In the “Litany of the Sacred Heart” we call on the Lord by many different names and titles. Some of them come from the Bible and some come from Tradition to show the different ways that we can understand the Lord and His relationship to us. However, there are 4 names of the Lord that are perhaps the most common and that help us to understand who Jesus Christ is: Jesus, Christ, Son of God, and Lord.
In English, the name we know that Lord by is Jesus. That names comes to English from the Greek Iesous, which can also be spelled Ihsous (which is why the name of Jesus is often abbreviated IHS in Christian art and decoration). The Greek version comes from the original Hebrew name of Yeshua. This is the name that the Archangel Gabriel gave at the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and it means “God is Salvation” or “God Saves.” God is the Savior and the source of salvation. He saves His people Israel from the enemies who would conquer and destroy them, he delivers them from slavery in Egypt and exile in Babylon. Ultimately, God saves His people, and all peoples, from sin, death, and the powers of the Ancient Enemy, in the person of Jesus through His Death and Resurrection.
He is also called “Christ,” which we either give to Him as a name, like in Jesus Christ, or as a title, by calling Him “the Christ.” Christ comes from the Greek Christos, which in turn comes from the Hebrew Messiah, which means anointed or anointed one. In the Old Testament, priests and kings were anointed with olive oil, such as Aaron the High Priest, King David, to show that they are set apart for the service of God, or that they are chosen by God for a special task, or that they are blessed by God in a special way. The messiah’s of the Old Testament prefigure Christ and prepare for His coming. Jesus Christ was anointed by the Holy Spirit when He was baptized in the Jordan River by St. John the Baptist. When we are baptized, we are united to Jesus and called to participate in His role as priest, prophet, and king; therefore, we are anointed at baptism with the Sacred Christ, to show that the Holy Spirit has also come upon us, that we are set apart for the service of God, and that we are called to a special task in the Church. We are also anointed in Confirmation, the ordination of priests and bishops, and in the Sacrament of the Sick.
Jesus is also often called the “Son of God,” throughout the New Testament, but the title is also used a few times in the Old Testament. It is used of King David and his heirs, as a description of an angel in the Book of Daniel, and of the people of Israel. To be a “Son of God,” is to be like God or close to God. The people of Israel were called to be close to God and to be an example of God’s ways to the nations. Angels are like God because they are spiritual beings. Jesus is the Son of God in a new and different way, because He is truly like God. In the Nicene Creed we say that He is “God from God, light from light, true God from true God.” We are also called to be Godlike, and in Baptism we are united to the true Son of God, so that we are adopted as sons and daughters of God, and so we can pray to “Our Father.”
Finally, we call Him Lord, as St. Thomas says after the Resurrection, “My Lord and My God.” The Jewish people revere the name of God, so they always replace the Holy Name with the world Lord, which, in Hebrew, is Adonai. Even in Christian Bibles, when you see the word Lord written in small caps, Lord, it is replacing God’s name in the original text. This title could refer to a human ruler, but it was usually reserves for God. So, when Jesus is called “Lord” this is actually a Divine title, such as Lord of Lords. When we call Christ “Lord” we mean that no authority is above Him, we promise to be obedient to Him, and we subject our will to His own.
Fr. Bryan became pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes on July 3, 2017. Read his bio here.