Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Power of the Name of Jesus

As we've reached the half way point of Advent and near the high holy day of Christ's Mass, I thought it might be a good time to stop for a moment with the carols and elves, the shopping mall Santas and Charlie Brown specials, and take a moment together to reflect on the Holy Name of the one we adore as God, the one who deigned to take on the flesh of a babe in swaddling clothes to redeem the world (that means you and me).

Sadly, the Holy Name is more frequently heard in these latter days as a thoughtless curse, truly "taken in vain." But such needn't, indeed can't, dull our minds to the awesome power of those most holy syllables: Je-sus.

Among the great saints known for their devotion to the Holy Name, perhaps none stands out as exemplary more than San Bernardino di Siena who crisscrossed Italy in the early fifteenth century preaching against vice, stirring up faith, and displacing the local warlike factions' symbols with the Holy Name, as represented by a symbol of his own devising.

As eloquent as San Bernardino's life and words are, I thought we'd turn today to another great saint, one perhaps more familiar, a doctor of the Church - Saint Bernard of Clairvaux for some deeper insight on this particular devotion.
The name of Jesus is more than light; it is also food. Do you not feel increase of strength as often as you remember it? What other name can so enrich the man who meditates? What can equal its power to refresh the harassed senses, to buttress the virtues, to add vigor to good and upright habits, to foster chaste affections?
And yet it is even more powerful than that,
It is a medicine. Does one of us feel sad? Let the name of Jesus come into his heart.... Does someone fall into sin? Does his despair even urge him to suicide? Let him but invoke this life-giving name and his will to live will at once be renewed. The hardness of heart that is our common experience, the apathy that bred of indolence, bitterness of mind, repugnance for things of the spirit - have they ever failed to yield in the presence of that saving name? The tears damned up by the barrier of our pride - how have they not burst forth again with sweeter abundance at the thought of Jesus' name? And where is the man, who terrified and trembling before impending peril, has not been suddenly filled with courage and rid of fear by calling on the strength of that name? Where is the man who tossed on the rolling seas of doubt, did not quickly find certitude by recourse to the clarity of Jesus' name? Was ever a man so discouraged, so beaten down by afflictions, to whom the sound of this name did not bring new resolve? In short, to all the ills and disordered to which the flesh is heir, this name is medicine. For proof we have no less than his own promise: "Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me" (Ps. 49:15). 
On the Song of Songs, vol 1, sermon 15, no. 6

Which is exactly why he goes on to say (which is featured in the sidebar of this very blog),
Write what you will, I shall not relish it unless it tells of Jesus. Talk or argue about what you will, I shall not relish it if you exclude the name of Jesus. Jesus to me is honey in the mouth, music in the ear, a song in the heart. 
So let not the Holy Name be a course word for you or those around you. It is the name of our Lord and King. It is the name at which every knee shall one day bow (yes, that means you too atheists). Bow your head reverent, if discreetly, when His name is mentioned (especially at Mass, as was the traditional practice before Vatican 2). Call on the Holy Name whenever you are in distress or need. And join with me in praying for the reparation of the blasphemy our culture mistakes for sophistication or humor,
May the most holy, most sacred, most adorable, most mysterious and unutterable Name of God be always praised, blessed, loved, adored and glorified in heaven on earth and under the earth, by all the creatures of God, and by the Sacred Heart of our Lord Jesus Christ in the most Holy Sacrament of the altar. Amen. 

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