Feast of the Day January 3 – The Holy Name of Jesus
Currently, January 3 is the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. The feast has a long history and has been celebrated on different dates – most of which have been after the 8th day of Christmas and related to the naming of Jesus at his circumcision or bris. According to scripture (Mt. 1:25), St. Joseph was told to give him the name Yeshua -“YHWY (the Lord) saves,” because the child would save His people. (YHWY -Yahwey – God’s name is not pronounced by devout Jews and the term “Adonai “- the Lord – is used instead.) Joshua was actually the more common version of the name and was probably the name to which Jesus responded. To make a long story short, Yoshua got transliterated into Greek as Ioshua and Yeshua got transliterated as Iesus. Interestingly, if you reverse the order of the two elements you come up with Isaiah.
All of this was neatly summarized by a neon sign on a church in Ventura, CA where I grew up. The sign was made in the form of a cross. Running vertically downward was “God Saves,” interrupted by the cross bar emblazoned with “Jesus.” I used to attend Holy Name Society Masses, followed by breakfast in the parish hall with my father. (The pancakes and the hot cocoa were good and more than welcome in the days when we fasted from midnight, or at least three hours before Mass.) It was actually a fairly nice father-son affair, and although the focus was on devotion to Christ, there was a very clear focus on using clean language and carefully using the Holy Name.
Although my father was an oil field welder and we lived in a blue collar world, in which the Holy Name was just another throw away swear word, I noticed that men took note of my father’s language. It gave him a dignity without being sanctimonious or judgmental. Tony Pozos didn’t swear, was a man of his word, and his welding crews did not get injured on the job. What impressed me most was my father’s fidelity to the Holy Name pledge which we recited at the meetings. Like me, he was far from perfect. However, my Dad held himself to certain standards, which he passed on to me by example.
Later, as the result of my parents’ hard work and sacrifice, when I moved into the white collar world, I was surprised that gifted and talented men and women could be so coarse in language and cavalier with the name of Jesus. What struck me most is the lack of respect people showed for themselves and others. If we can take the wonder of “God Saves” and make it a curse, it reflects a profound despair and anger. To do this casually out of habit reflects a coarsening of the the soul and our relationships. It bespeaks a deep pessimism, far from hope. “What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean.’ ” (Mt. 15:11)