What is the implication of calling on the Name “Jesus”?
In the book The Jesus Prayer by A Monk of the Eastern Church he writes the following:
"The angel announced o Mary that her son would be called Jesus, for he would save men from their sins (Mt 1:21; cf. Lk 1:13). The name Ιησους is the Greek transcription of the Hebrew Yeshua (Jesus) which is itself identical with Yehoshua (Joshua). The first of these two Hebrew words is a contraction of the the second, intended to avoid the sequence of the vowels o and u which was repugnant to Jewish ears. The meaning of the name Yeshua, while clear in a general sense, is difficult to establish with any strict precision. The translation “savior” is more of less correct: more exactly the name signifies “salvation of Yahweh” or “Yahweh is salvation” Hence the ancient adage nomen est omen––name expresses in a certain way the person and his destiny––applies to the angel’s Annunciation concerning the name of the child."
We can see that the name Jesus is something quite different from the kind of name we give to our children today. When we recite it we are not simply calling to Jimmy or Isabel. It is a name with theological significance rooted in the most ancient history of mankind. We are not calling to a human bieng named Jesus, but to our God seeking our salvation.
The Eastern Monk continues:
"Three texts from the New Testament are of special importance for the veneration of the name of Jesus. First of all (following what we believe to be the chronological order) there is Saint Paul’s great text: “God has given him a name which is above all names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth” (Phil 2:9-10). Next we have the solemn declaration from the Acts of the Apostles: “There is no other name under heaven given to men whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). And finally in the Fourth Gospel we have the secret which Jesus reveals to his disciples: “Hitherto you have not asked anything in my name. ...Whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give it you” (Jn 16:23-24)."
It is a “name above all names” an name given for our salvation and one that when invoked sincerely can bring us the grace of God. The Eastern Monk says that it is “above all the Acts of the Apostles which could be called the book of the name of Jesus.” He points out that in this book, “‘In the name of Jesus’ the good news is preached, converts believe, baptism is conferred, cures and other signs are accomplished, lives are risked and given.” The Name is not “a magical formula,” he points out, because to use it one needs to “have an inner relationship with Jesus himself.”
Saint John Chrysostom writes on the prophecy of Isaiah, “Behold the virgin will conceive and will bear a son, and they will name him Emmanuel” (Is 7:14). He says, “Notice that the prophecy does not say, You will name him, but “they will name him”, meaning the people, and even the course of events. What is prophesied is his ultimate name. Scripture often does this, substituting a future happening for a proper name. So the phrase “they will name him Emmanuel” means simply that in him they will see God with men. God may have been with men before, but never in so evident a manner.”
(from The Name of Jesus, p39)
He is pointing out that a name can point to one's destiny. In the case of the name Jesus we are not honoring the name of a person as we normally think of it, but of God who is our Savior, the Son of God, born of a virgin, who suffered crucifixion, arose from the dead and empowered the Apostles to establish His Church here on earth, all for our salvation. The name "Jesus" is much more than pointing to the human form of His life here on earth.
Irenee Hausherr writes,
To call on the name of Jesus does not mean saying “O Jesus”… Orthodox Christians loved to confess their faith by saying “Jesus Christ”, “Jesus Messiah”, “Son of God”, and especially “Lord”. They did so more readily as the heretics refused to do so... Non-Christians said “Jesus “ as they would say “Socrates” or Pythagorius”. Everything induced the faithful to say something different as a profession of faith and in reaction to those who did not share this faith. They were wary of love that was verbal, sentimental, superficial. They knew that they had to love their Lord Jesus as God with their whole heart and soul and mind and strength. No name, no title was meaningful unless backed up by deeds: “the most perfect way to say “lord” is to speak it with your whole life; it is evident therefore that to call on the name of the Lord implies holiness, and indeed great holiness.”(Origen, Sel Ps 4, 2; PG 12:1136C)
Irenee Hausherr, The Name of Jesus pp104-105
Hausherr says, “Calling on the name of Jesus does not mean simply pronouncing the name “Jesus” in prayer or directing a prayer explicitly to Jesus.” He quotes Pere Allo “It means that one adores Christ as he adores God…” It is not some kind of magical act whereby we call out the name “Jesus” and we are saved.
