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Phone: 973-395-1068 h

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Louie & Ernest Clay-Crew
Married February 2, 1974


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New Year's Day

  • To:
  • Subject: New Year's Day
  • From: Grant Mauricio Gallup <grant73@turbonett.com.ni>
  • Date: Sun, 31 Dec 2006 14:59:56 -0600

  H O M I L Y    G R I T S
        The Holy Name of Our Lord
Jesus Christ      
January 1, 2007

Exodus 34:1-8. Renewal of the Alianza, the Convenio with God.
Psalm 8 Domine, Dominus noster
Romans 1:1-7. The gospel of the One declared a Child with power:
Luke 2:15-21. Among the poor, stories; from the angel, a Name. 

   One  December 27, our neighbor, a woman named
Gerald,  "gave light" to a baby boy, as we say in Spanish
(dar luz). But she didn't name him for Juan,  the Christmas saint;
she named him Kenneth Rameses.   I asked her why this name and
she said Kenneth was the name of a favorite character in  a
telenovela, and Rameses was the name of a powerful "Faraón de
Egipto".   In Depression days in the U.S., many children
were named for Franklin Delano
Roosevelt; many children for Joe Louis, both heroes to poor people,
examples to the handicapped and the oppressed:  national saviors
and  worldchampions. In Nicaragua, when Carlos Fonseca Amador
founded the
revolutionary movement for national liberation from its servitude to the
Empire bestowed by the Somoza dictatorship,  he named it for Agosto
Cesar Sandino, and thus raised from the dead the liberator whom the first
Somoza, puppet popinjay of the U.S., had murdered after a treacherous
tryst he arranged.  The Sandinista Frente, resurrected with this
name, eventually overthrew the dictatorship, and all the Americas know
this name. And have forgotten that
it was Somoza's nombre that was Anastasio, Greek for resurrection--a
cruel irony of a name for him, permanently
dead.      .  

Names can bestow power and dignity, and parents must be careful to choose
names that will do so, and not shame or humiliate the child in later
years.   I have always been grateful for my first name, Grant,
which of course means "great one."  My twin sister is
Grace, and I was sometimes called that in Kindergarten by classmates who
confused us, although I had no sausage curls and did not do arithmetic as
well as she did.   Many  prayers begin with our two
names:  "Grant us your Grace, O Lord" and so forth. I
liked to point out to my twin sister that she had her own page  in
the 1928
Book of Common Prayer: "A Prayer for Grace to Reform and Grow

Here in Managua there are lots of "Lenins" and "Victor
Hugos" and
"Magdalenas" and  "Teresas" and
"Marias." Famous, powerful names.  A dozen years ago, I
had neighbors with newborn twins, and they named them Vladimir Arafat and
Yasser Lenin, much to my astonishment and delight.  I hope they will
wear well in this time of siege.  A school teacher friend in Chicago
swears he had twin pupils in his class with names that were pronounced
asOran Jaylo and Laymon Jaylo, but spelled Orange Jello and Lemon Jello.
Shaky sweet nomenclature. As a pastor, I once had an unmarried mother
present a baby for Baptism whose name, she said, was "Semaj"
and I asked if it was an African or Arabic name; and she said no, 
it was his father's name spelled backwards; he had forbidden her to name
the baby after him, for another woman was his wife,  so she was
obliged to make baby's  name a
riddle. We wear our names a long, long time, and there's a good deal of
evidencethat a child named with an odd name will be an odd child.  A
child given agreat name has a chance, at least, to live into it.  A
little Atlanta boy named after Martin Luther, and with the last name of a
royal title, King,went a long way on that endowment.  A child named
Lee Harvey Oswald now would be in a hard place, or one named Osama Bin
Anybody.   I had a parishioner named Clyster, which is a kind
of enema.  His second name was Major.   I expect the
parents asked their obstetrician to give the baby some names and they
were ironically obliged.     Mary took more care,
asked the angel for a name for her baby.

