Lesser Feasts and Fasts tells us that prior to the '79 BCP this day was not known as Holy Name but as the Feast of the Circumcision. Luke tells us this ritual was performed on Jesus eight days after his birth, pursuant to Jewish custom and tradition. The church shifted away from that bloody and gruesome (and painful) image in '79 moving to a day where we reflect on the Holy Name given to Jesus on this day.
All three of our readings have to do namings: how Jerusalem is referred to will be changed; the names John uses to describe the images in his revelation, and the importance of Jesus' name being given him by Joseph in Matthew's Gospel. What we call something is important.
Names have meaning. It is a proven psychological principle that things we are called, names associated with us, can have lasting impact. When a child is called "fatso" or "ugly-zit-face", as much as those names may be untrue, they can still take root and help shape a person's self-image. Similarly, what we pray as Episcopalians is what we believe. By identifying ourselves as members of this peculiar community of Christians, we are not only saying something to others about who we are and what we believe, but we are all in the act of becoming that thing. It is important what we call ourselves.
On this first day of a new calendar year, as we think about and recognize Jesus' Holy Name, we are also asked to think about what name we want to be called this year. Who am I becoming, we can ask ourselves, and then actually embody that image we project. That authenticity will bring us to a very Happy New Year.
Copyright 2010, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.