January 3, 2007

Holy Name

Today is the beautiful feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, which we Franciscans celebrate with a certain heightened festivity. The devotion to the Holy Name was zealously promoted by the friars of the Observant reform in the fifteenth century, especially Bernardine of Siena.

It is very fitting that this feast should come during the Christmas season, which is all about the concrete manifestation of the otherwise unseen and unknowable God. The Word of God becomes flesh in a particular human life, and thus God, for us, has a name: Jesus or Yehoshua of Nazareth, who is called the Christ.

The Holy Name of Jesus is thus a Christmas mystery in that it makes God available to us in a human way. It sits within the rolling process of manifestation that begins with the Annunciation, continues in the Nativity and comes to a climax in the Epiphany.

Names have carried meaning for us ever since Adam began to name the animals in the garden, and now we have a human Name through whom we can call on God the Father. Yes, God did reveal a name to Moses, the holy and divine name, YHWH, but this is hardly a name in any human sense we can understand.

Today we celebrate the absolute fulfillment of the human searching for a way to call upon God, begun so long ago in the time of the children and grandchildren of our first parents: "At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord." (Gen 4:26)

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