"After eight days were accomplished that the child should be circumcised, his name was called Jesus."
THE eighth day is always the crowning day of the Church s greater festivals, and completes the celebration of the principal solemnities of the year. It is, as it were, linked with the first or opening day of the octave, just as our Lord in His Sermon on the Mount connected the eighth beatitude with the first by the promise of the kingdom of heaven.
When the Child that is born to us was circumcised He was called the Saviour, for it was then that He began the work of our salvation by shedding His precious blood for us. No Christian can now ask why Christ willed to be circumcised. For us He was born, for us He was circumcised, for us He suffered and died. Nothing of all this was for Himself, but all for His elect. He was not circumcised for His own sins, but for ours. The name He was called by the angel before His birth was His name from all eternity. This name of Saviour was His natural right; it was born with Him, not imposed by either angel or man.
The illustrious Prophet Isaias, predicting the birth of this Divine Child, calls Him by many great titles, but he seems to have been silent on this one name which the angel foretold, and to which the Evangelist bears testimony. Isaias, like Abraham, exulted that he might see Christ's day; he, too, saw it and was glad. Rejoicing and praising God, he says : "A child is born to us, a son is given to us, and the government is upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace." These are indeed great names, but where is the name which is above all names, the name of Jesus at which every knee should bow? Perhaps we may find that one name expressed, or poured out in all, for it is the same that was spoken of by the Spouse in the canticle of love, "Thy name is as oil poured out." Therefore, from and in all these names and titles we have but the one name of Jesus. His office of Saviour includes all. If one had been wanting, He could neither have been called nor have been the Saviour. Has not each one of us found by experience that He has been Wonderful in the conversion and change of our wills ? For is it not the beginning of salvation when we loathe what we formerly loved, grieve over what we once delighted in, embrace what we had feared, follow after that which we had fled from, desire what we had contemned ? He that has wrought such wonders in us is assuredly Wonderful. Jesus shows Himself to be the Counsellor by directing us in the choice of penance and of a well-ordered life, lest our zeal be without knowledge and our good will without prudence.
It was likewise necessary that we should experience Him to be God the Mighty. God in the remission of our past sins, for none but God can forgive sin, and Mighty when enabling us to fight victoriously those sinful passions which are ever warring in us, and which are liable to render our last state worse than the first. Does anything still seem wanting to the office of Saviour ? Yea, truly, the chief thing would be lacking were He not also the Father of the world to come, so that we who are engendered in this world unto death may by Him be raised up to a glorious immortality.
A further title and quality is required that of the Prince of Peace Who has reconciled us to His Father, to Whom He is to give back the kingdom. Otherwise, as children of perdition, we might have risen again to punishment instead of reward. The government, which is upon His shoulder, shall be magnified by the number of the saved, that He may be truly called the Saviour; that there maybe no end of peace; and that we may know our salvation to be a true salvation which leaves no fear of failure. Oblessed Name! O sacred Oil! how widely hast thou been spread, how profusely poured out! Whence did this oil come? It came from heaven to Judea, and thence was diffused over the whole earth, to its uttermost bounds. The Church cries out, "Thy name is oil poured out." Poured out, indeed, to overflowing, since it is spread abroad, not only over the heavens and earth, but its influence reaches even to hell ; so that "in the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth; and every tongue shall confess is and say, "Thy name is as oil poured out. "Behold the name of Christ and the name of Jesus were both communicated to the angels and poured out upon men. I am, then, made a participator in this salutary and life-giving name. I am a shareholder in His inheritance. I am a Christian. I am a brother of Christ. If a brother, then an heir also of God and co-heir with Christ.