Saint Basil writes
But if someone claims that it is written: “whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Jl 2:32 & Acts 2:21), and that therefore a Christian need only invoke the name of God to be saved, let him read what the Apostle has said: “How can they call upon him if the do not believe in him” (Rom 10:14). And besides this there are the words of the Lord himself: “Not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord”, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Mat 7:21). Moreover, if someone is doing the will of the Lord and does not do it exactly in the way ordained or does not do it out of the proper motive of love for God, then all the effort he puts into the action is useless, and Jesus Christ himself has said in his gospel: “Hypocrites do these things as to be seen by men: I tell you truthfully, they have already received their reward” (Mt 6:16). It was in this divine school that Saint Paul learned the lesson which he taught when he said: “If I give away all my possessions to feed the poor and give my body to be burned, but lack charity it profits me nothing” (Cor 13:3).
It is not the name itself that is important, but the intention and goal of the one who pronounces it.
Hausherr concludes his work,
The Jesus prayer is a superb formula of prayer. In it meet two elements of the highest importance: adoration and compunction. These signify everything that is divine and everything that is human, at the point where human and divine are most separate in order of being and most united in the order of love.
For all that the Jesus Prayer, however admirable, remains simply a formula of words. A person deserves to be called “formalistic” if he is “overly attached to formulas, following them scrupulously”. Things that come to a living organism from outside are useful only if they fulfill some vital need in the organism. Such needs differ according to age, temperament, life history and particular circumstances.
The Holy Spirit cannot be tied to any formula of words. The Jesus prayer is not even a sacrament, much less a magical charm…”the Lord is spirit, and where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor 3:17). The Lord Jesus, although he urged his disciples to pray always, never took the initiative of teaching them a formula of prayer...This is the constant teaching of the fathers: seek first the kingdom of God and everything else will be given besides. This is what marks the deepest dimension of Christian prayer…. No formula of prayer, can accomplish anything by itself. There is no getting around the practice of mortification and the other exercises of the ascetical life.
Irenee Hausherr, The Name of Jesus, pp 325-344.
Other Fathers from Writings fro the Philokalia On Prayer of the Heart
The beginning of every action pleasing to God is calling with faith on the life-saving name of our Lord Jesus Christ, as He Himself said: ‘Without me ye can do nothing (John 15:5), together with the peace and love which accompany this calling. Peace, for as the Apostle says: ‘I will therefore that men pray...without wrath and doubting’ (1Tim 2:8); love for ‘God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in love dwelleth in God and God in him’ (1John 4:6). These two, peace and love, not only make the prayer propitious, but are themselves reborn and shine forth from this prayer, like inseparable Divine rays.
Callistus and Ignatius p 167-168
The great Chrysostom also says: ‘I implore you, brethren, never to break or despise the rule of tis prayer.’ And a little further: ‘A monk when he eats, drinks, sits, officiates, travels or does an other thing just continually cry: “Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me!” so that the name of the Lord Jesus, descending into the depths of the heart, should subdue the serpent ruling over the inner pastures and bring life and salvation to the soul. He should always live with the name of the Lord Jesus, so that the heart absorbs the Lord and the Lord the heart, and the two become one.’ And again: ‘Do not estrange your heart from God, but abide in Him and always guard your heart by remembering our Lord Jesus Christ, until the name of the Lord becomes rooted in the heart and it ceases to think of anything else. May Christ be glorified in you.
