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Link to the Office for the Feast of St. Pius X, our secondary patron.  You can browse through the various Hours of the Office and get a feel for what to expect.


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  Holy Name of Jesus

January 4, 2015

Blessed Be the Name of the Lord

Last Thursday we celebrated the Feast of the Circumcision of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Today we celebrate the Feast of his Most Holy Name. In truth, these two feasts are one and the same, as according to Jewish custom, a newborn son was both circumcised and named on the eighth day after his delivery. These rituals of the ancient law given to the Jews by God were the defining moment of a new baby’s life, and Our Blessed Lord, who had come to fulfill the law, not to destroy it, as he said, gave himself no dispensations from its observation.

This first encounter with the priests of the temple had its elements of joy and sorrow. It was a joyful occasion just as our own Christian baptismal rites are celebrated festively, often with christening parties after the church service. But in the Jewish rite of initiation, circumcision, there is also the element of pain and sorrow. After all, the tiny baby is to shed his blood for the very first time. In Our Lord’s case, this was of no small importance, we must remember that these few drops of his Most Precious Blood were enough to redeem all of mankind from all their sins, past, present and future.

The Feast of the Holy Name is scheduled to be celebrated on the Sunday between the Circumcision and the Feast of the Epiphany, that is, on the Sunday that occurs on January 2, 3, 4 or 5. However, if there is no Sunday on those dates, it is celebrated instead on January 2, the very day after the Feast of the Circumcision. The close association between the Name of Jesus and the first spilling of his Blood is emphasized by this proximity of the two feasts, and we should consider the reason why.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux explains the connection in his sermon on the Circumcision. “My Jesus,” he says, “doth not bear this Name as an empty, honourific title, as did all others before him who were so named. In him this Name is not the mere shadow cast by the great Name of God as our Saviour; rather it is he himself that giveth the true meaning to this Name.” In other words the meaning of the name Jesus is Saviour, but for Our Lord, it is not just a name but the essence of who he is. He is the Saviour.

St. Bernard goes on to say that “it is fitting that the Child which was born for man should, at the moment of his Circumcision, be called Saviour by man: because from that moment he began to work for our salvation by shedding for us that most pure blood.” The Christ Child, in other words, was given the name of Saviour, and immediately began to save us by those first few little drops of Blood.

The Holy Name of Jesus brings help in bodily needs, consolation in spiritual trials, and protection against Satan and his wicked snares. It is in the Name of Jesus that we obtain any and all blessings from God, and all we ask of God, we ask in Jesus’ Holy Name.

Surely the greatest promoter of devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus was St. Bernardine of Siena. By his efforts, the custom of adding the Name of Jesus to the Ave Maria was spread in Italy, and from there to the Universal Church. When St. Bernardine traveled about the cities of Italy, he carried with him a copy of the monogram of the Holy Name, surrounded by rays, painted on a wooden tablet. With this he used to bless the sick, and many great miracles attest to the efficacy of his prayers. This monogram or emblem representing the Holy Name of Jesus consisted of the three letters: IHS. In the Middle Ages the Name of Jesus was written: IHESUS; the monogram contains the first and last letter of the Holy Name. Whenever St. Bernardine finished his sermons he would display the monogram on his wooden tablet to the faithful, exhorting them to prostrate themselves and adore the Redeemer of mankind. It was his practice to recommend that the monogram of Jesus be placed over the city gates of the cities and above the doors of each dwelling place. If you walk around the city of Siena today you will see countless examples of where this was put into practice, and one can scarcely walk more than a few yards without seeing the IHS monogram prominently displayed. Because the manner in which St. Bernardine preached this devotion was new, he was accused by his enemies, and brought before the tribunal of Pope Martin V. But St. Bernardine’s disciple, St. John Capistran, defended his master so successfully that the pope not only permitted the worship of the Holy Name, but also assisted at a procession in which the holy monogram was carried. Today the tablet used by St. Bernardine is venerated at the church of Santa Maria in Ara Coeli at Rome.

The IHS monogram representing the Holy Name of Jesus is sometimes erroneously interpreted to mean the three initial letters of: "Jesus Hominum Salvator" (Jesus Saviour of Men). The Jesuits took this idea and made the IHS the emblem of their Society, adding a cross over the H and three nails under it. Consequently a new explanation of the emblem was invented, pretending that the nails originally were a "V", and that the monogram stands for "In Hoc Signo Vinces". Students of Church History will remember that these words mean “In This Sign Thou Shalt shall Conquer”, and were the words which, according to a legendary account, Constantine saw in the heavens under the Sign of the Cross before an important battle. After his victory in this great Battle of the Milvian Bridge in the year 312, Constantine was converted to Christianity, signaling the end, at least for a time, of the persecution of the Christians by Rome.

Until the Second Vatican Council, the Jesuits held the Holy Name in great reverence, and used to organize grand processions on the feastday in its honour. But the Jesuits are not the only religious order to have a special devotion to the Holy Name. The task of founding the Holy Name Society was given by Pope Gregory X to the Dominicans, specifically to Blessed John of Vercelli, in the year 1274. The Church ordered that an altar of the Holy Name should be erected in every Dominican church, and that societies or confraternities of the Holy Name should be established everywhere.

Numerous indulgences have been granted by multiple Popes over the eight centuries since the founding of the Holy Name Society, branches of which have been formed in parishes all over the world. A hundred years ago In the United States alone, the Society boasted over half a million members. The majority of men in every parish were members in those days!
Since Vatican II of course, numbers have dwindled as in every other Catholic institution. The Church no longer promotes such devotions but seems to prefer to embrace non-Catholic and often heretical substitutes. Modern popes seem to prefer holding hands with Jews to pray for a Messiah rather than to promote devotion to the Holy Name of that Messiah. They are more interested in gay rights than God’s rights, and do not even appear to know any more who the true God is. With such confusion in the world today, promoted by those who are meant to be our leaders in the Faith, it is little wonder that the Holy Name of Jesus no longer finds respect in our streets when it isn’t even present in our churches. If blasphemy runs riot today, it is thanks to the wandering Novus Ordo Church herself, and not to the enemies of that Church.

The primary object of the Holy Name Society is to promote love and reverence for the Holy Name of God and Jesus Christ. The secondary object is to suppress blasphemy, perjury, oaths of any character that are forbidden, profanity, unlawful swearing improper language, and, as far as the members can, to prevent those vices in others. Whether you are a member of not, today’s Feast should instill in us a renewed reverence for the Holy Name, so that we may forever hold it in awe and never as a casual curse word to be uttered without thinking. We commend the Holy Name Society to all our men here at Infant of Prague Chapel, not least because our divine Infant shares today’s feastday with the Holy Name. You are the ones who must stand in for those tens of thousands of members of ages past, and the individual burden of responsibility is all the heavier now it is no longer shared among so many. But he who bears the Name of Jesus told us himself, that his yoke is easy and his burden light, so let us embrace this duty fervently and with enthusiasm, and let us carry aloft on our banners and more importantly in our hearts the Most Holy Name of Jesus, that all men may hear from our lips, and see from our example, the shining light of redemption that this Name brings.

 Sermons from the Chaplain