Devotion to the Holy Name falls loosely into three periods. The first phase is the very early church and was encouraged by the apostles and the early disciples. In this period devotion is to the Name of Christ, to the Name of Christ Jesus, to the Name of the Lord and to the Name of Jesus.
The second phase is found in the early middle ages. Here devotion to the Holy Name was fixed specifically to the Name of Jesus. Pope Gregory X (1271 - 1276) and the Second Council of Lyons (in 1274) initiated a call of the Universal Church to this special devotion. Through the works of Blessed John of Vercelli, the fifth Master General of the Order of Saint Dominic, the Dominicans began preaching on the virtues of the Holy Name and built special altars where the lay faithful could venerate the Holy Name of Jesus.
The third phase was brought to life by Saint Bernardine of Siena (1380 - 1444), the Franciscan who reformed his Order and preached fiery sermons all over Italy. Saint Bernardine painted a special wooden tablet with the monogram of the Name of Jesus surrounded by rays of the sun. During these very popular sermons, he would hold up for veneration the monogram of Christ's Name.
Due to the influence of Saint Bernardine's work, the name "Jesus" was added to the Hail Mary prayer, and the Feast of the Holy Name was later added to the calendar. The office of this mass was written by Bernardine dei Busti and it makes use of the beautiful 12th century hymn, Iesu Dulcis Memoria, which speaks of His Name and was written by another who had devotion to it; Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (A.D. 1090-1153). Saint Bernardine's apostleship of the Holy Name was carried on by Saint John Capistran (A.D. 1385-1456) and to them both is attributed the Litany of the Holy Name. Saint Bernardine and his contemporary Saint John Capistran popularized this devotion and made it so widespread that the monogram of the name of Jesus, even today, stands at the side of the cross as a symbol of Christianity.
Later in 1455, Pope Callixtus III asked Saint John to preach a crusade invoking the Holy Name of Jesus against the vicious Turkish muslims who were ravaging eastern Europe; victory came in their defeat at the Battle of Belgrade in 1456.
In 1597, Pope Sixtus V granted an indulgence to anyone reverently saying, "Praised be Jesus Christ!" Pope Clement VII, in 1530, allowed the Franciscans to celebrate a feast day in honor of the Holy Name, and Pope Innocent XIII extended this to the universal Church in 1721.
In the liturgical revisions of Vatican II, the feast was deleted, though a votive mass to the Holy Name of Jesus had been retained for devotional use. With the release of the revised Roman Missal in March 2002, the feast was restored as an optional memorial on January 3.
Pope John Paul II reinstituted the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus to be celebrated on January 3. Moreover, the reverential invocation of the Holy Name of Jesus as part of prayer or work, and the recitation of the Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus, still convey a partial indulgence for the reparation of sin. The Holy Name Society, first organized in 1274 and granted the status of a confraternity in 1564, continues to promote at the parish and diocesan levels an increased reverence for the name of Jesus, reparation for the sins of profanity and blasphemy against the Holy Name, and the personal sanctification of its members.
This monogram of the Holy Name, common among western christians, comes from the first three letters in the greek spelling of Jesus' name. Those letters are iota ("I"), eta ("H") and sigma (here rendered as its Roman equivalent: "S").