Here is a wonderful prayer to sing! It is stark and lavish and carefully balanced and quintessentially Roman.
This week’s Collect, in 1962 Missale Romanum for the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost (last week), was in the ancient Gelasian Sacramentary for the Sunday after Ascension Thursday. It is also prayed after the Litany of the Most Holy Name of Jesus.
Sancti nominis tui, Domine, timorem pariter et amorem fac nos habere perpetuum, quia numquam tua gubernatione destituis, quos in soliditate tuae dilectionis instituis.
The verb destituo is basically, “to set down” and thus it comes to mean literally, “to put away from one’s self” and therefore, “to leave alone, to forsake, abandon, desert”. This contrasts with instituo, “to put or place into, to plant, fix, set” and a range of other things including “to make, fabricate”, “take upon one’s self, to undertake”, “to order, govern, administer, regulate”.
Note the balancing of ideas: timor/amor (fear/love) and instituo/destituo (establish/abandon). In instituo I hear a “setting down” in the sense of how God made us and by that making He takes us upon Himself. He has our care and our governance. God sets us down next to Himself, under His watchful eye, so that we don’t go wrong. In destituo I hear a “setting down” in the sense of a setting to one side away from Himself, an abandonment of interest.
Gubernatio means “a steering, piloting of a ship” or “direction, management”, which is where we get the word “government”. A gubernator is the pilot of a ship. In gubernatio, God is our pilot, our steersman, keeping his hand on the wheel of our lives. We are solid because His loving hand is firm. Were He to abandon us, our ship would wreck and we would be “destitute”. Amidst the vicissitudes of this world we depend in fear and love on His Holy Name. We stand in the proper place before God’s fearful Three-and-One glance and under His guiding hand of love only through both love and fear of His Name, which points to His divinity.
Grant, O Lord, that we may always revere and love your holy name, for you never deprive of your guidance those you set firm on the foundation of your love.
Make us to have, O Lord, constant fear and in equal degree love of Your Holy Name, for You never abandon with Your steering those whom You establish in the firmness of Your love.
A name, in biblical and liturgical terms, refers to the essence of the one named. The Divine Name made Moses carefully put off his shoes. Moses learned God’s Name to tell the captive Jews that the one who is Being Itself – “I AM” – would set them free (cf Exodus 2). Once destitute, they were instituted as His People. So sacred was the terrible Name of God for the Jews that they would not pronounce the four Hebrew letters used to indicate it in Scripture, substituting instead “Adonai”, “Lord”.
What does Our Lord says about His own Name? In John 16:23 Jesus – Hebrew/Aramaic Yeshua from Yehoshua, “Yahweh saves” – reveals His unity with the Father and the power of His Name saying, “Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask anything of the Father, he will give it to you in my name.”
In Mark 9:38-39 there is an exchange between the beloved disciple and the Lord about people casting out demons in Jesus’ name. Jesus said, ‘No one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me.’” The Name “Jesus” can change hearts.
John 20:31 says, “these [signs] are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name”. His Name – His Person – is our path to everlasting life.
The Name of God, of God the Father, God the Son Jesus Christ, God the Holy Spirit, is worthy of our fear and our love. The flexibility of Latin allows us to see how both constant awe and love of God must enwrap us: timorem … et amorem … nos …perpetuum. Many today want to stress only the love of the Name of Jesus without the holy fear which is its due. We must not exclude reverential awe and fear of that which God’s Name implies. In Scripture forms of words for “fear” occur hundreds and hundreds of times. Scripture is imbued with loving fear of God, indeed, a fear leading to love and wisdom.
God’s Holy Name is sacred. Paul wrote:
“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, 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” (Philippians 2:9-11).
The Name of Jesus is a matter for stopping our ordinary activity, resting a moment and tending the whole of our person towards Him in humility. By means of humble outward physical gestures of word and deed we interiorize the transforming power wrapped up in the Name.
On that note, if the entire cosmos should bend the knee at the Name of God, how must more ought we little mortals bend our knees in the presence of God in the Eucharist, for He is before us, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in every consecrated Host?
Whom do we invoke with the Holy Name? Our cuddly non-judgmental buddy? Ponder this from Revelation:
“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems; and he has a name inscribed which no one knows but himself. He is clad in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God.” (Rev 19:11)
How we use or react to the Holy Name indicates our interior disposition. Do we use it with reverential love? Do we speak it with respect? Is His Name, uttered by another during the day or by ourselves in the recesses of the night, a source of dread because we are destitute in our sins, terrified of the Judge? Rather than deal with His Name, do we fill our lives with noise and clamor so that we need never hear a deep “GOD”, with all that that implies? “God-fearing” men and women need not have terror of the Lord. For them, His terrible Name is consolation.
Today’s Collect prayer for Holy Mass reveals a way out of the terror for God and into deep consolation at His loving care for us. Through reverential fear of His Name and of who He is and what He has done, we move to the love that knows no fear (cf 1 John 4:16-18).
And if we know the Holy Name of the Lord, the Lord also knows our names. He knows us better than we know ourselves. In Ps 91 we hear that God will be our protection, our fortress. He will deliver us “from the deadly pestilence” and we need not fear “the terror of the night nor the arrow that flies by day”. His angels will fight for us and bear us up. God speaks in the psalmist:
Because he cleaves to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name. (v. 14)
Finally, a personal note. In this time of Covid-1984 challenges I’ve had many occasions to contemplate the Holy Name. I’m convinced that the virus is merely the material side of the coin, whose obverse is escalating demonic activity.
In the Gospels, when the Lord heals, He often also casts out demons. His disciples did the same in His Name (e.g. Matthew 10:1). Even unbelievers used the Holy Name of Jesus against demons (e.g., Luke 9:49). I’ve been praying for God to grant us a miracle: the sudden, complete and lasting eradication of all harm from the virus, as well as His intervention against the increasing demonic influence in our Church and in the world.
To this end, the bishop where I am has given me authority also publicly to recite the so-called “Long St Michael Prayer” in the traditional Rituale Romanum, Title XI, Chapter 3, the “Exorcism Against Satan And The Fallen Angels”.
In this mighty prayer, to be recited always in Latin, we first call upon St Michael the Archangel to protect us during the exorcism. Then, the exorcism begins “In nomine Iesu Christi Dei et Domini nostri... In the Name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and God”. During the exorcism His Name is invoked while making the Sign of the Cross over the place or things to be purged. The priest commands the Enemy:
Be thou humbled under the mighty hand of God; tremble and flee, as we call upon the Holy and awesome (sancto et terribili) Name of Jesus, before Whom Hell quakes, to Whom the Virtues, Powers, and Dominations are subject, Whom the Cherubim and the Seraphim praise with tireless voices, saying: Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Hosts.
I add this personal note as a nudge to my brother priests and to any bishop patient enough to have read this far. Demons can attach to places where certain sins are committed. Their foul influence can have effect long after the fact. Brothers, ask your bishops for permission to use Chapter 3. Bishops, just use it! Say this exorcism over all the places entrusted to your care, whether churches or their halls, schools and their grounds. Your rectories! Your chanceries! We are priests, not civil authorities or elected officials. Let us act like priests. Agere sequitur esse. Each of us is alter Christus, another Christ, who acts in persona Christi, in the person of Christ. Use the authority and awesome power Christ the High Priest has given you. Invoke His Most Holy Name against the powers of Hell and their material manifestations.
Picture: Moses and the Burning Bush in Basilica di San Vitale, Ravenna (Flickr/Marieke Kuijier)
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