"The Glory and the power of the Holy Name" a sermon by St Jean-Marie Vianney for the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus
“He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross. For which cause God also hath exalted Him, and hath given Him a name which is above all names.” – Phil. 2:8-9
Dearly beloved in the Lord! On this Sunday we celebrate in an especial manner the festival in honour of the Holy Name of Jesus, that Name which is, for every Christian, the noblest and dearest, the holiest and the most consoling. By honouring and loving the Name of our Saviour, we show our respect and love for Him who bears this blessed Name. In this sense we honour and praise the names of the Saints whose memory will never die, but will always be honoured by God and men; we think with joy of their exalted and heroic virtues, their living and steadfast faith, their self-sacrificing love for their neighbour, their untiring zeal to help their fellow men to that true happiness and salvation which comes from God alone. Yes, truly the names of the Saints, and, above all, that of the Queen of Saints, and the names of all God’s elect, are dear to us, and we pronounce them with reverence and love; indeed, it would be a sin not to do so.
But there is a Name which is above all other names, a Name which we must always pronounce with the greatest reverence, with the most blissful happiness and the tenderest love; and that is the Name of Jesus. And why do we all cherish in our hearts so profound a respect, such love and devotion for this Most Holy Name? First, on account of its glory and excellence, and then because of its wonderful power and abundance of grace.
Let us make this the subject of our meditation in the Name of Jesus: “Who humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross. Wherefore God also hath exalted Him, and hath given Him a name which is above every name.
Beloved in the Lord! No one is able to explain the great mystery revealed on earth by Christ, the Incarnate Son of God. According to the expression of St. Paul, the Apostle, in his letter to the Colossians, this mystery, which the Apostle says is Christ Himself, has been hidden from all eternity in God. When in the fulness of time it was revealed, it received a name which showed us distinctly, in the light of faith, the great and wonderful signification of the Incarnation of the Son of God and our redemption. God, the Eternal Father, wished to choose the name Himself which His well-beloved Son should bear upon earth, and He announced this name to the world by an angel from Heaven. For, commissioned by God, and sent by Him, the archangel Gabriel brought the message to the Blessed Virgin Mary: “Behold, thou wilt conceive in thy womb and bear a Son, and His name shall be called Jesus.” And the angel said to Joseph: “Joseph, son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife for that which is conceived in her is of the holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:20-21).
And, again, as we have heard on the Feast of Circumcision of Our Lord: “And after eight days were accomplished that the Child should be circumcised His name was called Jesus, which was called by the angel before He was conceived in the womb” (Luke 2:21).
The name of Jesus, therefore, was not given to our Saviour by man or angel, but by God Himself. This most holy Name was from all eternity hidden with the mystery of the Incarnation in the bosom, in the heart, of the Father, and descended at the same time with the fulfillment of this mystery from Heaven, so that we men might express in a worthy manner our respect and our gratitude for what the Son of God, in His human nature, out of His incomprehensible love for us, had done and suffered for our salvation. “Thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21); but not only His chosen people, but all mankind, as the Apostle St. John says, so as to bring together all the dispersed children of God, to be made one here upon earth and one in Heaven. “Jesus Christ,” says this same Apostle, “is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world” (I John 2:2). As St. Paul says, Christ Jesus is the only Mediator between God and man. The name of Jesus means, therefore, Saviour, Redeemer and Mediator, and reminds us of all that the Son of God accomplished here upon earth to redeem us and to make us eternally happy. It reminds us of His entire earthly life, from His birth, until His death, of all the steps that He took of the miracles that He worked, of all the sick that He cured, of all the dead that He raised to life, of the sinners whom He forgave, of the Sacraments which He left in His Church – in a word, of everything which the Incarnate Son of God did, and still does, not only to render us happy here upon earth, but also to make us happy and to bless us for all eternity. The name of Jesus is therefore, for us the dearest and the most glorious name.
Our Saviour merited this name for Himself. It is the name of honour, which belongs to the Son of God, who died upon the Cross to save the fallen world. This name is the reward, the price of victory, which He received from His Heavenly Father; the praise and the renown which He will receive forevermore from the grateful Christian world. This is taught and proclaimed to us by the great Apostle of the people, in the most thrilling words, when he says of Christ: “He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross. Wherefore God also hath exalted Him, and hath given Him a name which is above every name, that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow of those that are in heaven, on earth and under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father.”
