Today is the Eleventh Day of Christmas, and it is also the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, which we celebrate on the second Sunday of Christmas. Jesus received His Holy Name when He was eight days old at His Circumcision. His Name is so powerful and mysterious that the Church long ago judged it fitting to celebrate a solemn feast of the Holy Name, separate from the Octave Day on which He received It.
“Jesus” means “God saves.” The very Name of Jesus speaks of His mission of salvation. This reminds us of the profound Christmas mystery that Our Savior was conceived and born not in order to live (for in His Divinity He has infinite Life), but rather to suffer and die for us. We witness this mystery already on the Octave Day as He sheds His first Blood for us at His Circumcision. It is no mere coincidence that the giving of His Name and the shedding of His first Blood occur simultaneously. His Name is full of salvation!
The Scriptures teach very clearly that the Holy Name of Jesus is powerful. St. Paul says that at the Name of Jesus every knee shall bow, even in Hell, and the Church so loves the Holy Name of Jesus that she bows her head every time He is mentioned in the Sacred Liturgy. The Name of Jesus is itself a prayer, which we can have always on our lips, especially when we feel attacked by temptation or disturbance. We know that every time we utter His Holy Name with reverence we invoke the protection of His Precious Blood upon us and call forth the power of His Salvation.
On Tuesday, the Church will celebrate the majestic Epiphany of the Lord. His “Epiphany” means His “manifestation.” During the Twelve Days of Christmas, the Church celebrates the Divinity of the Christ Child. At Epiphanytide, in this second movement of the Christmas season, the Church celebrates the manifestation of that Divinity to the world. Thus, on the Epiphany, she commemorates the Adoration of the Magi, the Baptism of the Lord, and the Wedding Feast of Cana. In all of these events in the life of Christ, His Divinity is manifest and proclaimed with power and glory.
The proper object of the Feast of the Epiphany is the visit of the Magi from the East to the Child and His Mother on the thirteenth day after His Birth at the house of Bethlehem. We are told by the Gospel of Matthew that they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh: gold for the King of Kings, frankincense for the Eternal God, and myrrh for the High Priest who was born so as to die for us. St. Gregory the Great, always the great moral teacher, exhorts us to follow the example of the Holy Magi by offering to Him the gold of the wisdom of our minds, the frankincense of our constant prayer, and the myrrh of our mortification of the flesh. In the Adoration of the Magi, the Divinity of Jesus is manifest, and we learn that we are not dealing here with any ordinary baby.
The Adoration of the Magi take place in a “house,” and so Epiphanytide is the traditional time for the blessing of houses in the Church; there is even a special blessing for this in the Roman Ritual. Every Catholic should ask a priest to bless the home during this holy season of Epiphany, which lasts, in sprit, through February 2. We beg the intercession of the Magi, that we, like they, may bend our knees in Adoration before this Holy Child whose all-powerful Name is Jesus.
Fr. Joseph Previtali