Feast of the Circumcision

His name was called Jesus, which was called by the angel, before He was conceived in the womb--LUKE ii. 21.

In the Old Law (Gen. xvii. 12), it was required that every male child should on the eighth day after his birth be circumcised, and thus admitted among God's chosen people. The rite of circumcision in the Old Law corresponded to the Sacrament of Baptism in the New Law and was the means of remitting original sin. Our Lord, although free from every sin, submitted to this rite in order to show that He was a true Son of Abraham, to manifest respect and obedience to the established law, and to prove that He had a real human body. At the time of circumcision, a name was given to the child. Our Lord was called Jesus, which signified His office as Saviour. On this feast of the Circumcision, therefore, it is most appropriate that we should meditate on the first petition of the Lord's prayer, "hallowed be thy name."

I. The first petition of the Lord's Prayer. 1. In the opening words of the Lord's Prayer we ask that God's name may be honored, which shows that God's glory should be our chief desire. 2. This petition does not mean that God's essential glory or perfection should be increased, nor that the honor given Him on earth should be equal to that shown Him in heaven.

II. The objects of this petition. We ask: 1. That we may praise God with our hearts and lips; 2. That those in error may be brought to recognize and revere His Church; 3. That sinners may be converted to His service; 4. That men may learn to refer all blessings to Him as to their author and source.

CONCLUSION. Our conduct should be in conformity with this petition, I. Catholics must not cause the name of God or of His Church to be profaned by their own evil words and actions. 2. On the contrary, by clean speech and good example, Catholics ought to excite others to exalt the name of God, to respect the faith of Christ, and to honor His Church. 3. Good resolutions for the New Year.

Catechism of the Council of Trent, Part IV

Hallowed be Thy Name


What should be the objects and the order of our prayers we learn from the Lord and Master of all; for as prayer is the envoy and interpreter of our wishes and desires, we then pray as we ought when the order of our prayers corresponds with that of their objects.

True charity admonishes us to love God with our whole heart and soul, for as He alone is the supreme good, He justly commands our particular and especial love; and this love, we cannot cherish towards Him unless we prefer His honor and glory to all created things. Whatever good we or others enjoy, whatever good man can name, is inferior to God, because emanating from Him who is the supreme good.

In order, therefore, that our prayers may proceed in due order, our divine Redeemer has placed this petition, which regards our chief good, at the head of the others, thus teaching us that before we pray for anything for our neighbor or ourselves, we should pray for those things which appertain to the glory of God, and make known to Him our wishes and desires for their accomplishment. Thus shall we remain in charity, which teaches us to love God more than ourselves, and to make those things which we desire for the sake of God the first, and what we desire for ourselves the next, object of our prayers.


But as desires and petitions regard things which we lack, and as God, that is to say His divine nature, can receive no accession, nor can the Divinity adorned after an ineffable manner with all perfections admit of increase, the faithful are to understand that what we pray for to God regarding Himself belongs not to His intrinsic perfections, but to His external glory. We desire and pray that His name may be better known to the nations; that His kingdom may be extended; and that the number of His faithful servants may be every day increased,--three things, His name, His kingdom, and the number of His faithful servants, which regard not His essence, but His extrinsic glory.


When we pray that the name of God may be hallowed, we mean that the sanctity and glory of His name may be increased; and here the pastor will inform his pious hearers that our Lord does not teach us to pray that it be hallowed on earth as it is in heaven, that is, in the same manner and with the same perfection, for this is impossible; but that it be hallowed through love, and from the inmost affection of the soul.

True, in itself His name requires not to be hallowed. "It is terrible and holy,"(1) even as He Himself is Holy; nothing can be added to the holiness which is His from eternity. Yet, as on earth, He is much less honored than He should be, and is even sometimes dishonored by impious oaths and blasphemous execrations, we therefore desire and pray that His name may be celebrated with praise, honor, and glory, as it is praised, honored, and glorified in heaven. We pray that His honor and glory may be so constantly in our hearts, in our souls, and on our lips, that we may glorify Him with all veneration, both internal and external, and, like the citizens of heaven, celebrate with all the energies of our being the praises of the holy and glorious God.

We pray that as the blessed spirits in heaven praise and glorify God with one mind and one accord, mankind may do the same; that all men may embrace the religion of Christ, and, dedicating themselves unreservedly to God, may believe that He is the fountain, of all holiness, and that there is nothing pure or holy that does not emanate from the holiness of His divine name. According to the Apostle, the Church is cleansed " by the laver of water in the word of life,"(2) meaning by " the word of life " the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, in which we are baptized and sanctified.


