JANUARY 3, 2014

PHILIPPIANS 2:1-11 ; LUKE 2:21-24

JESUS, THE NAME GIVEN HIM BY THE ANGEL.  This brief statement is quite consciously a prophecy.  The word prophecy in our language has come to mean a prediction of some future event.  There is another meaning, however, that gives the word high authority in that it has the sense of speaking under a divine inspiration.   A prophetic utterance may predict the future, or it may interpret some present event in its inner significance.  Clearly, the Name Jesus is prophetic in both these senses.   In fact, Luke, at the time of the Annunciation, tells us that the angel who had conveyed the divine message explains the reason for God's imposing this name concerns his identity, stating to Mary that "the holy one born of you will be called Son of God."   Matthew, on the other hand, speaking of the angel's message to Joseph in his dream provides the second, more literal meaning of the word Jesus which is Savior: "Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife for the one born of her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son and you will call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."  (MT 1:21) And so the fuller sense of the Feast is contained in the Holy Name itself, subtly and by way of prophetic anticipation.  Jesus' name refers not only to his being the Son of God, but at the same time points to his sacrificial death and the victory of his resurrection.

The first reading for this feast also explains in more elaborate and specific detail, the significance of the Name of Jesus.  Saint Paul in doing so underlines some particular features of our Lord's character as he writes to the Philippians: "though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.  Rather, he emptied himself taking the form of a slave . . . becoming obedient unto death, even death on a cross.  " He goes on to emphasize the depth of meaning contained in the name given to this person who, though God, is so humble and lovingly self-sacrificing: "Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven, and on earth and under the earth."

In honoring at this mass and divine office today the holy Name of Jesus then we ourselves contribute to the fulfillment of Paul's prophetic announcement. For he ends his proclamation with the exhortation he addressed even today to each of us participating at this Eucharistic celebration as he adds these final words: "And every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger