instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Monday, December 01, 2003

At the Name of Jesus

The custom of bowing the head when the Holy Name of Jesus is spoken derives, of course, from Philippians 2:5-11:
Christ Jesus... though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave... he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.

Because of this, 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.
But come, we are practical people. Let us leave poetry to the poets and ask, "What, as a practical matter, is going to make every knee bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth?"

There are plenty of stubborn people, most likely no shortage of reprobates, and at the least a devil. They aren't going to go around bending their knees at the Name of Jesus through an excess of piety. Will God simply force them to kneel, the way an owner forces a cat to swallow a pill?

That strikes me as unlikely. I think, rather, that St. Paul is referring to a time, or shall we say to eternity, when the mystery of Christ's sacrifice will be unveiled. Now we know what the mystery is, to a certain extent, and we believe it; then we will see it. And in seeing it, its perfect goodness will be undeniable, even to the wicked. To the extent they preserve their natures, they will have no choice but to acknowledge the good they perceive.

In this way, perhaps, the intuition of the saints who said they would be willing to be damned, that God may be praised even in hell, may be satisfied.