A New Year’s Eve biblical and personal reflection on the Feast of the Holy Name, January 1, 2020
After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb (Luke 2.21)
Following tradition, Mary and Joseph presented their son to be circumcised, to bear on his body the mark of God’s ancient covenant with Abraham, and to be given his name, Jesus. The Greek form of the Hebrew, Joshua, and the Aramaic, Jeshua, meaning, “God saves.”
Thus, the angel Gabriel’s prophetic word to Mary was fulfilled: “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus” (Luke 1.31)
The Feast of the Holy Name is my annual, first-of-the-year aide-mémoire of who I am and whose I am. As God’s child, I belong to God as revealed in Jesus and his life of love unconditional for all people.
In this, I am reminded of why, in the Episcopal Church’s practice of the rite of initiation, only the first name of the one to be baptized is spoken; never the surname of one’s earthly family. The reason (I think, historically well known that it went without saying, now, long left unsaid, is not well known)? Baptism confers a new surname of the universal, spiritual, and eternal family into which one is adopted by God through the Spirit: “Christian.”
On October 26, 1952, I was baptized. In a(nother) word, I was christened; named for Christ. The intention being that I, through my life in this world, would bear His name, aye, would be and do as He is and does.
After eight days, Mary and Joseph’s child was circumcised and named Jesus. In this, I hear my calling in this – and in any, every – new year. That my mind and heart, soul and spirit be circumcised. That I allow God’s Spirit daily to cut me to the quick, to cut to the core of myself with an awareness of my name, “Christian,” and its meaning and, thus, the proclamation of my purpose. That I, actively, in word and deed, am to have compassion, to be compassionate with all people.
Illustration: The Circumcision of Christ, Bernardino Luini (1482-1532)