January 3rd, Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus
In the Extraordinary Form, the feast of the Holy Name is of the “second class” (making it equal to Sundays throughout the year, complete with the recitation of the Gloria and the Credo), but in the Ordinary Form the memorial of the Holy Name was not even included in the calendar after 1970. Happily, the feast was re-instituted as an optional memorial by Bl. John Paul II – we should think that the Name deserves at least this much honor!
In fact, the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus is of comparatively recent origin, not having become popular until the Franciscan St. Bernadine of Siena preached this devotion in the 15th century. It has been celebrated in numerous ways in the Latin rite – at first the feast was kept on the Second Sunday after Epiphany, then it was moved to the Sunday after the Octave of Christmas (the Sunday between January 2nd and 5th). It is desirable that this feast be celebrated closer to the day in which Christ historically received his name, the day of his circumcision (eight days after his birth, January 1st), and thus the feast is kept on January 3rd in the Novus Ordo.
The insignia “IHS" is associated with this feast, but what does IHS mean? Why is IHS a sign for the Name of Jesus?
What IHS really means – Jesus
The name “Jesus”, in Greek, is written ιησους which is transliterated as “ihsous” and pronounced iēsous. This is the Holy Name as it was written in the Gospels.
However, in Hebrew, the name “Jesus” is written ישוע which is transliterated as “yeshu‘a” and pronounced yeshūa.
Finally, in Latin, the Holy Name is written Iesus which gives us the English “Jesus”, since the “j” often replaces the “i” at the beginning of a word (as well as between vowels).
|Chi (x) and Rho (p), CHRist|
The insignia “IHS” comes from the Latinized version of the Greek ιησους, [UPDATE: In Greek capitals this would be ΙΗΣΟΥΣ or IHSOUS in Latin letters] taking the first three letters in capitals IHS(ous). Much as the popular “chi-rho” symbol (pictured right, X – P) comes from the first two letters of the Greek word for Christ, χριστος (Christos) – XPistos.
This is the true meaning of IHS, it is the first three letters of the Greek spelling of the Holy Name of Jesus. The insignia is nothing more (and nothing less) than the symbol of the Holy Name.
Iesus Hominum Salvator – Jesus the Savior of men
It is popular legend that the IHS stands for the Latin phrase Iesus Hominum Salvator, “Jesus the Savior of (all) Men”. While this is a fine devotion, it is not historically accurate.
The IHS symbol was so popular that it is not uncommon to find the Latin Iesus misspelled as IHeSus (with the “H” added, though in Greek this “h” is equivalent to the Latin “e”).
In fact, the first known use of the IHS abbreviation comes in the 8th century: “DN IHS CHS REX REGNANTIUM”, the first three words being abbreviated from “DomiNus IHeSus CHristuS” – “The Lord Jesus Christ is the King of Kings”. For a further explanation of the history of the IHS, see the Catholic Encyclopedia article [here] and [here].
Still, although historically inaccurate, there is certainly nothing wrong with seeing in this insignia a testimony to the truth that there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12). Most certainly, Jesus alone is the Savior and without his grace we can neither attain nor even desire everlasting life.
In Hoc Signo vinces – In this sign, you will conquer
After three nails were added under the insignia (together with a cross above), some noticed that the inscription now contained a “V” below the IHS – so that we see IHSV. (see image on the side) In this form it was adopted by St. Ignatius as the symbol of the Jesuits.
IHSV was interpreted to mean In Hoc Signo Vinces, “In this sign, you shall conquer”. It was taken as a reference to the victory which Constantine won against Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge on 28 October 312. Before the battle, the future Emperor saw a sign in the sky (probably the Greek chi-rho X-P, the symbol of “Christ”) and heard the words εν τουτω νικα, which is Greek for “In this [sign], you shall conquer”. The phrase was translated into Latin and it was noticed that the first letters of each word added up to IHSV – thus was born the legend that IHS stood for Constantine’s vision and the Christianization of Rome.
Most certainly, in the Holy Name of Jesus we shall conquer every enemy – and the last enemy to be destroyed is death itself.
Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus
|St. Bernardine of Siena |
popularized devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus
Lord, have mercy, Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy, Jesus, hear us. Jesus, graciously hear us.
God, the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God, the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.
Jesus, Son of the living God, have mercy on us (etc.)
Jesus, Splendor of the Father,
Jesus, Brightness of eternal Light,
Jesus, King of Glory,
Jesus, Sun of Justice,
Jesus, Son of the Virgin Mary,
Jesus, most amiable,
Jesus, most admirable,
Jesus, the mighty God,
Jesus, Father of the world to come,
Jesus, angel of great counsel,
Jesus, most powerful,
Jesus, most patient,
Jesus, most obedient,
Jesus, meek and humble of heart,
Jesus, Lover of Chastity,
Jesus, our Lover,
Jesus, God of Peace,
Jesus, Author of Life,
Jesus, Model of Virtues,
Jesus, zealous for souls,
Jesus, our God,
Jesus, our Refuge,
Jesus, Father of the Poor,
Jesus, Treasure of the Faithful,
Jesus, good Shepherd,
Jesus, true Light,
Jesus, eternal Wisdom,
Jesus, infinite Goodness,
Jesus, our Way and our Life,
Jesus, joy of the Angels,
Jesus, King of the Patriarchs,
Jesus, Master of the Apostles,
Jesus, Teacher of the Evangelists,
Jesus, Strength of Martyrs,
Jesus, Light of Confessors,
Jesus, Purity of Virgins,
Jesus, Crown of all Saints,
Be merciful unto us, spare us, O Jesus!
Be merciful unto us, graciously hear us, O Jesus!
From all evil, deliver us, O Jesus!
From all sin, deliver us, O Jesus!
From Thy wrath, deliver us, O Jesus! (etc.)
From the snares of the devil,
From the spirit of fornication,
From everlasting death,
From the neglect of Thine inspirations,
Through the mystery of Thy holy Incarnation,
Through Thy Nativity,
Through Thine Infancy,
Through Thy most divine Life,
Through Thy Labors,
Through Thy Agony and Passion,
Through Thy Cross and Dereliction,
Through Thy Sufferings,
Through Thy Death and Burial,
Through Thy Resurrection,
Through Thine Ascension,
Through Thine Institution of the Most Holy Eucharist,
Through Thy Joys,
Through Thy Glory,
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, spare us, O Jesus!
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, graciously hear us, O Jesus!
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us, O Jesus!
Jesus, hear us, Jesus, graciously hear us
Let us pray. O Lord Jesus Christ, Who has said: Ask and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: grant, we beseech Thee, to us who ask the grace of Thy most divine love, that we may love Thee with all our hearts, words and works, and never cease to praise Thee. Make us, O Lord, to have a continual fear and love of Thy holy Name; for Thou never ceasest to rule and govern those whom Thou doest solidly establish in Thy love. Who livest and reignest for ever and ever. (Amen.)