Callistus and Ignatius p 194
Saint Paul said in one of his Epistles: “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom 10:9-10). And again: “No man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 12:3). But the Holy Spirit he means when the heart is made active by the Holy Spirit and prays through Him: which is the attribute of those who have succeeded in their work and have been actively enriched by Christ dwelling in them. St. Diadochus expresses the same idea: “When by remembrance of God we close all the exits of our mind it has need of some obligatory work to satisfy its restlessness. The only thing it should be given is the sacred name of our Lord Jesus; let this wholly satisfy its zeal to attain the aim it has set itself. But it should be realized that , as the Apostle says: “No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Spirit.” On our side it is demanded that the aforesaid prayer (Lord Jesus Christ and so on) should be uttered by a mind imprisoned within itself and should be repeated continuously in its fastnesses, so that it may not stray into any foreign dreamings. Those who mentally keep this holy and most glorious Name unceasingly in the depth of their heart, can see too the light of their mind (clarity of thought of a definite consciousness of all inner movements)” And again: “When this wonderful Name is kept in thought thought with intense care it very effectively scorches every filth which appears in the soul. “For our God is a consuming fire” scorching all evil says the Apostle (Heb. 12:29). Out of the fire the Lord finally brings the soul into a great love for His glory. For the glorious and most coveted Name, becoming established in the warmth of the heart through the mind’s remembrance of it, gives birth to the habit of unhampered love of His goodness, since nothing then remains to hinder this. This is the precious pearl which a man acquires having sold his possessions and rejoices greatly in acquiring Him.” (Chap 59). Hesychius speaks thus of it: “When after death the soul soars into the air to the gates of heaven, it will not be shamed by its enemies even there, if it has Christ with it and for it; but then, as now, it will boldly ‘speak with the enemies in the gate’ (Ps cxxvii. 5). So long as it does not grow weary of calling to our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God day and night till death itself, He will avenge it speedily according to His true promise, given in the parable of the unjust judge: “I tell you that he will avenge them speedily” (Luke 18:8) both in this life and after leaving the body” (chap 149) Saint John of the Ladder says: “Flog the foes with the name of Jesus; for there s no stronger weapon against them either in heaven or on earth” (Chap 21)...
Callistus & Ignatius 224-225
And so every time it happens that wicked thoughts multiply in us. let us throw among them the invocation of our Lord Jesus Christ; and we shall at once see them dispersed like smoke in the air, as experience teaches. And then, when the mind is left free (without confusing thoughts), let us start again with constant attention and invocation. So let us act every tie we suffer such temptation.
Hesychius of Jerusalem p 298
Power of Name
The great David, experienced in deeds, says to the Lord: “Because of his strength will I wait upon thee’ (Ps lix. 9) (that is, I turn to Thee for help). Even so it is the help of the Lord that preserves in us the power for silence of heart and mind––that silence out of which all the virtues arise. For the Lord gives us commands and He drives away from us accursed sloth. And if we constantly call on Him He defends us against unseemly forgetfulness, which is above all destructive of our peace of heart, as water is of fire. therefore, brother, do not from negligence sleep unto death, but scourge thy enemies with the name of Jesus; and as some wise man (st. Gregory the Theologian) has said: “Let His most sweet name be joined to thy breath; and then shalt thou know the profit of silence.”
Hesychius of Jerusalem p 298-299
Forgetfulness naturally extinguishes the guarding of the mind, as water extinguishes fire. But constant prayer to Jesus with unflagging sobriety, just as a small lantern needs a candle (perhaps as a lantern needs windless calm to burn like a candle.)
Hesychius of Jerusalem p 299
Great care should be taken to preserve that which is precious. But for us only one thing is truly precious––that which preserves us from all evil, both sensory and mental. And this is guarding the mind with invocation of Jesus Christ, that is, always looking into the depths of our heart and keeping out thought constantly silent. I will say even more;––we should strive to be empty even of thoughts which appear to come from the right, and in general all thoughts, lest thieves are concealed behind them. But however painful the labor of patiently remaining in the heart, relief is nearby.
Hesychius of Jerusalem p 299
Prayer to Jesus, practices with sobriety from the deepest thoughts of the heart, destroys the thoughts which have insinuated themselves into our heart against our will and are dwelling therein.
Hesychius of Jerusalem p 306
As it is impossible to cross the expanse of the sea without a large ship, so without calling on Jesus Christ it is impossible to banish from the soul the suggestion of a wicked thought.
Hesychius of Jerusalem p 307
When, empowered by Jesus Christ, we begin to press forward in firmly established sobriety; then, first, there appears in our mind a lamp, as it were, which the hand of our mind holds aloft to guide our mental steps; thereafter comes a full moon, circling in the sky of the heart, and , at last, like the sun, comes Jesus, radiant with truth like the sun, that is, both revealing Himself and illuminating contemplation with His all-brilliant rays.
Hesychius of Jerusalem p 313