Sunday, January 01, 2017

Marked With the Name

Give praise, you servants of the LORD;
praise the Name of the LORD.
Let the Name of the LORD be blessed,
from this time forth for evermore.
From the rising of the sun to its going down
let the Name of the LORD be praised.

Today we observe a holiday of varied names, New Years Day notwithstanding. In old prayer books it was forthrightly titled the Feast of the Circumcision, as that rite is prescribed for the eighth day of a Jewish boy's life. Nowadays, perhaps, we are shy of such a messy, fleshly observance, and we remember it chiefly as day on which Jesus was named; in the Roman Rite they observe the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. But today I will start from that older name.

Now the covenant of circumcision is not the covenant made at Sinai; no, it goes all the way back to Abram, and indeed was made on the day when God named him Abraham, meaning “father of many”. Circumcision is the mark of the men of Israel: to be uncircumcised was to be cut off from God's people. And thus Jesus, like every Jewish boy, was so marked in his flesh and given his name, the name of Salvation—for that is what “Jesus” means.

Thus, through the rest of the New Testament, we hear appeals to that name: “in My name”, “for My name's sake”, “because of My name” says Jesus, and then, in the Acts, we read of the disciples healing in the name of Jesus Christ. What does it signify? It means authority, to the demons; it is a vexation, to the authorities; it yields power, in the hands of the apostles; and it is identity, to the people of the Cross. We are baptized in a holy name, the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Spirit, the name of the Lord, the Almighty; it is this baptism which is our circumcision, which marks us as Christ's own forever. The members of the Church, the body of Christ, are known to the world as Christians; we are his, and we go into the world in his name.

This name alone are we given for salvation, and no other, as Peter preached. At the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow; in the end of days, all shall know him as the only Son of God, the righteous judge of all souls. The Name of Jesus signifies what we proclaim before every baptism: “There is one Body and one Spirit, one hope in God's call to us; one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all.” The Christian faith is not a philosophy; it is not a merely advice for arranging one's life. It is reliance on the one man in whom God has been realized and through whom the divine plan is made manifest.

Moses had to ask for God's name, and that name is so hallowed that no Jew will say it, or even, outside the synagogue, say “LORD” in its place. But we have a name which, though also sacred, we may say without fear, indeed in triumph. There is no shame in the name of Jesus, though the world deride it and ridicule those who proclaim it. No, in this name there is life and light, and therefore in assurance of our salvation, let us turn to the altar and proclaim the faith of the apostles, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

No comments: