At the Name of Jesus

Fr. Stephen Freeman # Faith

On the eighth day after His birth, the eternal Son of God, in accordance with the Law, would have been circumcised and given His name. The name He received was quite common. It is the same Hebrew name as “Joshua.” It means, “God saves.” No other name is spoken as often with such tenderness and devotion. The name itself has become a prayer. We are told that “whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

But I marvel that the name was a common thing to begin with, like “Bob,” or “Joe.” There was no great revelation of a multi-syllabic construction never-before-spoken. This was not a magical word (like ‘abracadabra’ and ‘hocus pocus’). A thousand mothers across the land called for little boys by the same name so that they would come to supper. No one, hitting their thumb, uttered this name as a swear word.

The point of this name was the content which filled it. The name was as common as the flesh-and-blood that lay in a manger. But the name and the flesh-and-blood were united now with the person of the Son of God. By that name He will come to supper in every human heart.

We do not think about a name as something “physical.” It seems “mental” to us (as though our thoughts were not themselves a material thing). But a name is a pattern of sound, as describable as a rock or a tree. It is difficult to think about the relationship between Jesus and His name. An Orthodox thinker was once condemned for holding that “the name of God is God.” That, apparently, is the wrong way to speak of the matter. But the “name of God” is not “nothing.” There is a content. In other matters, we speak about these things in terms of icon or sacrament. The Holy Name seems somewhere in between. And, for that, I don’t think we have a word. But we have the Name.

It is sweet.

It is of note, to me, that Orthodox, Catholics and Protestants all have various devotions to the Holy Name. There seems to be little argument surrounding it. At the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess…