Holy Name of Jesus
It may be argued that devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus began with St. Paul’s epistle to the Philippians (2:9) when he wrote that God the Father gave Christ Jesus “that name that is above every name”, but in reality this devotion became popular because of 12th-century Cistercian monks and nuns but especially through the preaching of St. Bernardine of Siena, a 15th-century Franciscan (May 20th).
St. 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. He wrote: ““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”. The devotion grew, partly through the efforts of Franciscan and Dominican preachers, but spread even more widely after the Jesuits began promoting it in the 16th century.
This veneration also extend to the IHS christogram (a monogram of the Holy Name), derived from the Greek word IHSOUS (ΙΗΣΟΥΣ) for Jesus, or referring to” Iesus Hominum Salvator” (Jesus Savior of mankind), representing the Holy Name.
In the Gospel of Luke (1:31) an angel tells Mary to name her child Jesus, and in Matthew (1:21) an angel tells Joseph the same thing. The message of the angel in Joseph’s dream includes the origin of the name Jesus, and has salvific implications when the angel instructs Joseph: “you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins”. It is the only place in the New Testament where “saves his people” appears with “sins”. This citation from Matthew provides the beginnings of the Christology of the name Jesus. At once it achieves two goals: affirming Jesus as the Savior and emphasizing that the name was not selected at random, but based on a Heavenly command.
Reverence for the Holy Name is emphasized by Saint Paul in his epistle to the Philippians (2:10) where he writes: “That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth”. In Romans (10:13) Paul reiterates the salvific nature of the Holy Name by stating that those who “call on the name of the Lord” will be saved.
In 1530, Pope Clement V approved an “Office of the Holy Name” for the Franciscans. In 1721, Pope Innocent XIII extended this feast to the entire Church. At present, the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus is celebrated on January 2nd, but Eastern Rite Catholics, Anglicans and Lutherans observe the feast on January 1st, in conjunction with the circumcision of Jesus.