JANUARY 1st – THE CIRCUMCISION OF CHRIST

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.

Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of the Feast. First Tone

OUR human form hast Thou taken on Thyself without change, O
greatly-compassionate Master, though being God by nature;
fulfilling the Law, Thou willingly receivest circumcision in the flesh,
that Thou mightest end the shadow and roll away the veil of our sinful
passions, Glory, O Logos/Word, to Thine inexpressible condescension.

[ Since the Mosaic Law commands that if a woman give birth to a male child, he should be

circumcised in the foreskin of his flesh on the eighth day (Leviticus 12:2-3), on this the
eighth day from His Nativity, our Savior accepted the circumcision commanded by the Law.
According to the command of the Angel, He received the Name which is above every name
JESUS, which means 'SAVIOR' (Matthew 1:21; Luke 1:31; and 2:21).]

Nevertheless, His CIRCUMCISION must be interpreted within the theology of the SELF-EMPTYING (KENOSIS) which He accepted FOR THE SALVATION OF THE HUMAN RACE.

As the holy Fathers decided to celebrate the Nativity of Christ on the 25th of December, it is natural that the circumcision, which was performed after eight days, is celebrated on the 1st of January, just eight days after His birth. Therefore, on that day the troparia (hymns) bring out the theological importance of circumcision. This troparion (hymn) is well known: "The Savior, condescending to the race of men, in swaddling clothes, accepted circumcision, He did not abhor the cutting of His flesh…" Just as, out of love and charity, He accepted to be wrapped in swaddling clothes, Christ also accepted the circumcision of His flesh. This extreme condescension and kenosis of Christ is regarded by the Church as a great feast of the Lord.

CIRCUMCISION was linked with godliness, piety, and abiding by the law, and it indicated the pure Israelite, while the unclean, impious man was indicated by the word for the uncircumcised. So circumcision and uncircumcision are opposite concepts and practices, which pointe the Jew and the gentile, the pagan.

The word of God to Abraham by which circumcision was established also shows the most basic reason. God said: "and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you" (Genesis 17:11). In other words, it is an agreement between God and His own people, IT IS A TESTAMENT. Such an agreement must be confirmed with blood. We see also in the New Testament, for God’s new agreement with men is confirmed with the blood of Christ.

Circumcision was a mark of RECOGNITION THAT ONE BELONGED TO THE PEOPLE OF GOD. "So as to be a sign that this people is dedicated by it." According to the interpreters, CIRCUMCISION IN ITSELF WAS NOT A TESTAMENT, BUT A SIGN OF THE TESTAMENT AND AGREEMENT.

Furthermore, CIRCUMCISION WAS ALSO A FORESHADOWING OF Baptism which would be given at the appropriate time, through THE INCARNATION OF THE Son and Logos/Word of God, because in reality BAPTISM IS CIRCUMCISION OF THE HEART… Christ kept this painful practice, immediately after His Birth. In the Gospel according to Luke the rite of circumcision which was given to Christ is preserved in a few words. The holy Evangelist says: "And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the child, his name was called JESUS, the name given by the Angel before he was conceived in the womb" (Luke 2:21). From this meagre presentation of the rite of circumcision in the life of Christ, we see that it closely connected with the giving of the name, because it was then that He was named Jesus, which means SAVIOR.

What Saint Theophylactos says is characteristic, that this part which was cut back by Christ’s circumcision, Christ Himself kept unharmed and assumed anew with His Resurrection. Furthermore, what happened with Christ also shows the way in which it will happen in our own bodies. It is a teaching of the holy Fathers of the Church THAT THE MEMBERS OF THE HUMAN BODY WHICH HAVE BEEN HARMED IN VARIOUS WAYS WILL BE RECONNECTED TO THE BODY OR RESHAPED BY GOD, SO THAT THE WHOLE MAN, MADE UP OF SOUL AND BODY, WILL ENTER THE KINGDOM OF GOD. TO BE SURE, IN THIS CASE THE BODY WILL BE SPIRITUAL AND NOT CARNAL AS IT IS TODAY.

"… Saint John of Damascus, circumcision was A FIGURE OF BAPTISM. Just as circumcision cuts off from teh body a part that is not useful, so BY HOLY BAPTISM WE SHED SIN, WHICH IS NOT A NATURAL STATE, BUT EXCREMENT. When we speak of sin which is shed, we mean desire, and of course not the useful and necessary desire, for it is absolutely impossible for man to live without it, but USELESS DESIRE AND PLEASURE. Baptism is the circumcision not done by human hands, which does not remove one from one’s nation, but SEPERATES THE ONE WHO IS FAITHFUL FROM THE UNFAITHFUL ONE WHO LIVES IN THE SAME NATION.

