His Sweet Name
by Anthony Esolen
“She shall bring forth a son,” said the angel to Joseph, “and thou shalt call his name JESUS. For he shall save his people from their sins.” This was done, says the evangelist, “that it might be fulfilled which the Lord spoke by the prophet, saying, Behold a virgin shall be with child, and bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us” (Matt. 1:21–23). One name illuminates the other. Yeshu’ah, the Lord saves, not from without, by the sheer exercise of his might, but from within and from among us. ‘Emmanu-El, God is in our midst, and in the last way that we might suppose. He is in our midst as one of us, son both of God and of man.
I’ve long had the impression that in the early centuries of the Church, Christ was less the object of meditative love than of reverence and awe, as was right and just. But when the Arian threat had passed—when our thoughts about Christ were no longer likely to collapse into the merely human—we could then with assurance look upon the man, Jesus, our Savior and our Lord, and sing of him with all the loving warmth we might be blessed to feel. So did St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1091–1153), in the beautiful Latin hymn, Jesu, Dulcis Memoria. The Latin is written in Long Meter, four lines of eight syllables, with rising rhythm; I recommend the melody Duguet as beautifully fitting the thought and feeling, more than the namesake melody Jesu Dulcis Memoria.
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Anthony Esolen is a professor at Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts in Warner, New Hampshire, and the author of many books, including Real Music: A Guide to the Timeless Hymns of the Church (Tan, with a CD), Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture (Regnery), and The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord (Ignatius). He has also translated Dante’s Divine Comedy (Random House). He and his wife Debra publish a web magazine, Word and Song (anthonyesolen.substack.com), on poetry, hymnody, language, classic films, and music. He is a senior editor of Touchstone.
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