We might say that Mary gave her Baby a Name that was a marvelous riddle
as well--a theological riddle and a blessing and a gift. But it was also
a name of great power and dignity and promise. She did not name her baby
for Joseph, the man whom everyone assumed to be
the father. Mary thought a long time before she took her baby to the
moyel with the name we call today the Holy Name.  "Jesus"
is the English version of a Greek version of an Aramaic version of a
Hebrew name that means "Yahweh liberates."  It's the name
the messenger of God had whispered at the time of conception. The actual
naming did not come, however, until after the visit of the poor shepherds
to the manger. Luke suggests that their visit may have prompted the
naming, for they came bearing titles for theBabe, titles so powerful that
they prompted Mary to contemplation, to remember, and to theologize the

The poor folk come rushing to the cribside off the hillsides, out of the
song-filled Judean night and at the end of their search they find a
newborn lying in an animal's feeding trough, as they had been told they
would, and they then repeat "what had been told them about this
child." What they had been told was subversive good news: "Unto
you poor people, to all the people (to the "laos," the laity,
says the Greek) is born this day a Soter--a Liberator--who is Messiah,
who is Kyrios. (Nothing here about "You each get here a personal
savior" if you assent to certain fundamentals." A Soter is a
community's  liberator, not a capitalist's  leveraged buyout,
not a winning lottery ticket, with all the others coming up
losers.)  Now Mary "ponders all these things in her
heart." She mixes into this Ponder,no doubt, the Ponder of nine
months ago, when she sang with Isabel that"God has lifted up the
lowly", the humilde, los pobres de la tierra. Lukeremembers the
Ponders, the contemplation of Mary, the theology of the gospel of Mary.
The visit of poor people, sent by the same God, with theiracclaim in
powerful titles, confirms for Mary the Holy Name, the name of God as
Liberator.  Eight days later, Mary takes the baby to be Named. The
shepherds bring Titles. Mary brings a Name and a Baby.  So the
little boy was taken to the moyel and circumcised and given the
name.  We used to call
this the Feast of the Circumcision, but it seems liturgical squeamishness
got the upper hand and slapped that little penis down.  But three
cathedrals in Europe managed to salvage and enrhine the foreskin. What
was important was the Naming, not the cutting, in any case.  But the
foreskin at least meant humanity, something religion has a tendency to
snip away. In naming Jesus, Mary names not only her own little newborn,
but she names the new age of humankind--from this birthday the times and
the ages will date themselves over most of our planet.  So it is
appropriate that we celebrate today as the Motherhood of Mary as well,
and January 1 is in a way the earliest feast of our Lady in the Latin
Church. She has always been
associated with new beginnings, even when until 1752 in England, Lady Day
(March 25) survived the Reformation as New Years Day. Hippolytus had
chosen March 25 for the annunciation, because it was assumed to have been
the date of the crucifixion; Christ had to have had a perfect number of
days in his life. Christmas was extrapolated from that. At one time or
another, it was also thought to be the anniversary of the Creation of the
World, and of the
Fall of Adam and Eve, and of the Sacrifice of Isaac, and of the Exodus,
and the scheduled date for the coming Last Judgment.  Everything on
time.   But January lst, chosen New Years by the Emperors,
never meant anything tothe Church, and still doesn't as New Years Day;
there's no mention of it in the liturgy.  St. Augustine called for a
fast on this day, to de-toxifythe way the pagan world engaged in
self-indulgence then. It would be a
great thing if we circumcised all our consumerism annually on this day,
and bought nothing at all for an Octave.  We would thus honor what
the old Christians celebrated on this day--the circumcision of flesh of
the Niño Dios.  Return all Christmas merchandise and give the
refunds to the poor  for food.  

For this is a time of liberation for us now--a time when the old is put
away and the new is put in place.  Mary, with this naming, makes
available to all of us the blessing of God once reserved to the Aaronic
priests and then but once a year.  She holds up to us the shining
face of God, the kindliness and peace of God, the Infant Revolutionary
Jesus.  Mary's naming makes Jesus' own mother to be our mother, too,
and Jesus' Abba to be our own as well. For she gives him the name of our
God. We are assured with the Holy Naming that the new era that is coming
for us to live in and be liberated in and be liberators in is a good
one,  with good news for all the peoples.  This is the God who
asks us to be t he agents of liberation in this new millenium. This name
has become the name of our prayers, and the name we pray with, and in
whose name we pray.  Yahweh Liberates.

