up to Paradise, to the third heaven, and enabled it “to hear secret words, which it is not granted to man to utter.”[21] “Be ye followers of Me, as I also am of Christ.”[22] Like St. Paul, we must study the Holy Name in the Book of the Crucifix. In the history of two thousand years we cannot find a better book to enlighten and broaden our mind, to help us that the mind which was in Christ and in Paul may also be in us. The frequent meditation on the Name of Jesus nailed to the Cross will help us as it helped Paul to go beyond the narrow views of self, of worldly considerations, of national limits, and inspire us to communicate with equal zeal the unsearchable riches of that Name to the Gentiles, the King and the children of Israel. All who follow St. Paul in studying Christ Crucified will, like St. Paul, have the mind of Christ, and hear the secrets of heaven. In the different languages of the people was the Name nailed to the wood of the Cross. In the various languages of the people must that Name be explained to the people.
The Crucifix, the Book of Love
No apostle expresses his love for Jesus so fervently and emphatically as St. Paul. “Who, then, shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or persecution, or the sword? Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.”[23] These noble words pronounced by St. Paul, studying that Name on the Cross, he indeed proved true. Tribulations and distress of all sorts he experienced “in journeying often, in perils of water, in perils of robbers, in perils from my own nation, in perils from the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils from false brethren.”[24] But all these perils could not separate him from the love of Christ. There came imprisonments, shipwrecks, scourgings; but all the pains and tears they brought could not separate Paul from that love of Christ. Finally, kneeling he saw the sword lifted over his head. It separated his head from his body, but that sword could not separate the heart of Paul from the Lord Jesus Christ.

This love which Paul learned from Christ Crucified made his own heart Christ-like, Catholic, apostolic, zealous. It made him long to “preach among the Gentiles, the unsearchable riches of Christ,” to make known to all “the charity of Christ which surpasseth all knowledge.”[25] It pressed him— “the charity of Christ presseth us”[26] —to carry that Name to the Gentiles, to the kings, to the children of Israel. So great was his love for all nations that, if possible, he was willing "to be an anathema from Christ,"[27] to bring the Name of Christ to them. The Name of Christ on the Cross lifted the heart of Paul to the Cross—“God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world; for I bear the marks of the Lord Jesus in my body.”[28]
Let all the members of the Holy Name Society, “meditate upon these things, be wholly in these things,”[29] These words which Paul wrote to Timothy, apply to every priest. Every priest must meditate on the Name as it stands on the Cross, the expression of greatest love. The love of Jesus must make the priestly heart love the people, and all classes of the people. Jesus on the Cross had a loving parting word for all—His Mother, His Disciple, the penitent Mary Magdalen, the penitent robber, the men who in ignorance reviled and blasphemed Him. Thus, a priest must have a good word for all, to help all in the Name of Christ. The Name of Christ on the Cross transformed the heart of Paul, and formed the heart of Christ in him. That love of the Name of Christ made him the Apostle of the Holy Name.

Paul Loved the Holy Name with All His Strength
St Paul honored his ministry and gave himself to it with all his strength. His long, arduous mission journeys we all know. He did spend himself according to his own words, nobly and fearlessly to bring that Name to all nations. Christ had said: “I will show him how great things he must suffer for My Name's sake.”[30] He suffered with joy “who now rejoice in my sufferings,”[31] for the sufferings made him Christ-like, and helped him to attain the end of his mission, “always bearing about in our body the mortification of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our bodies.”[32] Preaching the Holy Name was the first and principal means he used to make that Name known. The word coming from so loving a heart, is a living word, and touches the heart of the hearers. Frequently he used the pen to prepare the work, and to make the fruit of that work lasting. His fourteen Epistles, as we have remarked before, indicate clearly that he knew nothing but Jesus Christ.
His apostolic zeal made him pray for and seek help. Such help he found in his disciples Timothy and Titus. How he exhorted them to “stir up the grace of God which was in thee”[33] as to “meditate upon these things, to be wholly in these things”[34] to “hold the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me in faith, and in the love which is in Christ Jesus,”[35] and then to “preach the word, reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine.”[36] All this to make known Jesus Christ. St. Paul appreciated much the help the saintly women gave him. It is true, he wrote to Timothy: “I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to use authority over the man; but to be in silence,”[37] yet he names and salutes many of them “who hath much labored in the Lord,”[38] as “helpers in Christ Jesus.”[39]

