Photo by Edward Cisneros
I WOKE this morning with a beautiful dream and a song in my heart—the power of it still flowing through my soul like a river of life. I was singing the name of Jesus, leading a congregation in the song What a Beautiful Name. You can listen to this live version of it below as you continue to read:
O, the precious and powerful name of Jesus! Did you know that the Catechism teaches…
To pray “Jesus” is to invoke him and to call him within us. His name is the only one that contains the presence it signifies. —Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), n. 2666
If you call on my name, you will hear at best your own echo. If you call upon the name of Jesus in faith, you will invoke His very presence and all that it contains:
…the one name that contains everything is the one that the Son of God received in his incarnation: JESUS… the name “Jesus” contains all: God and man and the whole economy of creation and salvation… it is the name of Jesus that fully manifests the supreme power of the “name which is above every name.” The evil spirits fear his name; in his name his disciples perform miracles, for the Father grants all they ask in this name. —CCC, n. 2666, 434
How seldom we hear the name of Jesus loved and praised today; how frequently we hear it in a curse (thus invoking the presence of evil)! No doubt: Satan despises and fears the name of Jesus, for when spoken in authority, when raised in prayer, when adored in worship, when called upon in faith… it invites Christ’s very presence: demons tremble, chains are broken, graces flow, and salvation is brought near.
It shall be that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Acts 2:21)
The name of Jesus is like a key to the Father’s heart. It is the center of Christian prayer for it is only through Christ that we are saved. It is “in the name of Jesus” that our prayers are heard as though Jesus Himself, the Meditator, is praying on our behalf.cf. Heb 9:24
There is no other way of Christian prayer than Christ. Whether our prayer is communal or personal, vocal or interior, it has access to the Father only if we pray “in the name” of Jesus. —CCC, n. 2664
All liturgical prayers conclude with the words “through our Lord Jesus Christ”. The Hail Mary reaches its high point in the words “blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.”CCC, 435
Nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved. (Acts 4:12)
This is why, whenever I hear the name of Jesus, whenever I pray it, whenever I remember to call it… I can’t help but smile as creation itself seems to cry out in response: “Amen!”
THE NAME ABOVE ALL NAMES
As my morning began in the wake of that dream, I felt an urging to write about the name of Jesus. But a hundred distractions began, not the least, the troubling world events unfolding as the Great Storm around us intensifies. Finally this afternoon, after what felt like an intense spiritual battle, I was able to take some time alone to pray. I turned to my bookmark where I left off in the writings of Servant of God Luisa Piccarreta and proceeded to pick up my jaw off the floor after I read these words from Our Lady:
Indeed, all those who so desire may find in Jesus’ name the balm to alleviate their sorrows, their protection in the face of danger, their victory over temptation, the hand to keep them from falling into sin, and the cure to all of their evils. The Most Holy Name of Jesus makes hell tremble; the angels reverence it and it sweetly resounds in the ears of the Heavenly Father. Before this name, all bow down and adore, as it is powerful, holy and great, and whoever invokes it with faith will experience prodigies. Such is the miraculously secret virtue of this Most Holy Name. —The Virgin Mary in the Kingdom of the Divine Will, Appendix, Meditation 2 “Jesus’ Circumcision”
What confirmation! As world events become more frightening, personal trials mount, and you find your faith wobbling beneath the weight of the cross, Mamma says:
Now, my child, I encourage you to always pronounce the name, “Jesus.” When you see that your human will is weak and vacillating, and hesitates to do the Divine Will, the name of Jesus will make it resurrect in the Divine Fiat. If you are oppressed, call upon the name of Jesus; if you work, call upon the name of Jesus; if you sleep, call upon the name of Jesus; when you awake, may your first word be “Jesus.” Call him always, as it is a name that contains seas of grace which He gives to those who call upon him and love him. —Ibid.
Hallelujah! What a canticle Our Lady has given to the name of her Son!
Finally, the Catechism says:
The invocation of the holy name of Jesus is the simplest way of praying always. CCC, n. 2668
I really feel this is what Our Mother wants to teach us (again) today. In the Eastern churches, this is known as the “Jesus Prayer.” It can take many forms:
“Jesus I trust in You.”