As, then, for those on whom His name is not invoked there can exist no expiation, no purity, no integrity, we desire and pray that mankind, emerging from the darkness of infidelity and illumined by the rays of the divine light, may confess the power of His name; that seeking in Him true sanctity, and receiving by His grace the sacrament of baptism, in the name of the holy and undivided Trinity, they may arrive at perfect holiness.


Our prayers and petitions also regard those who have forfeited the purity of baptism and sullied the robe of innocence, thus introducing again into their unhappy souls the foul spirit that before possessed them. We desire, and beseech God, that in them also may His name be hallowed; that, entering into themselves and returning to the paths of true wisdom, they may recover, through the sacrament of penance, their lost holiness, and become pure and holy temples in which God may dwell.


We also pray that God would shed His light on the minds of all, to enable them to see that every good and perfect gift, "coming down from the Father of lights,"(3) proceeds from His bounty, and to refer to Him temperance, justice, life, salvation. In a word, we pray that all external blessings of soul and body which regard life and salvation may be referred to Him whose hands, as the Church proclaims, shower down every blessing on the world. Does the sun by his light, do the other heavenly bodies by the harmony of their motions, minister to man? Is life maintained by the respiration of that pure air which surrounds us? Are all living creatures supported by that profusion of fruits and of vegetable productions with which the earth is enriched and diversified? Do we enjoy the blessings of peace and tranquillity through the agency of the civil magistrate? All these and innumerable other blessings we receive from the infinite goodness of God. Nay, those causes which philosophers term "secondary" we should consider as instruments wonderfully adapted to our use, by which the hand of God distributes to us His blessings and showers them upon us with liberal profusion.


But the principal object to which this petition refers is that all recognize and revere the Spouse of Christ, our most holy mother the Church, in whom alone is that copious and perennial fountain which cleanses and effaces the stains of sin; from whom we receive all the sacraments of salvation and sanctification, which are, as it were, so many celestial channels conveying to us the fertilizing dew which sanctifies the soul; to whom alone, and to those whom she embraces and fosters in her maternal bosom, belongs the invocation of that divine Name which alone, under heaven, is given to men, whereby they can be saved.(4)


The pastor will urge with peculiar emphasis that it is the part of a dutiful child not only to pray for his Father in word, but in deed and in work to endeavor to afford a bright example of the sanctification of His holy name. Would to God that there were none who, while they pray daily for the sanctification of the name of God, violate and profane it, as far as on them depends, by their conduct; who are sometimes the guilty cause why God Himself is blasphemed; and of whom the Apostle has said, "The name of God through you is blasphemed among the Gentiles,"(5) and Ezekiel: "They entered among the nations whither they went, they profaned my holy name, when it was said of them: This is the people of the Lord, and they are come forth out of his land."(6) Their lives and morals are the standard by which the unlettered multitude judge of religion itself and of its founder: to live, therefore, according to its rules, and to regulate their words and actions according to its maxims, is to give others an edifying example, by which they will be powerfully stimulated to praise, honor, and glorify the name of our Father who is in heaven. To excite others to the praise and exaltation of the divine name is an obligation which our Lord Himself has imposed on us: "So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven";(7) and the prince of the Apostles says: "Having your conversation good among the Gentiles that by the good works, which they shall behold in you they may glorify God in the day of visitation."(8)



Hallowed be thy name. This is the first petition in the Lord's Prayer, and as our dear Saviour taught us to ask first of all that God's name may be reverenced, this petition undoubtedly contains something of primary importance in the life of man.

Almighty God, our merciful Father in Heaven, is the Creator of all things. When this fact is established, it follows that there can be no other aim and object for the whole of creation than the honor and glory of God. What greater interest can we have in life than the effort to attain the object for which we were created, and to realize the aim of our existence? Nothing causes more painful disappointment than the sense that after exerting oneself to the utmost, all has been in vain, and the end has not been reached. The Greeks, who were so logical in all their thought, regarded aimless labor as a fearful punishment. You have heard of the Danaidae, who toiled incessantly to fill barrels with no bottom. Are such Danaidae purely fabulous? If you look around, you will discover many who toil day and night to acquire earthly riches, fancying that the vessel of their earthly existence is strong and lasting; they never give a thought to the eternal Source of all life, their Father in Heaven. When death conies, he crushes with his heavy tread their frail vessel of temporal possessions and all is lost, so that they appear before their Judge with empty hands.

We cannot imagine the bitter disappointment felt by one who in the light of eternity looks back upon his wasted life. Our Saviour wished to spare us this sorrow, and so He taught us to seek first of all the glory of God as the all-important object of our existence. For when we say, "Hallowed be thy name," we pray in the first instance that God's name may be sanctified in and through us.

