The Most Holy Names of Jesus and Mary
Names in General
For the ancients names of persons were often omens. Throughout the Old Testament names had special significance. Names were usually given to highlight some real or anticipated trait in a person or to express some intuition or hope about a child at the time of its birth. Adam gave his wife the name Eve, which highlighted the fact that she was to be the womb of the whole human species. For Genesis tells us that the name Eve means “mother of all the living.”
The Hebrews and other ancient peoples conceived an individual and his name as being equal, the name being taken to be identical to the person. To say the name of a person was an intimate act, like the touching of his soul or being. So intimate was the relationship between an individual and his name, that the name came to be used as an equivalent of the person; it was perceived to be equal - to be actually identical - with the person. For that reason great reverence was given to the name of a person. remain.
In Genesis a name is not simply a conventional designation. Rather it is an expression of a being’s relationship to God, to man or to the created world, just as today a child’s name reflects its relationship with its parents, who gave it its name. God names His creations: “Day,” “Night,” “Heaven,” “Earth,” “Seas.” He instructed Adam to name the different kinds of animals, each of which was destined to have a unique relationship with Adam.
Throughout the first chapter of Genesis, Moses identifies God with the name Elohim (plural of El, which refers to gods in general, but used here in a singular sense), which expresses God’s incomparable power and might. Elsewhere in Genesis Moses uses not only the name Elohim but also the name God Himself revealed to him, YHWH (I AM WHO AM; called the Tetragrammaton when written in Hebrew letters), which emphasizes His transcendence over all created things and that He alone IS. He uses YHWH Elohim when he speaks of the creation of Adam and Eve and of God’s intercourse with them. This name expresses the closeness of the relationship between God and the first couple.
Out of their great respect for the holiness of God, early Jewish rabbis restricted the pronunciation of His revealed name YHWH, which they perceived as manifestation of His divinity. They laid down the rule that the name YHWH could be uttered only in the Sanctuary of the Temple, and then only by the high priest. Elsewhere, another name had to be used. When reading Sacred Scripture they would replace YHWH with the Hebrew word Adonai, which is rendered “Lord” in English. In English translations of the Bible, Elohim is rendered “God,” YHWH is rendered “LORD,” and YHWH Elohim is rendered “LORD God.”
The name Jehovah is an artificial form of the name YHWH which is obtained by using the consonants of YHWH with the vows of Adonai.
Even though Adam and Eve had an intimate relationship with God, they did not address Him by name. Men only begin to invoke YHWH by name at the time that Enosh, son of Seth, was born. But Eve did refer to God twice by name, once using YHWH and once using Elohim.
Another name used for God in the Old Testament is El Shaddai, which apparently meant something like “Most High God” or “Almighty God.” This was the name He used with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is also identified as the “God of the Fathers” and the “God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” The appellations were probably used to distinguish Him from the pagan gods.
The Jews always had a great reverence for the name of God. Whenever God was mentioned, they would praise His Name and call it holy. Recall what the Blessed Virgin Mary said in her great canticle, the Magnificat: “The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is His Name.”
Names for the Messiah
The title Messiah is a transliteration of the Hebrew word for “Anointed One.” In Greek the equivalent word is Christos, which comes to us in English as “Christ.” In the Old Testament the title was generally applied to priests, prophets, and kings, who were anointed with oil when inaugurated into office. But it specifically referred to one who would come to conquer sin and evil and usher in a period of righteousness. The Messiah was interpreted by some Jews to be a military leader who would help the Jews conquer and subdue their enemies. According to Fr, John Hardon’s Modern Catholic Dictionary, the Old Testament uses twenty-six distinct titles for the Messiah.
A popular symbol for Christ is the chi-rho. It consists of the first two letters of Christos in Greek letters, X (chi) and P (rho). The rho is rendered vertically with either a single crossbar on the leg producing the chi or with the full chi inscribed on the leg of the rho. The Roman Emperor Constantine used the chi-rho as an emblem on his military standard.
The prophet Isaiah predicted that “a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and his name shall be called Emmanuel (Hebrew for ‘God with us’).” This verse is recalled by St. Matthew in his narrative about the conception and birth of Jesus. This title indicated that the Messiah would not only be sent on a God-given mission but that he would also be God made man.
The Most Holy Name of Jesus
Jesus, the most holy name of Our Lord, is the Latin form of the Greek Iesous and the Hebrew Jeshua or Joshua, which means “YHWH is salvation.” It is the name given to Mary by the Archangel Gabriel at the Annunciation and the name given to Joseph by an angel in a dream. Our Lord’s first name, Jesus, identifies His mission as the Savior of the world, and His last name, Christ, refers to His being the Messiah, the fulfillment of the ancient Jewish prophecies.
Devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus was popularized by the fifteenth century Franciscan priest St. Bernadine of Siena by use of the monogram IHS. Some say that three letters are the initials of the Latin title Iesus Hominum Salvator (Jesus Savior of Men). But they are actually an abbreviation of IHESUS, the Holy Name of Jesus as written in the Middle Ages. Another explanation is that the letters stand for the first three initials of the Latin In Hoc Signo Vinces (In this Sign You shall Conquer), which the Roman Emperor Constantine saw in the heavens under the Sign of the Cross before the battle at the Milvian bridge.
