The Octave of the Nativity, which is also the day of the Circumcision, is the day on which the Name of Jesus was pronounced for the first time:
And His Name was called Jesus, the name He had received from the Angel before He was conceived in the womb (Lk 2:21).
Joseph is the one who had the privilege of imposing the Name which would be repeated by loving hearts countless times throughout the centuries. Jesus. Saviour. You shall call Him Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins (Mt 1:21), the angel had said to Joseph in a dream.
It can only be a loving gesture of Divine Providence which allows each year to begin under the auspices of the Holy Name of Jesus. As we embark upon a new year, a gift from the Divine Bounty, there can be many cares and worries that weigh us down. We all have our own personal issues, some of which bear heavily upon us. But then there are the dark clouds that gather on the horizon of a world exposed to violence and corruption. And even among those who try to be disciples of Jesus, things are far from being what they should: failure to live up to expectations too often saddens our lives and the Church itself. And that is why it is so important to begin the year by reflecting upon the treasures contained in that Name, which is the only one given to men by which we may be saved (cf. Acts 4:12).
St Bernard of Clairvaux, in a magnificent commentary on the Song of Songs, referring to the verse Oleum effusum nomen tuum — thy name is as oil poured out (Song 1:2), tells us that just as oil has three effects — it enlightens, it nourishes, it heals — so the Name of Jesus has exactly those same qualities.
The Name of Jesus heals. Each of us is born with original sin and even after baptism the effects of that sin remain with us, leading us to commit many sins, each of which wound us, leave us debilitated, handicapped as it were spiritually, incapable of getting back on our feet. If we call upon the Name of Jesus, we shall be healed, we shall be saved. Far from being overwhelmed by our sins, whenever we come face to face with them and the evil effect they have had on our lives, we must have immediate recourse to the Name of Jesus. That Name, of itself and by virtue of the Person to whom it refers, has a healing effect upon the soul. If pronounced with love and contrition for sins, it can obtain the gift of forgiveness and mercy. In any event, even if it is pronounced with weak faith, it cannot fail to pour the balm of healing into wounded, aching minds and hearts, hearts that are weary of the world, fed up with themselves, disgusted with their own failings and perhaps even on the verge of despair. Jesus. That name will soothe all wounds, and bring us back to strong and enduring health of mind and body.
The Name of Jesus nourishes. When Jesus brought back to life the daughter of Jairus, He immediately told her parents to give her something to eat (Mk 5:43). They were probably so astounded by what had happened, thinking they were in a dream, that they would have forgotten the essentials of life and good health. Give her to eat, said Jesus. The Name of Jesus, after healing the wounds of our sins, is also food for the soul. It gives strength, it conveys fortitude, it replenishes us with the power to overcome the sources of temptation which remain in us till death, but also the courage to undertake and bring to completion the many arduous duties of our lives. Especially if we are working in the Lord’s vineyard, faced with the opposition of the Prince of darkness himself, we need the strength that comes from that Holy Name which we are honoured to pronounce many times a day. When we are weighed down by the burden of our work, let us pronounce with faith and love the Name of Jesus, and power shall be given to move forward carrying our cross. I can do all things in the One who strengthens me, says St Paul (Ph 4:13). There is no burden too heavy for the Christian who pronounces the Name of Jesus with devotion. The vigour given by that Name is also the energy to resist temptation. The Enemy pursues us continually, knowing he has little time to draw us back into his infernal clutch. But he is powerless before the Name of his Omnipotent Adversary, before the Incarnate Word who has come to destroy the works of the devil (1 Jn 3:8). And so when the fire of impure temptation stirs in our flesh, when pride and avarice and envy and sloth and anger and gluttony and all other vices assault us from within and from without, let us pronounce the Name of Jesus. That very Name will put the enemy to flight. And as many times as the attraction of evil returns, as many times let us say the Holy Name, placing ourselves under its mighty and divine patronage. The invincible armour we have been given, but we must not lay it down! How foolish, how insane, the soldier who, in the heat of battle, lays aside his armour and weapons! And that is what we do when, faced with temptation, we fail to pronounce the Name of Jesus.
The Name of Jesus enlightens. Sin darkens the mind and the heart. The works of the devil are done in the night, and so it is with all his satellites. But we have the Eternal Light with us. Walk while you have the light of life, lest the darkness take hold of you, says our holy Father St Benedict (Rule, Prologue). Whenever we sense the power of darkness in our lives, preventing us from perceiving with clarity and making good decisions, whenever our minds seem to be in a mist and our hearts weighed down by dark thoughts, let us pronounce the Holy Name of Jesus. If we do, the brightness will return, the oppression will be relieved. And as many times as needed, we repeat with devotion and faith that Holy Name which gives joy to angels and peace to earth.
Jesus, the Son of God, the Word Incarnate, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Saviour of the human race: He it is who comes to save us from our sins. He it is who heals, nourishes and enlightens us. If He is the centre of our lives, then we are at peace. If we are sad and laden with cares, we have not allowed Jesus to be involved enough in our lives. He waits at the door and knocks (cf. Ap 3:20). Let us open to Him, invite Him to come and sup with us, to share our table, and bring us all that we stand in need of this day and every day of the year of grace which opens before us.
May the Holy Name of Jesus along with the Holy Name of Mary be ever on our lips throughout the coming year, and if they, our peace is assured.