What is meant by God's name? Of all God's creatures, we human beings alone have the gift of speech. All the memories, thoughts, and ideas that we have ever had regarding a thing may be recalled to our minds by certain sounds, which we describe as its name. Thus the name of God comprises for us all that we know and believe about Him; it is at once revelation and a profession of faith. The name of God is the loftiest of all conceptions, the holiest of all words. "Holy and terrible is His Name." God Himself revealed His own infinity when in the burning bush He called Himself Jahwe--I am Who am.

Today let us visit the Holy Land, going to the summit of Mount Sion.

There in the Temple, prayers and sacrifices were offered night and morning to the one true God who had revealed His name to the people of Israel. But though we might listen to the priests' prayers and songs of thanksgiving, we should never hear that name uttered; it was too holy and awe-inspiring to be spoken. Once only in the year, when on the great day of atonement the sin offering was made, the high priest dipped a bunch of hyssop in the blood of the victim, and, wearing his robes of office, entered the Holy Place at sunrise, passing behind the heavy curtains into the darkness of the Holy of Holies. The people could not see him, but all were aware that the moment had come for him to call upon the Holy Name of Jahwe; and in silent reverence they muffled their faces and bowed down to the earth.

Under the old dispensation the name of God was fraught with terror and hope, but to us it is full of glorious realization. To us has our Saviour appeared, for "the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us." We connect with the name of God a far deeper significance than did the Israelites, for to use it conveys the three Divine Persons--Father, Son, and Holy Ghost-- and the miracles of our Creation, Redemption, and Sanctification. Although we are no longer restrained by fear from pronouncing the name of God, it is still as holy and reverend as it was to the Jews, and St. Paul says: "Let every one depart from iniquity who nameth the name of the Lord" (2 Tim. ii. 19).

The name of God must be familiar to a child both at home and at school. When Christianity was first taught, a high degree of intellectual culture existed in the world, and in spite of her unassuming form--to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Gentiles foolishness--the Church occupied a favorable position. Pagan civilization had a religious basis, and had outwardly prospered, but in course of time this outward semblance lost all real meaning, for the ancient faith had been destroyed by doubt and ridicule. Christianity adapted itself to the old forms and acted like leaven, filling them with a new significance, until at last it had renewed the face of the earth. Then, equipped with the eternal truth of Divine Revelation and also with the learning of ancient civilization, the Church was able to encounter nations previously barbaric, and instruct them in things necessary for their religious and temporal welfare. For centuries, no one questioned her right to control education, and it is only recently that scholars have begun to go their own way, which is frequently in direct opposition to faith in Revelation. Perhaps no erroneous doctrine has had such disastrous results as the superficial statement that there must needs be antagonism between science and religion. It is true that the field covered by secular science is now so vast that it could not possibly stand under the direct control of the Church. Science is now a grown-up daughter, taking her place beside her mother the Church; but she should never forget her early home, or deny that she received her earliest training there. There is no antagonism between faith and knowledge--where knowledge ends, faith begins; where the light of intellect fails to illumine the path of the scientist, the rays of Divine Revelation shine forth. Scientific research cannot be carried on exclusively by churchmen, but God's name ought still to be inscribed upon every department of knowledge, for the aim and object of all education is to render man capable of realizing the purpose of his existence. Schools at the present day are contented if they supply the young with useful information, and fit them to earn their livelihood and become reasonably good portions of the machinery of earthly life. But "what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul" (Mark viii. 36).

Adherents of the modern school of thought have no right to say that this is an exaggerated reproof. They maintain that it is the business of the state and state-provided school to look after the temporal interests of the people, and that the Church may attend to their spiritual welfare. In opposition to this theory is the authoritative utterance of our Divine Lord and Master, Who emphatically impresses upon us all that the one thing needful is to seek the Kingdom of God with all the faculties of our mind, and He has taught us to say, "Our Father Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name." The one thing needful cannot be subordinated to any scheme of instruction; the name of the most high God cannot be put on a level with the multiplication table, nor can the worship of the supreme Ruler and Creator of the universe--the chief end for which we were created--be regarded as of less importance than lessons in reading and writing. Religion is not a lifeless thing, it is the atmosphere that gives life to our souls, and it ought to permeate our whole existence and determine all our actions. At the beginning and end of each day's work we say: " Hallowed be Thy name," and the thought should remain in our hearts while our hands are busy with their daily occupations.

