Tuesday, January 1, 2013
The Blessing of The Name
Through the words, in the Gospel today (2:15-21), which were spoken by God’s messengers to common sheep-tenders, Luke states his understanding of the meaning of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem: “An angel of the Lord stood before them, and...said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see -- I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord...”
The short first reading on today’s feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, from the Book of Numbers (6:22-27), is the well-known Priestly Blessing, or Birkat Cohanim in Hebrew. It’s been used for centuries by our Jewish sisters and brothers, and was borrowed later by Christian communities, including the Episcopal Church. You can find it in An Order of Worship for the Evening in the Book of Common Prayer, p. 114: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.” Notice God’s directive which the author of Numbers includes right after this: “So they shall put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.” For the Hebrews, HASHEM = The Name, was the most sacred term in their vocabulary, embodying all that God is, to the point where they wouldn’t even pronounce God’s Name, but used other words to describe God.