SUNDAY’S READINGS | January 1, 2023
This Sunday bears an important title: The Holy Name of our Lord.
Giving and receiving a name is a way to establish identity, purpose, and order. And its profound significance is well illustrated “in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens” (Gen. 2:4). Observing that “It is not good that the man should be alone,” the Lord created companions, creatures to accompany and serve humankind. These creatures were, in a sense, subordinate to the woman, but they were important nonetheless as creatures known by name and thus entering the interior life of the man. “So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name” (Gen. 2:19). A name rescues a being from “a formless void” and says, “This is who I am.” Strikingly, in previous prayer books, the minister spoke with a certain gravitas, saying to the godparents immediately before the moment of baptism, “Name this Child” (BCP 1928, p. 279).
Our Lord has a name. “An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins’” (Matt. 1:20-21). At every utterance of the name of Jesus, we remind ourselves that we have been saved, rescued, redeemed, and forgiven. By the name of Jesus, “wickedness is put to flight and sin is washed away” (Easter Vigil). Indeed, Orthodox Christians the world over repeatedly utter and contemplate the famous Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” We do well, in our own way, to hold the name of Jesus in great reverence. In fact, during the celebration of our liturgy, many will bow their heads when hearing the Holy Name.
An ancient Christian hymn tells us that the whole created order genuflects before the wonderous name of Jesus. “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, 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” (Phil. 2:5-11).
The majesty of the divine name, the reason for its exaltation, is rooted in Jesus emptying himself. He became what we are in every respect, though without sin, and he redeemed and rescued us so that “we might receive adoption as children” (Gal. 4:5).
As the adopted children of God, we are bearers of the divine name. As Jesus is the Son of God by nature, we are the sons and daughters of God by adoption and grace. In this sense, the name of Jesus is our name. We know ourselves in him. Like Mary, we carry Jesus in our bodies and ponder him in our beating hearts (Luke 2:19).
Look It Up: Hebrews 1:1-4
Think About It: A name more excellent than angels, a name indeed above all names. Bow the head; bend the knee.