A philosopher seated at his desk may be able to distinguish the natural and supernatural aims of men, but in actual life, this distinction does not exist, and all education is worthless unless it enables a man to attain the end proposed for him by his Creator. What would it benefit an army to equip it with first-rate weapons, if it were left without leaders and without an object, so that each soldier could go wherever he chose? Every good teacher rightly expects his pupils to be grateful to him if they succeed in life. Those, however, who give instruction quite apart from all mention of religion, must expect to hear the children of this world reproach them at the last day, saying: "All that you taught us was vain; you never spoke to us of God; you showed us pictures of all kinds of things, but allowed the image of God to be obliterated in our souls; you made us learn the names of earthly kings in remote ages, but not the name of the King of Heaven, whose reign is everlasting; we know all about minute germs and fungi, and nothing at all about God."

My Brethren, all creation exists for the glory of God: the earth, sea, and stars extol Him, the spirits in Heaven sing His praise; our lives belong to Him, and therefore we must teach our children to pronounce His Name; all our systems of education ought to be inscribed with it, and it should be written large upon our whole existence.

We ought to do our daily work in God's name. A mere animal devoid of reason may be satisfied if it can supply the needs of the moment without regarding its existence as a whole; but man sees how events are connected and tries to obtain a comprehensive view of all his actions.

If nothing else were required of us but to enjoy ourselves, we should have no difficulty in constructing a uniform scheme of life; but stern reality teaches us that enjoyment is not all. Who will help us to bear the burden and heat of the day, who will stand by us in our struggles and warfare, if we cannot range ourselves under a banner that will lead us to victory? Even wicked men show us how impossible it is to attempt a serious undertaking unaided, for as soon as they encounter any obstacle, they blasphemously curse God's name and try to accomplish their designs in the name of the devil, because their corrupt hearts cannot rise to seek assistance in the name of the Lord. It is horrible even to think of such abominable sins; but nevertheless this dark background shows up more brightly the pious uplifting of the heart to God in all difficulties and trials, the trustful appeal to His holy name, and the crown of glory bestowed on those who patiently endure and eventually triumph in the name of the Lord.

God's holy name ought to be inscribed not only over places where we work, but also over those where we take our pleasure. Art furnishes us with many delights, but we should never forget that though poets extol her as inspired, she is in reality the offspring of religion, since all art originated in the worship of God. The first achievements of architecture were temples, richly ornamented with a view to beauty, not solidity of structure, and the psalmist's harp sounded the praises of God. The drama had its rise in religious worship, and the greatest sculptors and painters, men like Michelangelo and Raphael, dedicated their greatest skill to the service of the sanctuary. Nowadays, art is often a degenerate daughter of religion, and refuses to recognize her mother, and possibly for that very reason, she is frequently barren, unendurable, and incomprehensible. She has forsaken her home, and her brow is no longer crowned with the consecration of God's holy name.

Some time ago, I visited a museum where I saw a stone completely covered with hieroglyphic inscriptions. When it had been discovered no one was able to decipher it, but the finder was not discouraged. He noticed that one particular sign was of frequent recurrence, and by dint of much study he came to the conclusion that it was the name of a king. This name gave the clue by means of which he was able to read the rest of the inscription, and even to restore the dead language in which it was written. I think we may regard this as a parable: our souls bear the image and inscription of Almighty God, who made them. Whatever may be the various aims of men's endeavors, the name of God remains inscribed on the heart of every human being; so let us hope and pray that this most holy name may once more prove a bond of union; that it may serve to draw the hearts of men together, so they may again learn to understand the old language of religion in which we pray "Hallowed be thy name."



1. How can we begin this new year of our lives better than under the invocation of His holy name? What can we do better than call to our minds all that this Holy Name means to us? How much significance there is in a name! The name of a great man when it sounds in our ears brings to our minds the mighty deeds which have made the doer of them to stand out before mankind as one set on a pinnacle, an enduring example of what can be done by men; a lasting encouragement to others to spur them on that they may do likewise. Not indeed that great men, great that is in the eyes of mankind, are all to be imitated always in that wherein they are esteemed great. And yet great men, those who have distinguished themselves above and beyond their fellow men, are all serviceable to us. If they do not teach us what to do they at least are conspicuous examples of what we should avoid. So great men are useful to mankind, and it is a fitting recognition of their services to men, whether rendered knowingly or unknowingly, that they should have the reward of being called great.

2. Now this is a reward sometimes bestowed by God Himself. David was a great man. He was great by his valor, great by his deeds, great by his sufferings. He was great by those many admirable qualities which enabled him to rise from being a simple shepherd to be the king of an historic people. If his sins were great, he was great by his repentance. And how great he is by the expression he has given in his psalms to those thoughts and aspirations, welling up indeed from the hearts of many before him and many after him, but nowhere finding such true and powerful expression as in his own words! David was great in all those ways, and it was as a reward that God said to him: "I have made thee a great name, great as the names of the great ones on the earth."

