An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Holy Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, The

Celebration on Jan. 1, the eighth day after the birth of Jesus, when he was named and circumcised. He was "called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb" (Lk 2:21). Under the Law of Moses, all male infants were to be circumcised on the eighth day after birth (Lv 12:3). It was also customary at this time for family and friends to witness the naming of the child. This major feast is celebrated on Jan. 1, the eighth day of the Christmas season. The designation of the feast in honor of Jesus' Holy Name is new to the 1979 BCP. It was traditionally celebrated as the Feast of the Circumcision. Celebration of the Holy Name reflects the significance of the Holy Name of Jesus, and the emphasis of the Gospel of Luke on the naming of Jesus rather than his circumcision.

Liturgical celebration of Jesus' circumcision began in the Gallican Church. The Council of Tours (567) called for Jan. 1 to be observed as a fast day to counter pagan celebrations of the beginning of the new year. This day was also traditionally associated with devotion to the Virgin Mary. Celebration of the Feast of the Name of Jesus dates from the end of the middle ages. In the fifteenth century, the Franciscans Bernardino of Siena (1380-1444) and Giovanni Capistrano (1386-1456) encouraged devotion to the name of Jesus. This celebration was officially granted to the Franciscans in 1530 for observance on Jan. 14. In 1721 Innocent XIII called for the whole Roman Catholic Church to observe the feast on the Second Sunday after Epiphany. This feast was introduced into England in 1489 and celebrated on Aug. 7. It was included as a black letter day in the Elizabethan Calendar of the church year in 1561.

The name "Jesus" is from the Hebrew Joshua, or Yehoshuah, "Yahweh is salvation" or "Yahweh will save." Devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus is particularly derived from Phil 2:9-11, which states that God highly exalted Jesus "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." This scriptural devotion is paraphrased by the hymn "At the name of Jesus" (Hymn 435) in The Hymnal 1982. Other hymns that express devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus include "To the name of our salvation" (Hymns 248-249) and "Jesus! Name of wondrous love!" (Hymn 252).

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.