HolyCross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br. Bernard Jean Delcourt, OHC
Feast of the Holy Name – Tuesday, January 1, 2013
|Snow and sun on the meadow - December 30, 2012|
Today we rejoice in our brotherhood with Jesus of Nazareth. We celebrate our relationship on a first name basis with the human face of God. And through Jesus, we exult in knowing the God who is beyond all describing and defining.
We sing our adoption by the One whom, through Jesus and with the prompting of the Spirit, we now dare to call “Abbah, Father, or even Dad” if we wish to emulate Jesus.
Obedience is a red thread throughout Luke's account of the Nativity of Jesus. The shepherds eagerly welcome the news of his birth and become striking witnesses of the Godly life: they go, they see, they make known.
They do find Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus in a Bethlehem stable. They witness to them what God has announced in the fields outside Bethlehem, where generations before a young David shepherded Jesse's flock. And beyond the stable, they make known to others what has been made known to them. God saves and God is amongst us.
Mary too is an exemplar of obedience to God's desire. She treasures in her heart the words she received from God and the wondrous acts that surround her son's birth.
She meditates on it all, in utter reliance on God and obedience to the unfolding of God's will. Amongst the pondering in her heart, she probably wonders about the name chosen by God for her newborn son: Jesus.
Jesus received his name from God. In Luke's recounting, a messenger of God appeared to a young maid betrothed to an earnest carpenter in a little town near the Sea of Galilee. The angel told Mary to name her first-born child Jesus. Mary listened to the angel's words and accepted them.
Joseph too came to accept God's word and to be an agent of God's desire.
In Jesus' time, a Hebrew father would recognize a son as his own at the time of circumcision. This would happen on the eighth day from the birth.
The circumcision was a symbol of dependence on God and utter obedience to God's Law. The circumcision would make the child's belonging to Israel complete.
At that time, the father would name the child and so recognize him as his own.
In this circumcision, Mary and Joseph are showing obedience to God by naming the child Jesus as ordered by the angel.
And Joseph is showing further obedience to God by fully assuming the earthly fatherhood of Jesus in the eyes of Israel.
In consenting to the Incarnation and in giving the name Jesus to their son, Joseph and Mary, helped us bridge a tremendous chasm in how we relate to the divine.
On one side of the bridge is the Old Testament view of a God who shall not be named for fear of abusing God's name. A God who appears in columns of fire or smoke and is likely to have a vindictive streak.
On the other side of the bridge, we get to meet that same God whom Jesus calls Abbah. Eventually, we come to realize we do meet God in Jesus.
In the Hebrew culture, the name of God was to be feared. Jews would come to use substitutes in order to not take God's name in vain.
Using the name of deities in order to obtain one's wish was run-of-the-mill magic in the Mediterranean peoples. But the God of the Jews was not to be used as a magical prop.
As a result, God's name, represented by its four consonants, were most often spoken as “Elohim” (the strong God), “Adonai” (the Lord) or “Hashem” (the Name). Our own Christian scriptures follow that convention by referring to the LORD in capitalized form where the tetragrammaton would have appeared.
With the arrival of Jesus, God chooses to approach us as one of us. And not only as one of us, but as one of the least of us.
Jesus is born among the poor and dis-empowered, adored by the poor and the foreigners. In so doing, God chooses a way of interacting with humanity that is entirely novel.
We are shown that God cares for humanity at its most essential, and that God is not trying to impress us through our fascination for power, control and material wealth.
Already in the conditions of his birth, Jesus indicates strongly where God wants us to put the focus of our love. Whatever we'll do for the least of these, we will have done for him.
“Jesus” is now the name for God we are most familiar with. It comes to us from latin. It was itself a transliteration of the name Iesous used in the Greek form of our scriptures.
But in all likelihood, Jesus answered to the Hebrew form of his name, Yeshua.
It was and is a beautifully loaded name. The Hebrew roots of the name Yeshua evoke a number of meanings such as: God delivers, God rescues, God is my help.
The predecessor to the form Yeshua would have been Yehoshua. This would have been the name that Joshua, son of Nun, would have answered to. Joshua was Moses' helper and took over leadership of Israel at Moses' death to lead them into the promised land.
So we can see that from the get go, the name Yeshua would have evoked a lot of messianic overtones in and of itself. It is a sign chosen by God to help us see how Jesus always points to God as our only source of salvation and redemption.
So the baby named Jesus, in the fullness of time, will take us from being fearful subjects of an angry ruler, to being children of the Living God.
Yeshua, God Saves, came into the world to redeem us from slavery to sin and to show us the face of a loving God.
Yeshua, God Delivers, brought us close to God in a way that had never been experienced before.
Yeshua, God Is My Help, brought us adoption as sons and daughters of God, as brothers and sisters of His.
No mere prophet, teacher or religious leader could have done that. It had to be the Son of God.
Jesus is the Emmanuel.
And remember, he is with us always, to the end of the age.
Have no fear; just as the angel enjoined the shepherds, I enjoin you to go find the least of us, see how they live, see how God lives amongst them and make it known.
Bring the gospel where it matters. God Saves; it's in Jesus' name.
Have a fruitful and serene year 2013. Happy New Year!