"…The problem was created when Jewish Christians "were teaching the brethren ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved" (Acts 15:1). Indeed there was discord and much discussion and, as it says, some who came from teh sect of the Pharisees insisted that the converts be circumcised and keep the law of Moses (Acts 15:5).

In the Apostolic Council the Apostle Peter and the Apostles Barnabas and Paul and James the brother of God spoke. The decision of the Council was that THOSE WHO CAME TO THE CHRISTIAN FAITH FROM THE GENTILES SHOULD NOT BE CIRCUMCISED, BUT THEY SHOULD ONLY KEEP THEMSELVES PURE, ABSTAINING FROM THIS OFFERED TO IDOLS, FROM BLOOD, FROM THINGS STRANGLED, AND FROM SEXUAL IMMORALITY. The decision, which was communicated in a letter to the Christians, said: "for it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things, that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality." If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well" (Acts 15:28-29).

"… In the teaching of Saint Maximos we see that circumcision is the name for cutting off the passionate relation of the soul to the body. The soul and body have a relationship and unity. It is not a question fo that, however, but of the passionate relationship, the relationship between the soul and body through the passions."

The sayings of the holy Fathers show that the Old Testament circumcision IS INTERNAL, SPIRITUAL, IT IS A COMMUNION OF MAN WITH GOD AND AN EFFORT TO MAINTAIN THIS COMMUNION.

In the Old Testament God gave His law, so as to PREPARE THE PEOPLE FOR RECEVING CHRIST. John the Evangelist says in the prologue of hte Gospel: "The law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (John 1:17). The Unincarnate Logos/Word gave the law of Moses in order to cure the people in readiness for receiving the truth and grace which came into the world through the Logos/Word of God made flesh, that is to say, Christ. The Mosaic law, as well as circumcision, also, hade grace, but THIS WAS THE SO-CALLED PURIFYING ENERGY AND GRACE OF GOD, NOT His ILLUMINATING AND DEIFYING ENERGY.

Through Christ we gain SPIRITUAL BIRTH and TRUE WORSHIP. John the Evangelist emphasizes: "As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to them He WHO BELIEVE IN HIS NAME: WHO WERE BORN, NOT OF BLOOD, NOR OF THE WILL OF MAN, BUT OF GOD" (John 1:12-13).

Through circumcision men become good Israelites. God’s chosen people. THROUGH BAPTISM AND THE FAMILY LIFE IN CHRIST MEN BECOME CHILDREN OF GOD, THEY ATTAIN SONSHIP BY GRACE AND THEY CONQUER DEATH.

Therefore Christ’s circumcision suggests to us THE CIRCUMCISION OF THE HEART. Through the sacramental and ascetic life WE BECOME MEMBERS OF THE BODY OF CHRIST. CHRIST’S CONDESCENSION BECOMES OUR ASCENT. (Source: The Feasts of the Lord by Metropolitan of Nafpakos HIEROTHEOS)

_____________________

JANUARY 1st – THE FEAST DAY OF SAINT BASIL THE GREAT,
Archbishop of Caesarea.

Saint Basil was born in the reign of the Emperor Constantine, in about 330 A.D. While still unbaptized, he spent fifteen years in Athens studying philosophy, rhetoric, astronomy, and other contemporary secular disciplines. Among his fellow-students were Gregory the Theologianand Julian, later the Apostate emperor. When already of mature years, he was baptized in the Jordan together with his former tutor Evulos. He was Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia for nearly ten years at the age of fifty.

A great champion of Orthodoxy, a great torch of moral purity and zeal for the Faith, a great theological mind, a great builder and pillar of the Church of God. Basil fully deserved his title "the Great". In the Office for his Feast, he is referred to as a bee of the Church of Christ, bringing honey to the faithful but stinging those in heresy. Many of the writings of this holy Father of the Church have survived– theological, apologetic, on asceticism and on the Canons. There is also the Liturgy that bears his name. This Liturgy is celebrated 10 times in the year on January 1st, on the Eves of Christmas and the Theophany, on every Sunday in the Great Fast with the exception of Palm Sunday, and on the Thursday and Saturday in Great Week.

Saint Basi departed this life peacefully on January 1st, 379 A.D. and entered the Kingdom of Christ. (Source: The Prologue from Ochrid)

__________________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

– Saint John Chrysostomos

+ + +

With sincere agape in the Incarnate Logos,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+ Father George

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