Name of Sweetness, Name of Blessed Hope.
Pat Conlan OFM continues his reflections on the Holy Name with a look at early Franciscan influence on the devotion.
Following St Francis, St Anthony of Padua took up the theme of the Holy Name. In his sermon on the Circumcision, commenting on the text that His name was called Jesus, Anthony called it: “O Name of sweetness, O Name of delight, O Name of blessed hope and of strength for the sinner.” Returning to the text, “Your Name is as oil poured out,” Anthony notes that oil has five functions. “It floats upon all other liquids, indicating that the Name of Jesus is above all other names. It is an emollient, it sweetens, it illuminates and it satiates. Thus preachers can use it to soften the hardest of hearts. It will sweeten the bitterest of temptations. As you think of it, it will illuminate your heart. Read it and your mind will be filled. In another place he talks about how sweet is the bitterness and how trifling the tribulation which the humble soul undergoes for the Name of Jesus.”
Finally Anthony talks of the rays of the sun being the poverty and humility, the patience and the obedience of Jesus Christ. Some see this as the beginning of the tradition, later taken up by St Bernardine of Sienna, of surrounding the sacred monogram with the golden rays of the sun. The image of the rays of the sun around the IHS occurs again around this time in the coat-of-arms of St Bonaventure as cardinal. There is doubt about the date of the arms, which may have appeared after his death.
Just after St Anthony, another friar, Gilbert of Tournai, wrote a tract on Praise of the Honey-sweet Name of Jesus. It has been called the most extensive and beautiful treatise on the Holy Name written during the thirteenth century and the most influential until the period of St Bernardine. Written around the time of the Second Council of Lyons in 1274 it was falsely attributed to St Bonaventure. The treatise is in the format of ten sermons. The First introduces the theme and gives the names of those in the Old Testament who carry the name of Jesus. The Second gives the chief prerogatives of the Name of Jesus. The Name is powerful, gracious, joyous and glorious. The Third talks of the power of the Name to overcome all our enemies, particularly by driving off demons. It unites men with their fellow citizens by reviving the mind and repairing the strength. The Fourth, using the text of ‘Your Name is as oil poured out’, to talk of the Joyous Name of Jesus. It heals the sinner by obtaining his forgiveness. It mitigates by obtaining victory for the penitent. It illuminates the just with wisdom. It seasons the just by brining them to perfect fruition.
The Fifth to the Eight sermons treat of the gracious Name of Jesus. We should keep this Name in our heart, on our lips, in our years and in all our acts. It is desirable, delectable, admirable and venerable. It strengthens our weakness and consummates our union with God. The Name of Jesus is the foundation of Faith, the strengthening of Hope and the fostering of Charity. Considering its doctrine, the Name is prudence or wisdom. Turning to its patience, it is redemption or fortitude. Looking at its purity, it is sanctification or temperance. Finally in justice it is mercy. The Ninth sermon treats of the glory of Jesus who was an agent of the creation, the priest on the Cross, the just judge at the end and the all-powerful king and leader.
For the Name’s Sake
St Bonaventure is regarded as the founder after Alexander of Hales of the Franciscan school of understanding. He often turns to that “powerful, gracious, joyous, delicious and glorious Name which is loveable, venerable and desirable above all else. It is well-sounding, charming, redolent and opulent.” It is through the power of the Holy Name that the world is created, sustained and ruled. We should show our love for this Name by doing everything in word and work in the Name of Jesus, undergoing suffering and persecution for that Name’s sake.
The image of the IHS occurs on the seals of several entities within the Franciscan order. A word of warning, we are not sure of the date when these were cut. The oldest of these possibly belong to the provinces of Portugal and Sicily, both dating back to before 1250. That of Sicily shows a simple IHS with flowers in the centre of the H. That of Portugal had the symbol enclosed in the rays of the sun. The province of Corsica dates back to before 1380 and has the IHS with a cross on the bar of the H. The province of Majorca (or of the Balearic Islands) was founded around 1459 and the seal shows a simple IHS with the line overhead. The cismontane Commissary General came into being in 1517 and his seal has a simple IHS with three nails pointing to the centre of the H. The Commissary General for the Indies was first appointed in 1572 and his seal has the IHS with a cross on the bar of the H as well as the rays of the sun. Just before this Province of the Holy Name in Guatemala was founded in 1565 with a seal based on the simple HIS with a line over. Today three provinces of the Order, one each in Brazil, Sicily and the U.S.A., currently carry the Holy Name in their title.
Franciscan historians do not regard Ubertino of Casale as a worthy friar. He is considered as guilty of Joachimism, a vision of the future of the Church and world which was strongly condemned by the Church. A church of the spirit, a community of gladness and love would supersede the Church Hierarchy, the sacraments and the law. A new order of spiritual people would set an example of Christian living under the guidance of a real holy pope. Ubertin was confined to the hermitage on Mount Alverna in 1304 until his death in 1329 for having preached against the “carnal church” as he saw it. With plenty of time to think and meditate, he wrote his Arbor Vitae Crucifixae Jesu. While much of the book was given over to invective against the Church that had condemned him, it also contained a large section dealing with his mystical experiences.
This has been called a summary of almost all that can be said about the Holy Name. Its major importance is the influence it had on St Bernardine of Siena, the Apostle of the Holy Name, who quotes it almost word for word in one of his sermons. In particular Ubertino talks of the twelve virtues of the Name of Jesus. It appears that this led Bernardine to place twelve rays around the symbol of the Holy Name. With slight variations he also follows Ubertino’s twelve virtues. For beginners, the Name is the refuge of sinners, the remedy of the spiritually ill, the defence of the militant and the consolation of the afflicted. For the advanced it is the help of the proficient, the succour of the wavering, the honour of the steadfast and the theme of the preacher. For the perfect it is the sigh of those who keep it in mind, the support of those who pray, the fruit of those who try and the reward of those who persevere.
Also with Ubertino we come to the final form of the sign of the Holy Name. According to St John Capistran, that faithful recorder of the acts of St Bernardine, the saint was preaching in Alessandria, north of Genoa in Italy. He spoke of the twelve rays as spelled out by Ubertino. A young lad was so impressed that he went to a local painter to paint a golden circle with the name of Jesus within and twelve rays of the sun pointing out. The lad then carried this through the streets calling out the name of Jesus. A crowd began to follow him in an impromptu procession. St Bernardine was so impressed that he got a proper version done by the painter and carried it with him on his missionary journeys. It provided an excellent visualisation of the words that he preached.