Friday, January 3, 2014

Anniversary Reflection

“IHS” is a traditional symbol for the Holy Name of Jesus
January 3, 2014 is the fifth anniversary of my solemn consecration to a life of virginity. Even after five years it’s still hard for me to find the words to write a reflection on the day. So instead, I’ll just share one small memory:

I originally chose January 3 as my consecration day, because I knew I wanted to be consecrated during the Christmas season, and that year January 3 happened to be the eve of the Epiphany. And January 3 is also my onomastico—that is, the feast of my patroness St. Genevieve, who herself was a consecrated virgin.

What I was not totally aware of at the time was that January 3 is also the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. But what might have been simply a liturgical happy accident instead led me, providentially, to see a new shade of meaning within my vocation.

The night before my consecration, a local Poor Clare monastery let me spend the night in their guestroom, so that I could spend that last night under the same roof as Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, so as to then be more recollected for my consecration day. In the morning, I joined the nuns in their chapel for their early prayers.

Since, as I then found out, the Holy Name of Jesus is an important feast for Franciscans, the nuns had a special commemoration of the day in their celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours. Their Franciscan Office books had all the beautiful proper prayers, readings, and antiphons which I didn’t have in my own “standard-issue” Roman breviary. So although I had not planned it this way, I found myself meditating specifically on the significance of the Most Holy Name in the final hours leading up to my consecration.

As I sat in the chapel, singing the Office along with the nuns, it came to my mind that if I were marrying a mortal spouse that day, I would be changing my last name to my new husband’s—and therefore “losing” my own name in a certain sense. It reminded me of how, when I was a very young, it used to strike me as a bit unfair that women generally took their husbands’ surnames, and were sometimes even addressed by their husbands’ name alone (as in: “Mrs. John Smith”).  To be very honest, when I was a little girl I used to marvel at how much you would have to love somebody to allow your own name to be basically taken over by his!

But that bright winter morning, I suddenly thought: how happy I would be if my name could be hidden under Jesus’ in the same way that a wife’s is hidden under her husband’s! In Jesus, I had truly found the one whom I loved enough so as to be willing to lose my own name.

Of course,  it should go without saying that God, who deliberately created us as unique individuals, doesn’t will that we should give up our own personalities when He calls us to consecrated life. And naturally it would sound a bit silly if I took to calling myself something like “Mrs. Jesus.” Still, at that moment, I couldn’t think of a greater joy or privilege than to be known simply as Jesus’ spouse.

Sacred Scripture and the Church’s teachings paint us a stunning picture of the power and majesty of the Holy Name of Jesus: 
…God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)

But I am also grateful that every year this feast also gives me a chance to savor this mystery in a personal and more intimate way, as I remember my consecration day and how I felt that joyful longing to give myself over entirely to the one who bears the Most Holy Name.