Christians have always had a great reverence for the Name of Jesus. St. Paul said in his letter to the Philippians: “At the Name of Jesus, every knee should bend, of those 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.”
We should always bow our heads when the Name of Jesus is mentioned. The Roman Missal instructs the priest to do so when he pronounces Jesus’ Name in the prayers of the Mass.
The Name of Jesus is most powerful and efficacious. In John’s Gospel our Lord promised: “Whatever you ask in my Name, I will do.” St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “You have had yourselves washed, you were sanctified, you were justified, in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” And in the Acts of the Apostles we read: “There is “no other name under heaven given to us by which we are saved.”
St. John of Capistrano, like his mentor St. Bernadine of Siena, was greatly devoted to the Holy Name of Jesus. At the age of seventy, John preached and led a crusade against the invading Turks, who were threatening Christendom. He led soldiers into battle under a standard bearing the Holy Name of Jesus. Marching at the head of 70,000 Christians, he was victorious against the Turks in the great battle of Belgrade in 1456.
We should continually seek reverence for the Name of Jesus in the public arena. We should bow our heads when someone uses the Sacred Name in vain in our presence. This is a gentle indicator that we are offended by irreverent use of His Most Holy Name. And we should utter protest when entertainers use His Name irreverently. For the Most Holy Name of Jesus is the most sacred of all names.
The Church honors The Most Holy Name of Jesus with an optional memorial on January 3.
Other Names for Our Lord
According to the Modern Catholic Dictionary, about sixty-five distinct titles for the Messiah appear in the New Testament. Among them are titles Our Lord Himself coined. In the Gospels He refers to Himself as the Bread of Life, the Door, the Vine, Lord, Master, Son, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, the Son of Man, and the Good Shepherd. In the Book of Revelation He refers to Himself as the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end (alpha and omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet). St. John in his Gospel refers to Our Lord as the Logos (Greek for “the Word”), meaning the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity. These names focus in on certain attributes of Jesus and His mission.
Another popular title for Jesus is Lamb of God. This title is inspired first of all by the prophet Isaiah who said of the Messiah: “Harshly dealt with, he bore it humbly; he never opened his mouth, like a lamb led to slaughter.” The symbolism of a lamb is picked up by St. John the Baptist who points out Christ saying, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” and by St. John the Evangelist, who portrays Christ as the triumphant Lamb in his Book of Revelation.
The Most Holy Name of Mary
The English name Mary traces back to the Old Testament Hebrew name Myriam. There are other versions of spelling and pronunciation: for example, Mariam from the Greek, Maryam from Aramaic, and Maria also from the Greek. It is the name held by eight other persons in the Bible besides the Mother of Jesus, two in the Old Testament and six in the New Testament:
1. The sister of Moses, who is usually called Miriam
2. A woman descendant of Judah, one of the twelve sons of Jacob
3. Mary Magdalene
4. Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus
5. Mary, the mother of James and John
6. Mary, the wife of Clopas, who stood beneath the Cross of Christ
7. Mary, the mother of John Mark, in whose house Peter once took refuge
8. Mary, A Christian in Rome praised by St. Paul
Over the years a number of meanings have been attached to the name Mary. There are two favorites among Catholics: The first is based on the Latin word mare, which means “sea”; and from which we get the English words marine, mariner, etc. From that came the reference to Mary as Stilla Maris, which means drop from the sea - that is, of that sea which is God. A copyist error turned the phrase into Stella Maris, which means “Star of the Sea.” There are many Catholic churches, especially in coastal areas, named Stella Maris, Star of the Sea, or Mary, Star of the Sea.
The second favorite meaning was given by St. Jerome. It comes from the Aramaic words mar and marta. Mar means “lord” and marta means “lady.” Hence we get the appellations for the Blessed Virgin Mary, “My Lady” or “Our Lady” - Madonna in Italian and Notre Dame in French.
One final meaning, which is perhaps the most appropriate, comes from modern archeology. In writings in the Ugarit language on clay tablets discovered in the Middle East the name Myrm is quite common. It means “exalted” or “august.” Therefore Mary’s name would mean “The Exalted One,” which fits her very well.
We venerate the name of Mary because it belongs to her who is the Mother of God, the holiest of creatures, the Queen of heaven and earth, the Mother of Mercy.
A feast was instituted to honor the Holy Name of Mary in 1513 in Spain as a local celebration. In 1683 Pope Innocent XI extended the feast to the whole Church in thanksgiving for the victory of John Sobieski, King of Poland, over the Turkish Muslims who were besieging Vienna in their effort to impose Islam on the West, an effort that, as we are well aware, is being made again in our day, only this time by ISIS instead of Turkey.
This feast day commemorates all the privileges given to Mary by God and all the graces and favors we have received through her by invoking her name. It is assigned to be celebrated as an optional memorial on September 12, four days after the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Her name is honored in the Divine Praises: Blessed be the Name of Mary, Virgin and Mother. Mary is honored with numerous titles that recall her many glorious qualities and roles.
2016 the Apostolate for Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration helped start or maintain perpetual
or daily Eucharistic adoration at the following churches:
Missionary Priests of the Blessed Sacrament