Today is the Feast of Naming of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which the Armenian Church celebrates each year, on January 13.
As Evangelist St. Luke writes in his Gospel, according to the law of Moses, “On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived.” (Luke2:21).
Names are very important to us. Note the care that new parents usually take to ensure that they have chosen just the right name for the newborn. Some people go through life struggling with the name they were given. Other people have a name that fits them like a glove. Names often have more impact on our lives than we give them credit for.
We are often urged by our parents to “keep the family name,” which is translated, “don’t do anything stupid or illegal.” And if you are truly going, to tell the truth and not varnish it one bit, you “name” names.
The importance of naming, and recognizing the right names for people and things is an essential idea behind the Feast of Naming of Jesus.
Myths of power established through naming are found in many cultures. The Egyptian goddess Isis gains control over Ra only by discovering his true name. In the Sumerian creation myth, the god Ea begins to create the heavens and the earth “before they had been given names.”
In Genesis 1, God creates all the objects and frameworks of the universe through pronouncing their names. In Genesis 2, Man establishes his dominion over the animals by naming them.
Central doctrine of the Chinese philosopher Confucius was the Rectification of Names. “Calling things by their right names is the beginning of wisdom” runs a Chinese proverb based on the idea (cf. Analects 12.11). The words we choose to call things are an important indication of what society values, or what society thinks it should value. Anthropologists have said many times that the process of choosing names for things is one of the principal ways we impose order on perception.
Yet, Jesus’s name was not chosen by humans but given from heavens to point out his identity and his mission.
Philippians 2:9-11 tells us that God gave Jesus the name that is above every name “that at the name of Jesus every knee would 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.”
Thus, let’s have a look on the meaning of the name of our Lord.
Jesus means in Hebrew: "God saves." At the annunciation, the angel Gabriel gave him the name Jesus as his proper name, which expresses both his identity and his mission. Since God alone can forgive sins, it is God who, in Jesus, his eternal Son made man "will save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21; cf. 2:7.). in Jesus, God recapitulates all of his history of salvation on behalf of men.
The name "Jesus" signifies that the very name of God is present in the person of his Son, made man for the universal and definitive redemption from sins. It is the divine name that alone brings salvation, and henceforth all can invoke his name, for Jesus united himself to all men through his Incarnation, so that "there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."(Acts 4:12; cf. 9:14; Jas 2:7.)
The name of Jesus is at the heart of Christian prayer. Our all liturgical prayers starts with the words "Blessed is our Lord Jesus Christ". The Eastern prayer of the heart, the Jesus prayer, says: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." Many Christians, have died with the one word "Jesus" on their lips.
Tha name “Christ” was revealed by the angels too. To the shepherds, the angel announced the birth of Jesus as the Messiah promised to Israel: "To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah (Christ), the Lord.” (Luke 2:11)
The word "Christ" comes from the Greek translation of the Hebrew Messiah, which means "anointed". It became the name proper to Jesus only because he accomplished perfectly the divine mission that "Christ" signifies. In fact, in Israel, those consecrated to God for a mission that he gave were anointed in his name. This was the case for kings, for priests and, in rare instances, for prophets. (Ex 29:7; Lev 8:12; 1 Sam 9:16; 10:1; 16:1, 12-13; I Kings 1:39; 19:16.) This had to be the case all the more so for the Messiah whom God would send to inaugurate his kingdom definitively. It was necessary that the Messiah be anointed by the Spirit of the Lord at once as king and priest, and also as prophet. Jesus fulfilled the messianic hope of Israel in his threefold office of priest, prophet and king.
What a joy to celebrate the Holy Name of Jesus! Imagine how tenderly Virgin Mary pronounced the Holy Name of her little boy, Jesus. Imagine with what emotion the Holy Name was pronounced by those who crossed His route and benefited from His Presence. “Jesus Christ” - this Holy Name is sufficient alone for our meditation. A name more effective than words! A name more eloquent than all the books! A name that came from Heaven, a treasure for those who love!
May the Name of Jesus so often be on our lips, and always in our hearts! May He be our hope and our last word at the hour of death, our joy and eternal song in Heaven.