Holy Name (Jan 1)

Last revised: January 1, 2018
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RCL: Numbers 6:22-27; Philippians 2:5-11; Luke 2:15-21
RoCa: Numbers 6:22-27; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:16-21

Galatians 4:4-7


1. Robert Hamerton-Kelly, Sacred Violence, pp. 77-81. In this section, Hamerton-Kelly argues that the primary metaphor operating for St. Paul regarding the cross is not sacrifice but ransom. He cites Gal. 3:13 among other texts, which need to be interpreted in terms of Gal. 4:4-5: that Christ came to redeem us, to win us back from Satan’s power that we might come to live under God’s grace as children. Christ redeems us to become children of God. To do so Christ submits to the curse of living under the law, thus becoming a willing victim to its sacrificial mechanisms. Rather than the idea of taking the punishment of God’s wrath for us, Christ reveals to us our own wrath and its violence, that we might live by God’s true power, which is love, not wrath.

2. Ibid., pp. 121ff. Gal. 4:4-5 also comes up in H-K’s discussion of life “according to the flesh,” which might be timely for the Christmas season, as we ponder the wonder of the Incarnation, of Christ’s entering into life according to the flesh.

3. James Alison, On Being Liked, pp. 71ff.

Reflections and Questions

1. This truly is a great Christmas season text. It is condensed, as is much of Paul’s writings, but it can be unpacked to express all the basics of the incarnation, of why it is that “God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law.” It even fits our modern celebration, which focuses on the importance of family, as it expresses the importance of the incarnation in familial terms: because Jesus could fulfill his mission as Son of God, that same Spirit of Sonship is given to our hearts that we might also truly become children of God, freed from the slavery of sin.

Philippians 2:5-11


1. Willard Swartley, “Discipleship and Imitation of Jesus/Suffering Servant: The Mimesis of New Creation,” in Violence Renounced, pp. 225-226. After quoting this text, he comments:

Even though this text does not use either of the key terms, imitation or type, it clearly portrays the believers patterning their conduct after the suffering and obedience of Christ Jesus. Hence this important text takes its place in this list. Further, this text is joined to imitation in Philippians 3:17 (see p. 225) by the similar exhortation, “be of the same mind” (touto phroneite in 2:5 and touto phronomen in 3:15).The context of this foundational confession on Jesus’ self-emptying and humbling to the cross is Paul’s admonition in vv. 3-4 to put away conduct that proceeds from mimetic rivalry: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.” Then follows: “let the same mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus.”

2. René Girard, Violence Renounced; link to an excerpt on the importance of Imitatio Christi.

3. Raymund Schwager, Jesus in the Drama of Salvation, pp. 103, 139, 154, 210.

4. Robert Hamerton-Kelly, Sacred Violence, pp. 172, 176; part of “The Church as a Structure of Agape Based on the Imitation of Christ Crucified,” pp. 174-182.

Luke 2:22-40


1. Gil Bailie, “The Gospel of Luke” audio tape series, tape 2, side B. Link to my notes on tape 2.

2. Andrew Marr, Abbot of St. Gregory’s Abbey (Three Rivers, MI) is a long-time reader and writer on Mimetic Theory and in his blog, “Imaginary Visions of True Peace,” made these Holy Name reflections in 2015-16, “The Naming of Jesus“; and in 2017-18, “The Meaning of Jesus’ Name.”

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