Monday, January 13, 2020

On Feast of Holy Name, Tradition Crushes Rupture, 27–7

In a short but pungent article at (“Guess Whose Name Is Missing?”), Phil Lawler notes the following curious fact about the optional memorial of the Holy Name of Jesus on January 3 in the Novus Ordo calendar:
Today, January 3, the Church calendar offers us the (optional) feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. At Mass the entrance antiphon reminds us, “At the name of Jesus, every knee should bend…” And then something curious happens. Through the rest of the proper prayers crafted especially for the day’s celebration, guess what Name is never mentioned. Right.
       Take, just for example, the Collect: “O God, who founded the salvation of the human race on the Incarnation of your Word, give your peoples the mercy they implore, so that all may know there is no other name to be invoked but the Name of your Only Begotten Son. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.”
       Isn’t there an obvious place there, right before “Who lives and reigns,” for the invocation of the name of Jesus? I mean, isn’t that kinda the point?
       The Offertory prayer, similarly, speaks of “the Name that saves” — but does not mention it. The Communion prayer alludes to the sacrifice “to honor Christ’s Name,” which is honored in silence.
       Could someone please explain to me why, on the day that we celebrate the name of Jesus, we don’t celebrate the name of Jesus?
That is an excellent question, Mr Lawler. And given the fact that in many places, the “entrance antiphon” is neither sung nor recited, it is quite possible that what he is calling the “proper prayers” of the Novus Ordo Mass would not mention the Holy Name once on the putative and optional feastday in honor of it. [1]

How illuminating it is to turn, for the sake of contrast, to the traditional feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, which is obligatorily celebrated on the Sunday after the Octave of the Nativity, that is, the first Sunday of the New Year (or, if that Sunday happens to be January 1, 6, or 7, then on January 2). For comparative purposes, I would like to enlarge the definition of the Proper of the Mass to include the readings of the day. A quick glance at the old Proper shows that the Holy Name will be mentioned (no options involved) TWELVE times. Notably, the full doxology is retained after the Secret and Postcommunion in the traditional rite, whereas the new rite opts for the short form “per Christum.” The theological richness of the prayers deserves to be noted, in comparison to their easy-listening replacements. [2]

Introit. In nomine Jesu omne genuflectatur, cælestium, terrestrium, et infernorum: et omnis lingua confiteatur, quia Dominus Jesus Christus in gloria est Dei Patris. Ps. 8. 2 Domine Dominus noster: quam admirabile est nomen tuum in universa terra. V. Glória Patri. In nomine Jesu
(In the Name of Jesus let every knee bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth; and let every tongue confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father. Ps. O Lord, our Lord, how wonderful is Thy Name in the whole earth. Glory be to the Father. In the Name of Jesus…)

Collect. Deus, qui unigenitum Filium tuum, constituisti humani generis Salvatorem, et Jesum vocari jussisti: concede propitius; ut, cujus sanctum nomen veneramur in terris, ejus quoque aspectu perfruamur in cælis. Per eumdem Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum…
(O God, Who didst appoint Thine only begotten Son the Saviour of mankind, and didst bid that He should be called Jesus: mercifully grant that we may enjoy the vision of Him in Heaven, Whose holy Name we venerate on earth. Through the same our Lord Jesus Christ…)

Epistle. In diebus illis: Petrus repletus Spiritu Sancto, dixit: Principes populi et seniores, audite: Si nos hodie dijudicamur in benefacto hominis infirmi, in quo iste salvos factus est, notum sit omnibus vobis, et omni plebi Israel: quia in nomine Domini nostri Jesu Christi Nazareni, quem vos crucifixistis, quem Deus suscitavit a mortuis, in hoc iste adstat coram vobis sanus. Hic est lapis, qui reprobatus est a vobis ædificantibus: qui factus est in caput anguli: et non est in alio aliquo salus. Nec enim aliud nomen est sub cælo datum hominibus, in quo oporteat nos salvos fieri.
(In those days: Peter filled with the Holy Ghost, said to them: Ye princes of the people and ancients, hear: If we this day are examined concerning the good deed done to the infirm man, by what means he hath been made whole, be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth, Whom you crucified, Whom God hath raised from the dead, even by Him this man standeth before you whole. This is the stone which was rejected by you the builders, which is become the head of the corner: neither is there salvation in any other. For there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved.)

Gospel. In illo tempore: Et postquam consummati sunt dies octo, ut circumcideretur puer vocatum est nomen ejus Jesus, quod vocatum est ab Angelo priusquam in utero conciperetur.
(At that time: After eight days were accomplished that the child should be circumcised; His Name was called Jesus, which was called by the Angel before He was conceived in the womb.) [3]

Secret. Benedictio tua, clementissime Deus, qua omnis viget creatura, sanctificet, quæsumus, hoc sacrificium nostrum, quod ad gloriam nominis Filii tui, Domini nostri Jesu Christi, offerimus tibi: ut majestati tuæ placere possit ad laudem, et nobis proficere ad salutem. Per eumdem Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum…
(May Thy blessing, by which all creatures live, hallow, we beseech Thee, most merciful God, this our sacrifice which we offer to Thee to the glory of the Name of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, that it may please Thy majesty and bring Thee praise, and avail us unto salvation. Through the same our Lord Jesus Christ…)