And what wonder that the name of the Divine Spouse is poured out ? In His passion He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant. By this pouring out the plenitude of His divinity is diffused or spread abroad upon the earth, and of His plenitude all shall receive; and when refreshed with the life-giving perfume of this mystic oil they will exclaim, "Thy name is as oil poured out." But why is this name compared to oil ? There is undoubtedly a similitude between the name of the Spouse and oil, and not without reason has the Holy Ghost drawn a comparison between them. Oil gives light, nourishes and strengthens the body, and alleviates pain. Hence it is light, food, and medicine. All these qualities may be recognized in the holy name of Jesus. It shines and gives light when preached, it feeds and strengthens by its remembrance, it alleviates sorrow and anoints the wounds of the soul by its invocation. Let us consider these three qualities singly.
How was it that the light of faith shone forth so suddenly over the whole earth, if not by the preaching of the blessed name of Jesus ? Is it not by the light of this name that God has called us "into his marvellous light," so that, being enlightened by it, we shall see light as the Apostle declares, "For you were heretofore darkness, but now light in the Lord." The Apostle was commanded to carry this name before kings and nations, and the children of Israel. He carried it as a brilliant torch, and by it enlightened the nations sitting in darkness, so that he could exclaim : "The night is past, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly as in the day." He lifted the light on high, and announced everywhere the name of Jesus and Him crucified. How brilliantly, too, did this light shine forth and attract the gaze of all when from the mouth of Peter the sacred name gave strength to the feet of the lame man at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple ! Was he not diffusing this light when he said to this man, "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth arise and walk?"
And to how many did he not restore sight, and health, and faith, by the power of this same name. But the name of Jesus is not only light, it is likewise food. Are you not strengthened and consoled as often as you call it to mind ? There is no thought that so replenishes and fills the soul with sweetness and spiritual joy; no exercise so efficaciously recruits and refreshes the wearied spirit, and even the senses; so repairs the inward strength, gives vigour to virtue, and cherishes pure affections, as the frequent invocation of the name of Jesus.
All food of the soul is unsavoury to me if this oil be not poured upon it ; it is insipid to me if not seasoned with this name. If you write, it does not relish if I read not there the name of Jesus. If you dispute or instruct, it does not satisfy me if I hear not the sweet sound of the name of Jesus. Jesus is honey to the mouth, music to the ear, jubilee to the heart.
The name of Jesus is, moreover, a sovereign medicine. If there be anyone overwhelmed with sorrow, let Jesus come into his heart, and thence to his lips, and behold, at the rising light of this sacred name all darkness and clouds will be dispersed, peace and joy will return, and the serenity of his mind will be restored. If there be anyone stained with crime, and driven headlong by despair to the pit of destruction, let him call upon this life-giving name, and he will speedily be restored to hope and salvation. Is there anyone amongst you in hardness of heart, in sloth, or tepidity, in bitterness of mind, if he will but invoke the name of Jesus his heart will be softened, and tears of contrition will flow gently and abundantly. In dangers and distress, in fears and anxieties, let him call on this name of power, and his confidence will return, his peace of mind will be restored. Doubts and embarrassments will be dispelled and give place to certainty. There is no ill of life, no adversity or misfortune, in which this adorable name will not bring help and fortitude. It is a remedy whose virtue our dear Saviour invites us to test.
"Call upon me in the day of trouble : I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me."
Nothing so efficaciously bridles anger and subdues the fire of all unruly passions as this holy name. When I pronounce the name of Jesus, I represent to myself a man meek and humble of heart, benevolent, chaste, merciful, a man endowed with all sanctity, all graces, all virtues, and I call to mind that this man is Divine, is the Almighty God, Who heals me by His example and strengthens me by His power., ,
All manner of good things come to my mind when the sacred name of Jesus sounds in my ear. I will, therefore, make to myself a sweet and sovereign ointment from the virtues of His humanity and the Omnipotence of His Divinity. It shall be to me a healing balsam, the like to which no physician was ever able to compound. And this electuary, my soul, thou hast laid up in the little vessel of the name of Jesus.
Let, then, this name of power be ever in my heart, that all my thoughts, desires, and actions may be directed by Jesus and unto Jesus. To this He Himself urges me :
"Place me as a seal upon thy heart, as a seal upon thy arm."
Source: Sermons of Saint Bernard on Advent and Christmas, Imprimatur 1909