And, behold, as it was said, so it has come to pass. The name of Jesus was placed over the head of the crucified Saviour on Golgotha; Jesus Nazarenus, Rex Judaeorum (Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews), but now it shines over heaven and earth, to the glory of God the Son. All the angels and saints in heaven pronounce this glorious Name with indescribable jubilation and rapture. All the faithful on earth praise the Name of their greatest Benefactor with the most profound reverence and intense gratitude. The suffering souls in purgatory sigh with ardent longings as often as they think of this Holy Name, and their desire is to praise and glorify this Holy Name with all the elect in heaven. Who amongst us would dare to utter this Most Holy Name with indifference or without circumspectness? No, O Jesus, how could we possibly be guilty of such an offense against Thee! With the most profound reverence, and ardent love, we will forevermore preserve Thy Glorious Name in our hearts, and give utterance to it with our tongues. And we will also call upon it with the most complete confidence.
For this reason, beloved Christians, listen to a few words on the wonderful power of the Name of Jesus. In the first place, it is the Saviour Himself who assures us of the wonderful power of His divine Name, for He says of those who believe in Him; “They shall cast out devils in My Name, they shall speak new tongues, they shall pick up snakes, and if they drink anything poisonous, it shall not harm them. They shall lay their hands upon the sick and heal them.”
Of the power of His Name, Jesus says, further, that every prayer offered up in His Name shall be heard. “Verily, verily, I say unto you,” He says to His disciples, “if you ask the Father anything in My Name, He will grant your request. Hitherto you have not asked for anything in My Name, but pray, so that you may receive, that your joy may be perfect.”
Holy Scripture and the traditions of our Holy Church teach us the innumerable times that the Lord has kept this His promise, and how powerful and full of blessing is His Holy Name.
Peter and John, in the early days of the Church, went up into the Temple to pray. A man who had been lame from his birth was sitting at the door of the Temple, which was called “the beautiful,” and he begged an alms of the Apostles. Peter felt himself possessed of treasures which surpassed all the wealth of this earth, and, fortified by our Saviour’s promise, he spoke to the lame man: “Look at us!” The latter did so, in the hope of receiving something from them. But Peter said to him, “I have neither gold nor silver, but what I have that I will give thee: In the Name of Jesus Christ, the Nazarene, arise and walk!” And the lame man jumped up and went with them into the Temple to praise God. St. Paul had arrived at Philippi, the capital of Macedonia. He went through the streets of the city toward a house of prayer. On the way he was met by a servant girl, who was possessed by an evil spirit. The Holy Apostle took pity upon the unfortunate girl, and, confiding in the Lord’s promises, said to the evil spirit: “I command thee, in the Name of Jesus Christ, depart out of her!” And the devil immediately departed out of her. A goblet full of poison was handed to the Apostle St. John; he uttered the Name of Jesus over it, and the poison did not harm him.
Endowed with the power of the Holy Name, the Apostles went out to convert the world. Not only did they work numberless miracles, but, also, those who believed in their words performed miracles in the Name of Jesus. At the sound of this Divine Name, the temples of the pagans collapsed. Before it the spirits of darkness fled. Through this victorious Name the teachings of Jesus were disseminated over the face of the earth. In this Name the Church carries on her divine mission every day until the end of the world; in it she teaches, prays, blesses and consecrates. But, my dear Christians, each and every one of us can experience in ourselves the wonderful power and effects of this consoling Name. Yes, O Christian soul, if you call upon the Name of Jesus with devotion, you will most certainly obtain all things necessary for your salvation. This Most Blessed Name will give you advice in difficulties, courage in dangers, fortitude and strength in temptations, perseverance in good, consolation and joy, in trouble and suffering. When the Apostles of the Lord were scourged at Jerusalem, they rejoiced that they were accounted worthy to suffer ignominy for the Name of Jesus.
The more devoutly we reverence and call upon the Name of Jesus, the more will our Saviour show a tender and perceptible love toward us. “My Jesus,” says St. Augustine, “so soon as I begin to utter Thy Name, I perceive an unearthly sweetness in my mouth, and an amazing change of heart.” “The Name of Jesus,” says St. Bernard, “is as honey in the mouth, a sweet sound in the ears, and a joy to the heart.” How sweet and consoling is the Name of Jesus, in all the pains and sufferings of this changeable life, but it is sweetest of all at the hour of death. With the Name of Jesus on their lips, the Saints of God breathed forth their souls. Jesus was their last prayer, their last sigh, “Lord Jesus, receive my soul!” This is how St. Stephen prayed when they were stoning him to death, and so he died in the Lord. “Jesus, my love!” sighed the holy martyr Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, as they led him to his death, to be torn asunder by the wild beasts. When they ordered him to deny the Name of Jesus, he replied, quietly and firmly: “I will never cease to utter His Name. And if you could prevent me from pronouncing it with my mouth, you could not efface it from my heart.” Confessing the Most Holy Name of Jesus, and whilst pronouncing the same most fervently, the holy Bishop died the glorious death of a martyr.
Grant to us, also, O Jesus, that Thy ever-blessed Name may be to us as long as we live, and especially at the hour of our death, our consolation and our hope, and in heaven our eternal joy and blessedness. Amen.