Anna Krohn: brand “me” could learn a lot from the Holy Name

A Dominican friar prays in Blackfriars church, Oxford. In 1274 Pope Gregory X entrusted the order with promotion of devotion to the Holy Name. Photo: Fr Laurence Lew OP

This Boxing Day, the anonymous wizards behind Facebook proclaimed in a jolly post that, “Today Christmas is over!”

Nothing could demonstrate so succinctly the growing rift between the secularised calendar and lexicon and those Christian.

Even so, the 26 December: St Stephen’s Day or even Boxing Day, still carries strongly theological links with the twelve-day long festival marking the Birth of Jesus Christ. The “boxing” in the title, refers to the custom of boxing up the abundant food or goods of the season to share. What a contrast this is to the hysterical consumerism of the “boxing day” sales!

Furthermore, each day of Christmastide, has a special commemoration of a martyr or theological truth which links it to and prolongs our reflection upon the mystery of Christ’s birthday and of his saving mission into this world.

One particularly rich though nearly forgotten commemoration which falls in this time is The Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus on the 3 January.

This celebrates many densely interwoven Biblically sourced threads about the power of “naming”, of the identification of Mary’s son as the Word (or Name) of God and of the genuine love and dramatic awe of saints and holy ones uttering God’s name. It is a warning against the emptying and trashing of the Divine Names. (Notice as God is forgotten, so the OMG slogan grows!).

The “naming” of any new born baby is not the choice of a “brand name”, but rightly is a quasi-sacramental event, laced with memory, meaning and aspiration. For Christians it marks the sacrament itself, immersing of our lives and bodies in that of Jesus himself: announcing not merely a “first” but a Christian name.

The “Holy Name” was given particular emphasis in the medieval and 14th centuries. This “sign” of Christ was central to the devotions of the Franciscan and Dominican Orders and later became central to the insignia of the Jesuits and thus “IHS” appears surrounded by beams of sunlight in Pope Francis’ coat of arms.

The earliest disciples of Jesus Christ took seriously his exhortation to “ask anything in my name” (John 16:23-24).

The apostles proclaimed the name of the Saviour to heal the sick and to cast out evil spirits. St Paul writes in his Letter to the Philippians, “… at Jesus name every knee must bend in the heavens, on the earth and under the earth, and every tongue proclaim to the glory of God the Father” (2:10-11).

Pope Saint John Paul II reinstated the 3 January Feast, and reminded us that the “name” of Jesus was not an arbitrary or fashionable one, but was revealed to Mary by the Angel of God at the Annunciation. It was a title she whispered, called and cried to herself, to him and after him: from the cradle to the Cross and beyond.

He exhorts us to call on her to lovingly mother and re-teach our lips and heart the name and the reality “from which comes our salvation”.

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