Every pastor, every priest needs help. He sees the harvest great and ripe, but the laborers few. The laborers are there, but they stand idle, because no one hires them. The best way to hire the men and get them to work in the fertile fields of the Lord’s vineyard is to make them Holy Name men. It is most edifying to notice how enthusiastic and energetic Holy Name men become for the holy cause, how willing and ready they are to help, if only they have a leader. What good they can accomplish! Every zealous director will soon find men, young and old, like Titus and Timothy, ready and willing to help, and able to help. Every priest and spiritual director will instruct the good women to encourage the men in their Holy Name duties, and to teach the children at home to bless the Name of Jesus with their innocent lips. Every pastor and priest should, like St. Paul, make use of the pen and write about the Holy Name, or the Society of the Holy Name, in church calendars, in parish circulars, in private communications, since for every one of us as for St. Paul, “to live is Christ: and to die is gain.”[40]

St. Paul, divinely chosen and appointed to be the apostle of the Holy Name, enlightened by the Holy Ghost, grasped well the divine meaning of that Name and made it fully his own, “putting on the Lord Jesus Christ.”[41] And then by preaching and praying, by suffering and writing, by ordaining men and encouraging women, he taught all to give honor and glory to Jesus Christ, “the King of Ages, Immortal and Invisible, the only God.”[42] He said little to denounce sin. The sins of profanity and the vain abuse of the Holy Name were probably little known in his day. All took the Name of the Lord seriously, whether they were for it or against it. The mission of St. Paul was more religious; it was to make all love that Name, and call upon that Name in their prayers. “If any man love not our Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema, maranathá[43] (a thousand times condemned).

This positive end of the Holy Name Society is too little understood and too much neglected. To avoid and prevent cursing, swearing, profanity is good, but not necessarily a religious act. Every gentleman must do that. The Holy Name Society is essentially a religious society—whose end and means and reward are religious. The Holy Name must be adored. Every knee must bend at the sound, every Christian must use it in his prayer, every soul must be saved by it. Every member of the Holy Name Society is in a special manner consecrated to Christ, and he receives Communion frequently to remain always in that spiritual, holy union with Christ.
This is what is needed so much to-day, when irreligion and religious indifference are so widespread. Our men are spiritually lame, like the cripple whom Peter and John met begging at the gate Beautiful of the Temple. Peter said: “Silver and gold I have none; but what I have, I give thee: in the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, arise and walk. And taking him by the right hand, he lifted him up, and forthwith his feet and soles received strength. And he leaping up, stood, and walked, and went in with them into the Temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.”[44] Our workingmen especially are restless and unhappy. They seek happiness in silver and gold. The pastor, the priest, must take them by the hand, place the Name of Jesus on their lips, keep the image of Christ before their mind, let the light of that Name shine before them, make the love of that Name burn in their heart, that they may enter the temple leaping for joy and praising God.
St. Paul received the sublime, the divine mission to carry the Name of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles and the Kings and the children of Israel. He fulfilled his mission faithfully. Dying, he could say: "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the Faith; as to the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of Justice, which the Lord, the Just Judge, will render to me in that day.”[45] He will be the crown of glory of all who, like St. Paul, spend themselves to spread His Name "laboring during their whole life for the glory and honor of the Holy Name of God, to merit to share in the glory of the apostles, the martyrs and the confessors, who labored and died for the Name of Jesus Christ."
Clement M. Thuente, O.P.
Minneapolis, Minnesota.

[1] Acts 22:8.
[2] Acts 9:1.
[3] Acts 9:3, 4, 5.
[4] Acts 9:6.
[5] Acts 9:15.
[6] Acts 9:20.
[7] Galatians 1:1, 4-5.
[8] Romans 1:1, 5.
[9] Ephesians 3:8.
[10] Acts 4:17.
[11] Acts 3:20.
[12] 1 Peter 2:9.
[13] 1 Corinthians 2:2.
[14] John 19:19, 20.
[15] 1 Corinthians 6:20.
[16] Psalms 110:9.
[17] Canticles 1:2.
[18] Philippians 2:5, 8, 9, 10.
[19] 1 Corinthians 9:22.
[20] Philippians 3:8.
[21] 2 Corinthians 12:4.
[22] 1 Corinthians 2:1.
[23] Romans 8:35, 39.
[24] 2 Corinthians 11:26.
[25] Ephesians 3:8, 19.
[26] 2 Corinthians 5:14.
[27] Romans 9:3.
[28] Galatians 6:14, 17.
[29] 1 Timothy 4:15.
[30] Acts 9:16.
[31] Colossians 1:24.
[32] 2 Corinthians 4:10.
[33] 2 Timothy 1:6.
[34] 1 Timothy 4:15.
[35] 2 Timothy 1:13.
[36] 2 Timothy 4:2.
[37] 1 Timothy 2:11.
[38] Romans 16:12.
[39] Romans 16: 9.
[40] Philippians 1:21.
[41] Romans 13:14.
[42] 1 Timothy 1:17.
[43] 1 Corinthians 16:22.
[44] Acts 3:6, 7, 8.
[45] 2 Timothy 4:8.

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