10 Reasons the Holy Name of Jesus Is Special

January is the month dedicated to the Holy Name of Jesus — with a feast dedicated to the Holy Name on January 2 (January 3 in 2022). The IHS images cherished by Catholics for years are an ancient way of depicting his name. I’ve noted before how important it is to say his name, when you can. Here are some reasons why.

1: He was named by the Lord …

“You shall be called by a new name which the mouth of the Lord will give,” says Isaiah 62:2. And, then, the Angel Gabriel, the messenger of the Lord, brought that name to his family: Jesus.

2: … and he was named by Joseph

Jesus, in another sense, was named by a human being. Gabriel told Joseph Mary “will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

3: He was also named Emmanuel (in a way).

It has puzzled people for centuries that Matthew writes: “All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ’Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel.’”

Why is he named Jesus, then? St. Thomas Aquinas explains that since “Jesus” means “salvation,” Emmanuel “designates the cause of salvation, which is the union of the Divine and human natures in the Person of the Son of God.” Aquinas adds that Isaiah 9:6 says: “His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace” — the consequences of his role as savior.

4: His name is old … and new.

Recall that Isaiah 62:2 says, “You shall be called by a new name.” But Jesus’ name is not new — it is “Joshua,” used often before and after Jesus. Aquinas explains: All those Joshuas “were saviors in a particular and temporal sense. But in the sense of spiritual and universal salvation, this name is proper to Christ, and thus it is called a ‘new’ name.”

Just as Eve means “mother of all the living,” Abraham means “a father of many nations,” and Peter means “rock,” “Jesus” sums up who the Lord is: Savior.

5: Hallowed be his name, like the Father’s.

The Jewish people have a high regard for the sacredness of names — especially God’s. The divine name was not even allowed to be pronounced. Jesus passed this tradition on to us, teaching us to pray to the Father, “Hallowed be thy name.” Since Jesus is the Second Person of the Trinity, his name is also holy. Says St. Paul, “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

6: His name is on the crucifix.

St. John Paul II noted how the name Jesus “proved to be a sign of contradiction.” His name Jesus “was written on the Cross in justification of his death sentence – ‘Jesus, King of the Jews.’” As he saved the world, his name proclaimed him as savior.

7: St. Peter knew the power of his name.

How powerful is the name of Jesus? In his first sermon, Peter recalled the prophecy of Joel: “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21) and said it referred to “Jesus of Nazareth.”

Peter told the lame man at the Temple gate called Beautiful, “I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (Acts 3:6).

8: Suffering for the name is special.

When the apostles were imprisoned for the first time in the history of the Church, they were delighted afterwards and were “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.”

9: St. Bernardine’s banner made it noticed.

Throughout the history of the Church, saints have had a great devotion to the name of Jesus. In the 15th century, St. Bernardine of Siena would carry a great banner with the name “Jesus” with him on missions, and his treatise on the Holy Name inspired the Church to look into the spirituality of the name more deeply.

10: St. Isaac Jogue carved it on trees.

St. Isaac Jogues, who served the Algonquin Indians in Northern New York in the 1600s, had a great devotion to the name Jesus. “How often on the stately trees of Ossernenon did I carve the most sacred name of Jesus so that seeing it the demons might take to flight, and hearing it they might tremble with fear,” he said.

But St. Thomas Aquinas put it best.

“Truly it must be said that this name Jesus is of great and manifold power; for it is a refuge for the penitent, a remedy for the sick, a strength for those struggling, a support for those praying, because it confers pardon from sin, the grace of health, victory to those tempted, the power and confidence to obtain salvation,” he wrote. “Therefore, because you are a Savior, be Jesus to me! I am unwilling, Lord, I am unwilling to pay such attention to my wickedness that I should forget your goodness.”

Image: Lawrence OP, Flickr.

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Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes, author of The Rosary of Saint John Paul II, The Fatima Family Handbook and What Pope Francis Really Said, is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Kansas. A former reporter in the Washington, D.C., area, he served as press secretary of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee Chairman and spent 10 years as executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine. His work frequently appears in Catholic publications such as Aleteia.org and the Register. He lives in Atchison, Kansas, with his wife, April, and their nine children.