“O that you would kiss me with the kisses of your mouth! For your love is better than wine, your anointing oils are fragrant, your name is oil poured out.” (Song of Songs 1:2 – 3)
Today, January 3rd, is the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. In Spanish-speaking cultures it is called “Dia del Dulce Nombre” – Day of the Sweet Name. It is the patronal Feast of Carmelite novitiates (go ahead, ask me how I know! 😉 ). Around the world, white-veiled, squeaky-voiced little fiancees of the Lord are performing plays and preparing meals fit for a King (and all of His little Queens!). The Infant of Prague dons his most resplendent garb. The altars are decked with flowers and lace. And the giggling! If you have never had the pleasure of hearing Carmelites giggle on a feast day, please add it to your bucket list immediately.
But why today? Why are Carmelite novices imbued with such a deep devotion to the Most Sweet Name of Jesus? Listen carefully, because I think you’ll find you have more in common with cloistered nuns than you thought!
What’s in a Name?
Do you remember what the name Jesus means? We often hear it said that it means God Saves. This is true, but not complete. We need to remember that the “God” part in the name of Jesus is not the same as our English word, “god”. It is actually the Holy Name revealed to Moses, the ineffable, sacred name of the LORD: YAHWEH – I AM WHO AM.
I could probably write a book on all that goes in to this, so let me give you the short version: the name of Jesus IS power. Not powerful. Not a reminder of the power that Jesus has. When we speak the Name of Jesus, the LORD, YAHWEH, the Eternal One, the Alpha and the Omega really, truly, actually present. It’s not a symbol or an image. God, YAHWEH, is present when we speak His name, and when we speak the Name of Jesus, we say prophetically, “YAHWEH SAVES”. Through the authority given to all of us in our Baptism, we speak as true prophets, mouthpieces of God. In other words, when we speak the Name of Jesus, it is God who is speaking through us. And when God speaks stuff happens, folks! Strongholds are broken, illnesses are healed, storms are calmed, God becomes present in a tiny piece of bread, sins are washed away, and things that never existed before are brought into being out of nothing.
So here’s how this works, practically, in my life and yours. We come up against obstacles every day, all day long, amen? And we’re all wounded, amen? There are things inside us that hurt, places that are bleeding, broken – and we look at those things and wonder if we can ever be healed. Will I ever be me again? Maybe this is just God’s will for me. Maybe I should just accept it. What would it even be like not to live with this suffocating burden? Come on people, tell me I’m not the only one who’s had those thoughts. They have a name: hopelessness. They come from the pit of hell, and they would like nothing more than to drag you back with them to the wicked place they came from.
Stick with me, we’re getting to the good part!
The Song of Songs describes the Name of Jesus as oil poured out. All the Old Testament scholars out there are barely holding in their excitement because they see where this is going. Oil was used for many things in ancient cultures, one of them being to heal wounds.
Jesus has given us the oil of His Holy Name to heal the wounds of our hearts! My friends! Could there be better news?? Some of you are still not following…I think a C.S. Lewis analogy is in order here.
Remember Lucy? Father Christmas gave her a cordial that could heal all wounds. Lucy used that cordial to render the White Queen’s attacks on her people powerless. That cordial is the Name of Jesus. It’s something so small and simple we can take it with us wherever we go – and yet, there is absolutely no power in heaven, on earth, or under the earth that can stand up against it (Philippians 2).
So when you’re feeling your wounds, don’t just lie down and take it! Don’t just suck it up! My friends, that is not the life Jesus died to give you! Instead, take your cordial in your hands, pour out the healing oil of the Name of Jesus by speaking it over those wounded places, and live in victory!
Back to the Novices
To return to our original question, why are Carmelite Novices so devoted to the Holy Name of Jesus? It’s because they’re wounded. And I’m not hypothesizing or making things up – it is clearly communicated in novitiate formation that the reason novices are to be devoted to the Holy Name is because they have just come in to a “safe shelter” of sorts, after being outside in a hailstorm. They need to warm themselves by the fire of Divine Love. They need to let their frostbitten hearts be thawed, and their wounds need to be dressed by the Divine Physician. Being a novice in a religious community does not indicate a high level of “perfection” in the typical sense. It requires a heroic willingness to admit one’s brokenness and to invite Jesus and one’s community into it (which I would argue is much more along the lines of the kind of perfection we are called to, anyway).
So have heart, broken people! If you think you could be called to religious life or the priesthood, please don’t let the Enemy convince you that you are just too messed up. We’re all messed up. Jesus can work with messed up. He can’t do much with fake, however, so stop hiding and let Him heal you!
Hope you found this helpful, everyone! May the Sweet Name of Jesus deliver you from all your fears.
PS – For more on the importance of the concept of name in the Old Testament, I recommend you check out Genesis to Jesus from the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. It’s free!
And for a more detailed how-to on claiming the authority of Jesus over the wounded places in your life, be sure to read UNBOUND by Neal Lozano. It’s not free…but worth every penny! (I’m not getting paid to recommend those things – I have personally found them very helpful!)