Postcommunion. Omnipotens æterne Deus, qui creasti et redemisti nos, respice propitius vota nostra: et sacrificium salutaris hostiæ, quod in honorem nominis Filii tui, Domini nostri Jesu Christi, majestati tuæ obtulimus, placido et benigno vultu suscipere digneris; ut gratia tua nobis infusa, sub glorioso nomine Jesu, æternæ prædestinationis titulo gaudeamus nomina nostra scripta esse in cælis. Per eundem Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum…
(O almighty and everlasting God Who didst create and redeem us, look graciously upon our prayer, and with a favourable and benign countenance deign to accept the sacrifice of the saving Victim, which we have offered to Thy Majesty in honour of the Name of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ: that through the infusion of Thy grace we may rejoice that our names are written in heaven, under the glorious Name of Jesus, the pledge of eternal predestination. Through the same our Lord Jesus Christ…)

The sweet Name occurs over and over again, as if one could not speak it enough — as in the great office hymn “Jesu dulcis memoria.” One sees clearly how this feast originated with the Franciscans, one of whose greatest preachers, St. Bernardine of Siena (about whom I have written here), chose the Holy Name for his special devotion and insignia.

What if we add a consideration of the Ordinary of the Mass? In the traditional celebration of the Holy Name, the Mass (whether it falls on a Sunday or a weekday) always includes the Gloria and the Credo; the Novus Ordo celebration would not include either. The Gloria mentions the Holy Name twice; the Credo mentions it once; the prayer at the mingling of water and wine, once; the Suscipe sancta Trinitas, once; the Roman Canon, thrice; the embolism, once; the commingling, once; the priestly prayers of preparation for holy communion, thrice; the taking of communion by the priest, twice. Not including all the times the Holy Name is pronounced with each act of giving communion to the faithful (“Corpus Domini nostri Jesu Christi…), this adds up to FIFTEEN times, for a total of 27 (12+15).

In the Novus Ordo, the Ordinary of the Mass on this day would mention the Holy Name possibly once at the start, if the second or third greeting formula were chosen; not a single time during the Offertory; then a variable number depending on the Eucharistic Prayer chosen (for EP I, 3 times; for EP II, 2 times; for EP III, 2 times; for EP IV, once); once in the embolism; once in the post-embolism prayer; once in the priestly preparation for communion (since there is an option between two prayers). This adds up to anywhere from 4 to 7 times.

Taking the Proper and Ordinary together, this brings the total number of mentions of the Holy Name on its Novus Ordo memorial to 4 at a minimum and 13 at a maximum. If I were a betting man, I would place my bet on 7 as the most likely number, assuming the following: recitation of the entrance antiphon, the use of greeting #2, the standard lectionary readings rather than special ones, [4] and EP II.

So, in a comparison simply of texts, we would be looking at an obligatory 27 mentions of the Holy Name of Jesus in the course of the TLM, versus an optional approximately 7 mentions of the Holy Name in the Novus Ordo, give or take a few.

We know that the liturgy is so much more than the texts out of which it is composed. It is the chants to which the texts are sung (or not sung). It is the ensemble of gestures and ceremonies performed by the ministers, the collection of signs and symbols that bring to mind the mysteries of our Faith while pointing to what eludes our rational grasp. Nevertheless, the liturgy still IS a textual reality, however many other layers it has; and what we say — and how often we say itmatter profoundly. One cannot automatically assume that more is always better, since then we might as well say the Holy Name a hundred times, or a thousand. The liturgy, as such, is not the Jesus Prayer. But we can assume that a certain number of mentions is appropriate for a feast day held in honor of that very Name by which we are saved; we can assume, moreover, that a severe reduction in the number of mentions, against a fuller tradition of several centuries’ duration, is altogether inappropriate. This would not be, alas, the first or the only time the reformed liturgical books displayed such a disconnect from warm tradition and meet devotion.

It is comparisons like this — which are not difficult to come by on the internet or in books — that prompt one to ask: Where is the true patrimony of our Church, liturgical, devotional, theological, best preserved and celebrated? In the traditional rite, or in a “banal on-the-spot fabrication” that cannot even properly celebrate the personal name of the founder of Christianity?

A night that lasted fifty years is passing; a new day is at hand. As the Christmas season so often says, let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light, for the honor and glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.


[1] It is, as usual, difficult to talk about how often the Holy Name would be mentioned at a Novus Ordo Mass on January 3, because of the moving target nature of the options (something I discuss in an old article).

[2] For a comparison of the Collects, see this article.

[3] This is the totality of the Gospel! Only one verse: the shortest in the traditional calendar. The Novus Ordo also goes to this portion of Luke, but expands it to Luke 2:21-24, which does not have the same impact and focus; it becomes a mere doublet of the Presentation.

[4] There are multiple optional readings, with, accordingly, varying mentions of the Name: 3 times (1 Cor 1:1-3), 3 times (Phil 2:6-11), or once (Col 3:12-17) in the reading from Paul; and once in the reading from Luke. I have seen with my own eyes, and I imagine most who are reading this have also seen, that the regular daily lectionary readings are more frequently used than votive readings, regardless of what memorial is on offer, so there is no guarantee that any of the possibilities for the Votive Mass of the Holy Name of Jesus will be actualized on January 3.

Photos in this article are by Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P.

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