January 3 is the day the Church has designated to celebrate the Holy Name of Jesus and it is still a beautiful tradition to keep in mind and heart as we begin yet another year oriented towards our ultimate good: Jesus! What better way to start the new year than in praise of the Name of Jesus!
As we begin to take Christmas decorations down and enter into the bleak midwinter, beauty can take on an even more evocative role in prayer than usual. With this in mind, let’s look at how we can pray with art and music to honor the Name of Jesus this January!
Pray with music through the centuries
Whatever may be your preference in sacred music, Christianity’s long musical tradition has got you covered. Check out this polyphonic work by Pierre Bonhomme. Bonhomme, a Belgian composer in the 16th-17th century, wrote this piece using a Latin translation of the famous text of St. Paul from Philippians 2:10-11:
In nomine Jesu omne genu flectatur,
coelestium, terrestrium, et infernorum,
et omnis lingua confiteatur
quia Dominus noster Jesus Christus
in gloria est Dei Patris.
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Traditional hymn settings more your jam? 19th c. composer Caroline Noel wrote this one just for you! Again inspired by Phil. 2:10-11, this lovely hymn is often sung in the English Liturgy of the Hours.
Maybe contemporary praise and worship is more up your alley. Hillsong Worship’s 2016 song is perfect for this feast! What a beautiful name it is, indeed!
Pray with exquisite art
In my mind, there is no equal to this fresco by Giovanni Battista Gauli when it comes to visually depicting the glory of the name of Jesus:
This massive fresco is titled “The Triumph of the Name of Jesus” and decorates the ceiling of the Church of the Gesù in Rome, Italy. One of the most important frescos of the Baroque period, it was also inspired by Philippians 2:10-11 (Sensing a theme? St. Paul really wrote a home-run with that verse!).
The painting portrays an illuminated “IHS” (a contraction of the Greek word for Jesus) which radiates light outwards. Saints and angels are bathed in this light of the Name of Jesus, whereas the fringes of the painting show rolling dark shadows, clouding the fallen angels in darkness. When you look at the painting, you are pulled inward and up towards worship of him whose name is above every other name! And trust me, it is a compelling fresco to see in person. I guarantee that if you ever do see it, you will be very tempted to lie on the floor of the church and gaze in wonder at the ceiling. At least I was!
Pray with the words of the saints
Perhaps the beauty of language is what moves you most. If that is the case, take a gander at the Litany of the Name of Jesus. This litany was probably written either by St. John Capistrano or by St. Bernadine of Siena in the 15th century, and leads you through many beautiful titles of Jesus. Bonus: it also has a partial indulgence attached to praying it!
Whether these aide you in your praise or you find other beauties that speak to you more strongly, let us all make an effort in each new year year to begin again in praise and worship, under the banner of the Name of Jesus. Who knows what joys and victories may await us under this name in the year ahead?
Let us then rejoice in the fulness of this Name. Let us use it as the Name of virtue against devils, bad thoughts, evil men, the world, dangers and frights. It is our banner.St. John Henry Cardinal Newman