That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:10-11
While we were at our Shrine Mont retreat last Sunday I was asked, “What does IHS stand for?”
To answer this question, we must pause for a short definition. If I wanted to adorn my bath towels with my initials, I would order a monogram. The abbreviation for Jesus’ name is called a Christogram; in Latin a Monogramma Christi. There are many Christograms; HIS is one of them.
The IHS Christogram is an abbreviation for Jesus' name in Greek using the first three letters. Jesus, translated from Greek to English through Latin is ΙΗΣΟΥΣ, ιησυς iēsus--Jesus. “ΙΗΣ” broken down is “I”—Iota = I, “H”—Eta = H, “Σ”—Sigma = S. Additionally you may see the Christogram as “ΙΗΣ,” representing the original Greek or “IHC,” “C” being a variant for of the “S” in the Greek alphabet.
Over the years many sayings have been attached to the letter as a teaching form. The sayings take the letters, HIS or IHC and attach whole words to them to create an inspirational message. For instance, you may have heard someone say that IHS means, In Hac Salus: "In This Safety,” or Iesus Hominum Salvator: "Jesus -Man- Savior,” or In Hoc Signo: “In This Sign" Ye Will Conquer (usually found with a sword and shield), but these are incorrect. They are sayings that represent the action of Jesus and the effect of faith, but IHS is simply the abbreviation of Jesus.
As an aside, you may also see the abbreviation INRI which is placed above Jesus and many Crucifixes and comes from the Gospel of John 19:19-20,
19 Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews. 20 Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek.
INRI is the abbreviation of the Latin, Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum: Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.
In His Name,
Father Bill Burk†