With the opening of the new year, we celebrate the memory of that name which is great above all names. If for his great deeds a great name was prepared for David, it was for His greater deeds that a still greater name was given to Our Lord; it was for His great deeds that God exalted Him, and bestowed upon Him a name above all names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow. He was given a great name because He was faithfully to do a great work; He was to work out the liberation and the salvation of mankind, and because He did this work He was given the great name of Jesus, which means "saviour"!

3. Many men have been called liberators and saviours. They have liberated their people from captivity, as Moses liberated the Israelites, and they have saved their people, as David saved his people from Goliath. By waging war, successful war, many have been called great liberators. Yes--but at the cost of how much misery and how much affliction! How many ruined towns and desolate homesteads have they not made in gaining for themselves their title! Yes--they were great, as men of this world are accounted great, but Christ our Lord is great with a greatness not based on the false standards of men. Not by war and destruction, not by the ruin of hearths and homes, not by the shedding of blood did He win His name of Saviour--but stop! What am I saying? There was toil, and there was labor, and there was suffering, and there was shedding of blood, but it was He who toiled, it was He who labored, it was He who suffered, and the blood which was shed was His very own!

4. "And his name was called Jesus." All names were possible to Him. The Father almighty might have chosen a name for His Son from any of the mighty works in which that Son had cooperated--the Son had cooperated in the creation of heaven and earth, for St. John tells us, without him was made nothing that was made--yet not from any of these mighty works was His name chosen. No, not from His creative works, not from His divine attributes, was His name chosen, but His name was taken from those sinful men whom He came to save! The name which is above every name, the name which is singled out for the Son of God to bear, this glorious name of Jesus, is given to Him for what He has done and for what He has suffered for us men and for our salvation.

5. It is a name not only glorious for Christ to bear; it is a name full of overflowing consolation for us, full of the certainty of help just in those circumstances in which no other name can hold out any promise. Men by their actions may make their names great in the estimation of their fellow men, but they cannot make their names a solid means of salvation from passion and error and the downward tendencies of human nature, salvation from sin and moral death. In this respect--and think how much it is--the Holy Name given to our Lord differs from all other names; not merely a glorious name for the Messias to bear, but a daily and hourly reminder to us of the source of all our graces and blessings. This is what He tells us Himself. The day before He suffered, seeing the grief of His sorrowing apostles, He consoled them with the promise: " If you ask the Father anything in my name, he will give it you." It was as if He had said, you need not wait for me as your mediator to pray for you, pray yourselves, using my name, and the power of my name with your heavenly Father will win for you all that you shall rightly ask for. No wonder that that name is a power with God. Think of all the divine bearer of that name did and suffered on behalf of those who bring their petitions to the throne of God under the shelter of that greatest of names. Do we want evidence of the wonderworking power of that name? In the Acts of the Apostles we read how St. Peter has shown us the power of that name when rightly invoked. Going with St. John into the Temple they found a lame man lying at the gate, who lifted up his eyes and hands and besought alms. Turning to him St. Peter said: "Silver and gold have I none; but what I have, I give thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, arise, and walk." And in the power of that name, He straightway arose and walked and went with them into the Temple, praising God, who had given to man a name of such power. St. Peter knew the power of that name, for did he not remember that when his Master had sent him and the other apostles on their first missionary journey they had come back rejoicing and saying, "Lord, the devils also are subject to us in thy name."

6. "And His name was called Jesus." Each one of us can say, He was called this name for me. He is not simply the Saviour of other men; He is my Saviour also. This name is given for each of us to invoke, as much as it was given to the apostles and the first disciples. This name is no less powerful now than it was in the days of St. Peter. If we do not always obtain the same results when we invoke that holy name, the fault lies with ourselves; we perhaps have not the purity of heart which opened heaven to their invocation, or our own self-interest is too largely our real motive.

When you invoke this holy name see that you make yourself not unworthy of a hearing. Let this name rise to God from pure lips and from a soul free from sin; then shall you begin to know what power there is in the invocation of that holiest of names; then shall you begin to know the reason we all have to thank God that His name was called Jesus.

1. Ps. xcviii. 3.
2. Eph. v. 26. 3. James i. 17.
4. Acts iv. 12. See Aug. serm. 181, de tempore, and Greg. lib. 35, Moral, C. 6.
5. Rom. ii. 24.
6. Ezek. xxxvi. 20. 7. Matt v. 16. 8. I Peter ii. 12.

Music: Jesu Dulcis Memoria