"The Holy Name of Jesus justifies the sinner, delights the just, supports those who are tempted, augments grace for the just, and beatifies all that call upon it."
- St. Thomas
The ecclesiastical name for this day is the Feast of the Circumcision. It was instituted in honour of our Lord's receiving, on the eighth day after His birth, the mark of God's covenant with Abraham. The reception of this Sacrament of the Old Law was what distinguished God's chosen people from the rest of mankind, and was a figure of Baptism, which in the New Law distinguishes Christians from pagans and others.
The Divine Child was exempt from the ceremony, which was a remedy for sin, because He was Sanctity itself; but He submitted to it, having taken upon Himself the figure of sinful man, and to teach us respect and obedience to the laws of God and the Church. He also submitted to it in order to show that He was descended from Abraham, and thus fulfilled the promise made of old to that Patriarch that the Messiah should be born of his race.
On that occasion He received the name of Jesus, which signifies Saviour, in accordance with the command of the angel to the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph.
On this day we ought to repeat frequently the 'Divine Praises' in reparation for the many times the Holy Name is used irreverently. We can resolve, too, that in future, whenever in the streets or other places, we hear the Holy Name insulted, we will raise our hats and say, "Blessed be the Name of Jesus," and thus send reparation at once to the throne of God. The Litany of Jesus may also be said, with the view of obtaining a great increase of respect, love for, and confidence in Him. We ought also to thank God for conferring on us, without any merit on our part, the grace of Baptism, conferred, too, at a time when we could not thank Him.
Let us renew our Baptismal vows with great fervour, especially as it happens to be the first day of the new year, and make firm resolutions to avoid sin and to practice virtue more steadfastly than in the past. In the case of habitual sins we must try to find out the causes and remove them. We can more easily do this if we impress deeply on our minds the unspeakable value of the grace of God.
It was to give or increase it that the Sacraments were instituted. It was to preserve it that the Commandments were ordained, and it is to deprive us of it that the devil watches us and attacks us so frequently and violently.
"Blest Name that is rest and a shelter,
And light to the heart perplexed;
In this life, my last word and dearest,
My rapturous first in the next."
Genesius was a pagan Roman comedian. He was so skilled in his art that he was the idol of the Romans, and always drew an immense multitude of spectators. Public rejoicings were going on, and the Emperor Diocletian came to the capital in great state. Amongst the entertainments prepared for him was a stage performance. Genesius, who was aware of the hatred of the Prince against the Christians, prepared a mock ceremony to ridicule the Sacrament of Baptism. He made his appearance in the theatre on a bed, pretending to be sick, and asked to be baptized, so that he might have a happy death.
All this being done in comedy, excited the laughter of the people. Two actors then came forward, one dressed as a priest, the other as an exorcist, and said to Genesius, with mock gravity: 'My child, wherefore didst though send for us?" Genesius, suddenly changed by a miracle of grace, answered seriously: "Because I desire to receive the grace of Jesus Christ, and by holy regeneration to obtain remission of my sins."
The ceremonies of Baptism were then gone through. When the white robe, the mark of the newly baptized, was put on him, the soldiers took him bound before the Emperor to be interrogated. Diocletian enjoyed the whole thing very much, and, to make the play more real, pretended to be very angry, and asked Genesius: 'Are you a Christian?' Genesius replied in an inspired tone: "Hear me, O Emperor. Formerly, when I so much as heard the name of Jesus Christ uttered, I trembled with rage. I detested those among my relatives who professed the Christian religion. I studied the rights of Christians solely to scoff at them. But the moment the water of Baptism touched my flesh, my heart was changed, and I answered sincerely to the questions put to me. I saw a troop of angels over me, who read out of a book all the sins I had committed since childhood.
Then, having plunged the book into the water, they showed it to me, whiter than snow, the writing being effaced. Do you, then, O mighty Emperor, and you, O Romans, believe with me that Jesus Christ is the Lord, and that He is worthy of our adoration, and try also to obtain His mercy." The Emperor, equally surprised and irritated, first ordered him to be beaten with rods. Then he handed him over to the perfect Plautius to compel him to sacrifice to the idols. Genesius was stretched on the rack, and had his sides burnt with torches. Many other tortures were tried in vain.
The martyr constantly repeated: "There is no other Lord like Him Who appeared to me. I adore and love Him with my whole soul; though I had a thousand lives to lose, nothing could separate me from Him. Never-no, never- shall torments take Jesus from my mouth and heart. I feel the deepest sorrow for all my past errors, and for having commenced so late to serve Him." Seeing that his eloquence was making an impression on the people, the Emperor ordered his head to be cut off.