At the Name of Jesus Every Knee Shall Bow

Jan. 3 is the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus

The IHS monogram on the main altar of the Gesù in Rome
The IHS monogram on the main altar of the Gesù in Rome (photo: Jastrow / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)

If you’ve got a fresh Christmas tree, the needles are beginning to drop on the carpet. If your tree is artificial, you’re still getting restless, thinking about how you like the armchair in its regular place in that corner by the window.

But wait! Don’t take your Christmas tree down yet!

The news of Christ’s birth, of God’s taking human flesh and becoming one of us, is so important, so mind-boggling, that the blessed Season of Christmas continues until Jan. 6, the Feast of the Epiphany.

And on Jan. 3, our focus is on the Holy Name of Jesus.

Oh yes, we’ve been thinking about the infant Jesus for a while now! Throughout Advent, we anticipated his coming; on Christmas Day, we celebrated his birth and welcomed him anew into our hearts. We pondered the mystery of the angels’ hymns, proclaiming his birth to the shepherds in fields near Bethlehem. On Jan. 1, we remembered his presentation in the Temple and his circumcision.

And now today, Jan. 3, with yet another burst of joy we honor the Holy Name of Jesus.

It was Pope Innocent XIII who established the veneration of the Holy Name for the entire Catholic Church in 1721. Before that, as far back as the 15th century or earlier, local churches celebrated the feast during the month of January.

It’s not only Catholics who honor the Holy Name. The Episcopal Church of the United States, in its Book of Common Prayer, has since 1979 listed Jan. 1 as the “Feast of the Holy Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Lutheran Church and many Eastern churches also celebrate the feast on Jan. 1.

What do we know about the Holy Name of Jesus?

  • The Name was selected by God, and has great theological significance. In Luke 1:31, an angel tells Mary to name her child Jesus; Joseph hears the same message in Matthew 1:21, when an angel tells him in a dream, “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
  • The Name has great power. For example, in John 14:13 Jesus says, “Whatever you ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” Later, in John 16:23, Jesus says “If you ask the Father anything in my name, he will give it to you.”
  • The Name deserves respect and honor. Saint Paul, writing in his Letter to the Philippians 2:10, states, “That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth.”
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