For our Biblical religion makes the Naming of People of highest
impotance. The first official words spoken over us in church used to be
"Name this child."  The old Prayer Book assumed that
Naming took place then, at Baptism; alas, nowadays that is lost when
months or years later the Sponsors mumble out, "I present N. to
receive the Sacrament of Baptism."  To Name someone is to
bestow an identity for them to live up to, and into.   Indeed,
to know the name of someone is to have power over them, some
influence.  Name, rank, and serial number, are the first things a
surrendered soldier must give his captors. In the Prayer Book,
"N." stands for Name, and is asked for in many places.  In
the Bible, God creates and names The Adam and The Eve, and calls the
animals too  by their names.  Children used to be given
automatically the last names--the apellidos in Spanish, not the
nombres--of their Fathers, because he was to have power
over them.  Nowadays some get the matronym as well, as all 
children do. Women took the names of their husbands to replace that of
their fathers, when they got married, to continue male
domination.   Apart from the apellido (the last name) kids were
often given three names--one for each of the persons of the Trinity--so
my mother got named Eleanora Elsa Wilhelmina--because she was born on
Kaiser Wilhelm's birthday, January 27th.  She lived it down. 

The first names of children ought to reflect some relationship with their
history, and some dedication of their future.  Changes take place in
names when significant things happen, too. So Saulos changed to
Paulus.  When religious profession became as important as Baptism in
a person's life, they took new names, too, in some communities, and so
Thomas Merton got the first name of Mary when he became a

Jesus is given a Jewish name--a good Jewish name, but it's a name that
some Spanish speaking people use quite a lot for their own kids.  I
remember that on the west side of Chicago some school teaching Irish nuns
were shocked to find little Puerto Rican or Mexican kids with the name of
Jesus,  'though Maria as a name for little girls got no
objections.  Jesus is the English version of a Greek rendering of an
Aramaic slant on a Hebrew name. The Hebrew name was Jehosha, or Joshua
for short.  Yeshua in Aramaic.  It means "Yahweh
saves".  So it's quite incorrect for evangelicals to holler
Jesus Saves, because the name "Jesus" itself means that it is
Yahweh who
Saves.  Muslims also do not yell "Muhammad Akbar!" 

Jesus was, significantly, not given the name of Joseph, his earthly
father, alhough the townspeople were confused when they heard of his
ministry, and asked themselves, "Isn't his name Josephson, the
carpenter's boy?"  In both the dreams of Joseph and the visions
of Mary, he was given, even before he was a gleam in his daddy's eye, the
name Jesus, according to Luke.

"Yahweh saves. "  It's a name to remember.  We
frequently hear folks say, "I can remember faces, but I can't
remember names."  But people are not known for long by their
faces, you see, as those of us who are in our old age know, when we
compare them to our faces in the family album. Our faces have
departed--run away in wrinkles and wens, in bags and sags.  (W.H.
Auden thought his face in his old age looked like a wedding cake that had
been left ou in the rain.)    People *are*  their
names, however, which will stick with us till they are hammered into the
marble hats we will wear at Rest Haven. It is in remembering the names of
people that we pay attention to them. Our names will be intact long after
our faces are dust and ashes.  It is in knowing the name of Jesus
that we know, ultimately who God is, and indeed we learn the meaning of
our own identity, our own names.  Nowadays, at the communion rail,
the ministers are encouraged to try to remember the names of
communicants, and call them all by their names when they take the
wayfarer's food. Our names
are the badges of our Baptism, reminders of the day the Name was given.

