The Octave Day of Christmas
Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God
“When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” So writes Luke at the conclusion of today’s gospel. Today being the eighth day (the octave) of Christmas, it is good to reflect on the circumcision of our Lord, and on his naming.
God commanded Abraham, when making a covenant with him, that “throughout the ages, every male among you, when he is eight days old, shall be circumcised” (Gen 17:12). He repeated this commandment to Moses, when making a covenant with him, saying that “on the eighth day, the flesh of the boy’s foreskin shall be circumcised” (Lev 12:3). That the parents of Jesus chose to obey this law is evidence of the religious practices that were imbued into Jesus from an early age.
That a child should be named on the eighth day is not a precept of divine origin, but it is a custom that has been observed by various Jewish groups with varying degrees of consistency. Christ’s parents chose the name relayed to them by the angel Gabriel: Jesus. This English name, “Jesus,” comes from the Latin version, “Iesus,” which comes from the Greek version, “Iesous,” which comes from the late Hebrew name, “Yeshua,” which comes from the early Hebrew name, “Yehoshua,” and it means: “he saves.”
Jesus of Nazareth had the late Hebrew name: “Yeshua.” We know that it was a common name because it is found on hundreds of tombs throughout the Holy Land from the time of Christ. But, in our culture, the name Jesus is not at all common. On the contrary, in the English language, the name is treated with a certain reverence, or at least enough reverence to inhibit parents from choosing this name for their children. But is that all the reverence that is owed to that name? As this new year begins, can we think of ways of showing greater reverence to the Holy Name of Jesus?