“Lord Jesus, have mercy on me.”
“Lord Jesus Christ, have pity on me a sinner…”
In the spiritual classic The Way of a Pilgrim, the anonymous author writes:
Ceaseless prayer is to call upon the Name of God always, whether a man is conversing, or sitting down, or walking, or making something, or eating, whatever he may be doing, in all places and at all times, he ought to call upon God’s name. —translated by R.M. French (Triangle, SPCK); p. 99
Now, sometimes, it may seem that we cannot pray well or even at all. Physical suffering, mental and spiritual oppression, tending to urgent matters, etc. can pull us from the space of being able to pray with the mind. However, if Jesus taught us “always to pray and not lose heart” Luke 18:1 then there would be a way, right? And that way is the way of love. It is to begin every action in love — even the next hour of intense suffering — “in the name of Jesus.” You can say, “Lord, I cannot pray right now, but I can love you with this cross; I cannot converse with you now, but I can love you with my small presence; I cannot look at you with my eyes, but I can gaze at you with my heart.”
Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17)
So, while my mind may be occupied with the task at hand (as it should be), I can still “pray” by uniting what I do to Jesus, by doing it “in the name of Jesus” with love and attentiveness. This is prayer. Doing the duty of the moment out of obedience for love of God and neighbor is prayer. In this way, changing a diaper, doing the dishes, filing taxes… these, too, become prayer.
Against our dullness and laziness, the battle of prayer is that of humble, trusting, and persevering love… Prayer and Christian life are inseparable, for they concern the same love and the same renunciation, proceeding from love… He “prays without ceasing” who unites prayer to works and good works to prayer. Only in this way can we consider as realizable the principle of praying without ceasing. —CCC, n. 2742, 2745
The Catechism goes on to say that “Whether prayer is expressed in words or gestures, it is the whole man who prays… According to Scripture, it is the heart that prays.”CCC, n. 2562 If you understand this, that it is “prayer of the heart” that God seeks as opposed to lofty words and eloquent monologues,“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him.” (John 4:23) then unceasing prayer will be attainable for you, even if it is a battle.
Back to the Jesus Prayer, which really, is a means to pray with words even if we cannot meditate with the mind. As you begin to pray this moment by moment, then hour by hour, then day by day, the words will begin to pass from the head to the heart forming a ceaseless flow of love. This ceaseless invocation of the Holy Name becomes as it were a guard over the heart. “For it is impossible, utterly impossible,” said St. John Chrysostom, “for the man who prays eagerly and invokes God ceaselessly ever to sin.”De Anna 4,5:PG 54,666 And because the name of Jesus contains the very presence it signifies, this prayer is never fruitless—even if uttered but once with love.
When the holy name is repeated often by a humbly attentive heart, the prayer is not lost by heaping up empty phrases, but holds fast to the word and “brings forth fruit with patience.” This prayer is possible “at all times” because it is not one occupation among others but the only occupation: that of loving God, which animates and transfigures every action in Christ Jesus. —CCC, n. 2668
And finally, for those who are following my writings here on the new “gift of living in the Divine Will” that God has furnished for these times, the Jesus Prayer is a means to elevate and fuse the human will again with the Divine Will. And this only makes sense. For, as Our Lady said to Luisa, “Jesus did not perform any work or endure any sorrow that did not have as its aim the reordering of souls in the Divine Will.” The Virgin Mary in the Kingdom of the Divine Will, Appendix, Meditation 2 “Jesus’ Circumcision” The will of the Father, contained in the Word made flesh—Jesus—is that we live in His will.
As the song says: “O, what a beautiful name it is… what a wonderful name it is… what a powerful name it is, the name of Jesus Christ my King.”
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|↑1||cf. Heb 9:24|
|↑4||CCC, n. 2562|
|↑5||“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him.” (John 4:23)|
|↑6||De Anna 4,5:PG 54,666|
|↑7||The Virgin Mary in the Kingdom of the Divine Will, Appendix, Meditation 2 “Jesus’ Circumcision”|