Dale Carnegie in his book "How to Win Friends and Influence
People" which I read when I was very young and had very few friends
outside of fantasy, wrote that the Sweetest Sound to the Human Ear is the
Sound of One's Own Name.  In the midst of a crowded air terminal,
or  not-so-crowded Amtrak station--when we have about given up hope
that we will be met after all,and that our friends have forgotten us,
suddenly we hear the Melody, the Sweetest heavenly hymning of our own
name, clarion clear, ringing through the air like angels in the
sky:  and we know that we have been met, and are  not
alone.  One of our hymns sings: "How sweet the name of Jesus'
in a believer's ear."  And how sweet our own name sounds in our
own ears and in the mouths of dearest friends. Our hymnals, old and new,
have lots of devotion to the Name of Jesus, and make a singing book of
Jesus prayers. In the time of the Law and the Prophets, the name of God
was to precious that there's a revelation about it:  "It is not
to be taken lightly." That's the meaning of "You shall not take
the name of YHWH your God in vain." People became so frightened that
they might take the Name frivolously that they refused to use it at all,
even in prayer, except at the Temple, where God's Name was said to have
its own home.  In synagogues across the land God could only be
spoken of as Adonai, the Lord, and not as  YHWH.  About a
hundred years ago a Sunday School teacher named Charls Taze
Russell thought he had discovered the name of God was Jehovah (actually,
a gross mispronunciation, jamming in English vowels) so he started a new
religion based on the idea that you had to know that Name for God or you
couldn't be saved.  Like all  heresies, there's a  grain
of truth in it. ("Haeresis" means "seizing" or 
"grabbing"  and that's what heresy does--it grabs onto a
corner of something true and ignores the whole.)    In the
first reading, we are told that Aaron the  Priest, Moses' brother,
was given the name of God so that he could bless  God's
people:  "Thus you
shall bless the people," he was told.  "The Lord 
(Yahweh) bless you and keep you, make his face shine upon you (that is,
take notice of you--ashining face, a face glowing with recognition, with
joy) May God's face 'light up' when he sees you. . . And the Lord
be  gracious to you, look you in the eye, raise up his head to look
at you, and give you thereby his shalom."  And so YHWH says,
"So shall the priests put my name upon the people, and I will bles
them.  It is the putting of God's  name on something that
blesses it.  It is the calling of God's name over  someone that
blesses them.  It's hard to  look away when God calls you by
name. God promises that God won't look away from us when we call out that

In bestowing the name of Jesus on the babe of Nazareth, we are told by
Paul that thereby "God has highly exlted him, and given him a Name
which is above every name, that at the Name of Jesus every knee should
bow, of things in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and every
tongue have the name upon it:  Jesus, Jesus Christ, Yeshua
Messiah."   In the Eastern Orthodox churches, the Jesus
Prayer is similar to use of Mary's rosary in the western churches; they
are both more mantra than liturgical prayer.  Lord Jesus Christ, Son
of the Living God, have mercy. This prayer is said with breathing
exercises, sometimes for hours upon end, and in store-front religion
amongst African Americans the name of Jesus is  also used in a
mantra like prayer, "Thank you Jesus! Thank you Jesus!" Some
evangelical Christians call themseles Jesus people, and there are
Pentecostalist Christians who are Unitarians of the Second Person,
believing only Jesus to be  the Divine God of all Gods, praying only
to him.  

St. Paul goes on in the epistle today to tell us:  It is because of
the name of Jesus that we are now enabled to work out our own salvation,
our own liberation, with fear and trembling.  that is, to figure out
our own role in the movement begun by Jesus the Liberator, to work out in
a humble way, with dependence upon God's help, how it will actually come
to pass that we will be liberated.  Paul says God is at work in us,
both to will and to work his good pleasure.

So New Years is a time when the old is put away, and the new is put to
work.  All the old things are set aside, and the whole world
celebrates the new year, the new Age of the new Siglo. The Winter
Solstice has always made it natural and  even fun to have a 
celebration.  The birthday of Sol Invictus, the unconquered Sun,
gives an occasion for all humankind to keep the feast.  The angels
leave--they go back to their work, too--and the
shepherds go back to their labor and to glorify and praise, for what they
had heard and seen.  And Mary goes back to keeping and pondering the
story, and gestating our liberation, and singing of our freedom. These
are the two liturgical activities of Christmas time--pondering and
praisisng.   Pondering means contemplation , reflection, study,
insight, lectio divina, exegesis, traditio:  being pregnant with
God.  And praise in all its forms--Voice, orchestra, symphony and
song, doing justice is the highest hymnody of all.  So we keep the

Apartado RP-10
Managua, Nicaragua C.A.
Tel. 011-505-2662165 
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