January 1 is the feast of the Circumcision of Our Lord Jesus Christ. In this regard, the Gospel says:
“And after eight days were accomplished, that the child should be circumcised, his name was called JESUS, which was called by the angel, before he was conceived in the womb” (Luke 2:21).
We might also refer to Sister Marie of Saint-Pierre who writes about the Holy Name of Jesus that “In honor of the five letters of the Name of Jesus, and through the virtue of his Five Wounds, our Lord has promised to grant five special graces to those who embrace this devotion with faith and piety.
- He will preserve them from lightning.
- From the snares and malice of the demon.
- From a sudden and unprovided death.
- He will make them walk with facility in the way of virtue.
- He will grant them final perseverance.” (http://www.holyfacedevotion.com/files/SrPierre-WorkofReparation-1885.pdf)
About the Name of Jesus, Saint Paul in his Epistle to the Philippians (2:9-10) says,
“God also hath exalted him, and hath given him a name which is above all names: That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth.”
Thus, two related events mark this great feast day: the circumcision of Our Lord and the imposition of the name of Jesus.
The circumcision ceremony called for giving a name to the person. It was similar to Catholic baptism when the child is also named. The act of circumcision, as later in baptism, marked the first consecration of the child to God. Thus, it represents the moment when the child is born into the supernatural life—which is a true birth. Just as a child is often named at natural birth, so much more proper it is that a name be given at supernatural birth.
The Circumcision: A Wonder of God
The Circumcision of Our Lord is a source of wonder to all theologians. The way God willed that it be done gives us a glimpse into the habits of God or what might even be called God’s “psychology.”
Theologians marvel at the fact that the Blood Our Lord shed in His circumcision would have been enough to redeem the entire human race. A single drop of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus Christ has infinite value. By a mysterious design of God that confounds theologians, He did not want the redemption of mankind to take place at the moment of the circumcision when this Most Holy Blood was shed.
He suspended the merit of this Blood and desired that the redemption of mankind would only effectively take place after Our Lord shed His Blood on the Cross. From His Most Sacred Body, there came a deluge of Blood, that represented the fullness of the drawing of His Blood. Thus, the final last piercing with the lance drew forth the last drops of His Blood. God wanted the totality of His Blood to be shed in unfathomable suffering.
God Desired Atonement With Abundance
Indeed, God could have spared the Humanity of Our Lord Jesus Christ from this immense pain. However, He did not do so by a mysterious and secret design. Our Lord’s suffering was so great that in the Garden of Olives, He offered this prayer to the Father: “If possible, let this cup depart from Me, but if not, let Thy Will be done and not Mine.”
It was as if He were saying (though this is not the meaning of the prayer) the following dialogue: If in the arcane mystery within Thee, that Thou alone knows, it be possible to prevent all this blood from being shed, please do so.
However, God would not bend before this prayer from the omnipotent Humanity of Jesus Christ. He wanted atonement with abundance. He desired an infinite torrent of Blood, even though one drop would have sufficed for our Redemption. Thus we see that there is so much mystery in God.
How Great God Is!
One lesson we can draw from this desire is a knowledge of how great God is. How unfathomable God is! Everything He does is infinitely superior to our manner of thinking. By catching a glimpse of His mysteries and unfathomability, He let us see our own littleness and His greatness. He fills us with respect that leads us to the height of veneration and love.
God is so great that we can have no idea of Him. However, this also fills us with a desire for Heaven because it helps us understand how the Beatific Vision of this infinitely great God can fill us with torrents of happiness.
The Special Meaning of the Names of Jesus and Mary
The Church and many saints ascribe a virtue of their own to the names of Jesus and Mary. Indeed, the Most Holy Names of Jesus and Mary have a special supernatural sense. When these names are pronounced or written, they can draw God’s blessings and graces upon the person speaking and writing. Their names can drive the devil away. A banner emblazoned with these names, like that of Saint Joan of Arc, for example, can serve to drive away demons, attract God’s good graces, gain the favor of angels, and so many other good things.
How can names have special meaning? In the natural and proper order of things, names should reveal something about the innermost nature of the things they define.
This is expressed somewhat in the names given in the oriental languages. The oriental peoples do not give people names like ours. Someone, for example, might be called Plinio, which means nothing to most people. However, oriental people give names with their own meanings. I remember meeting an oriental lady who was called something like Madame Nhu. Her name meant “spring rain.” These are poetic names to indicate something about the person’s dominant note.
However, the human capacity to link things to names was broken with Original Sin and the Tower of Babel. Human language no longer has that precision that it had before the Fall.
Despite the loss of this capacity, we still retain a vague idea about the relationship between the name and the nature of the thing it represents. This correlation is true in the case of Jesus and Mary, who are placed above every possible law. The Most Holy Name of Jesus and the Immaculate Name of Mary bring with them blessings and special graces because they are the symbols, the mysterious and ineffable expressions of the most holy reality that exists in them.
Thus, we can understand why God has promised Sister Saint-Pierre, whom we quoted earlier, so many graces to those who often invoke the names of Jesus and Mary.
The preceding article is taken from an informal lecture Professor Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira gave on January 1, 1966. It has been translated and adapted for publication without his revision. –Ed.