It is significant that the first thing the Archangel Gabriel tells Mary about the son she will conceive is his name. Even before Our Lady learns of her son’s divinity, she is told to name him Jesus. Clearly, the name of Jesus is of great importance, which may be the reason so many people say it, whether with reverence or in vain.
On this Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus it’s good to consider the power of names, and especially the name Our Lord was given when he assumed our human nature. It is a name that can heal and protect us.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “The word Jesus is the Latin form of the Greek Iesous, which in turn is the transliteration of the Hebrew Jeshua, or Joshua, or again Jehoshua, meaning ‘Jehovah is salvation.’”
This explanation aligns with what the angel of the Lord told St. Joseph in the dream he had after he discovered Mary’s pregnancy: “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)
Saints throughout history have taught about the saving power of Jesus’ name. St. Bernard had a special devotion, as did Sts. Bernardine of Siena and John Capistran. Many miracles have resulted from invoking the name of Jesus, which should remind us of the blessings we have received from the Savior.
The monogram of the Holy Name of Jesus is IHS, which represents the first and last letters of Ihesus, as Jesus’ name was written in the Middle Ages. The Jesuits adopted this monogram as the emblem of the Society of Jesus.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, when we invoke the Name of Jesus with confidence we can receive healing and help with bodily needs; consolation in spiritual trials; and protection against Satan, who fears Jesus’ name. Our Lord tells us in John 16:23 that through his name we also can receive every blessing and grace.
Clearly, there is great power in the Name of Jesus, and also in the other names given to him in Scripture and Sacred Tradition, including: Lord, Savior; Christ; Messiah; Prince of Peace; Lion of Judah; Redeemer; Son of Man; Son of David; Emmanuel; Good Shepherd; The Way, the Truth, the Life; The Gate; The Vine and The King of Kings.
God also gives us names, in addition to the ones our parents give us. He calls us child of God, beloved, his adopted son or daughter, believer and of course Christian.
Although the Lord has lovingly named us, we often give ourselves false names such as: loser, failure, not good enough, victim, ugly, fat, poor, untalented, unexceptional, unworthy, unloved, unhappy, boring …
Just as Jesus’ name reveals his mission on earth, I think there is self-actualizing power in the names we give ourselves. The Archangel Gabriel told Mary what to name the Messiah and we should let Our Lord name us, instead of inventing false names for ourselves. As Jesus shows us the truth we can find refuge in his Holy Name.
This article originally appeared Jan. 3, 2018, at the Register.