The Circumcision of Christ and Feast Day of St. Basil the Great

The Circumcision of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

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 be to Thy goodness unto us. Glory be to Thy compassion. Glory, O Word, to Thine inexpressible condescension.

Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of Saint Basil the Great. First Tone

Thy sound hath gone forth into all the earth, which hath received thy word. Thereby thou hast divinely taught the Faith; thou hast made manifest the nature of all things that be; thou hast adorned the ways of man. O namesake of the royal priesthood, our righteous Father Basil, intercede with Christ God that our souls be saved.



On the eighth day after His birth Christ received circumcision, as the Old Testament Jewish law provided. He kept all its regulations and customs. 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 December, it is natural that the circumcision, which was performed after eight days, is celebrated on the first 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 Orthodox Church as a great feast of the Lord.

The circumcision is the cutting off "from around the end part of the male organ." This is done to every male child, because it is provided by God's command which was given at the beginning to Abraham. The relative passage from the Old Testament is the following: "Every male child among you shall be circumcised, and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised" (Genesis 17:10-12). The same commandment is given to Moses: "And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised" (Leviticus 12:3). In conversation with the Jews Christ reminds them that circumcision was given by Moses, but that it existed before that. "Moses therefore gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath" (St. John 7:22).

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 uncircumcised. So circumcision and uncircumcision are opposite concepts and practices, which point to the Jew and the gentile, the pagan.

The rite of circumcision was a painful act, and especially as it was performed at that time. The instruments with which the circumcision was performed were the knife, the razor and the sharp stone. A characteristic circumcision is that in which Zipporah used a sharp stone to circumcise her son. "Then Zipporah took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son" (Exodus 4:25). It is also well known that Joshua made "flint knives for himself, and circumcised the sons of Israel the second time" (Joshua 5:3).

Obviously circumcision was a painful act which caused bleeding. And if one thinks that it was done to a newborn infant, one understands his pain, but also the pain of the parents who performed the circumcision and saw the laceration of their child.

However, circumcision was not performed just for the person's purity, but it had a deep theological content and essential meaning. And in this sense it differs from the circumcision which existed among other peoples, such as the Egyptians, Arabs, Muslims and others. Some of them, such as the Muslims, took circumcision over from the Old Testament and the regulations of Moses, but this circumcision had a different content. Saint Epiphanios of Cyprus said that other people too had circumcision, as for example, the pagans and priests of the Egyptians, Saracens, Ishmailites (Muslims), Samaritans, Jews and Homerites, but most of them did not do it for God's law, "but through some irrational habit".

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 too kept this painful practice, immediately after His Birth...Furthermore, Christ accepted circumcision in order to show that He had assumed true human nature. And this is very important, for in the early Church a heresy had appeared that was called doecetism, which maintained that Christ did not assume true human nature, a really human body, but that it was a seeming and imagined body. This led to the conclusion that Christ was not crucified on the Cross, since He did not have a real body, but He deceived the Jews. But such a view does not save man. How can man be saved if Christ did not assume the real human nature? Therefore, as Saint Epiphanios says, Christ was circumcised in order to show that "He had in truth taken flesh upon Himself."

This saying is also connected with the fact that Christ's circumcision proved that the body which He had was not consubstantial with the deity. In Christ the uncreated had united with the created. The human nature is created, while the Divine nature is uncreated. The body, since it had been deified by the Divinity of the Logos (Word), became identically God, but not consubstantial with God. This means that Christ's body is also a source of God's uncreated grace, but it has not the same essence as the Divinity.

Furthermore, Christ was circumcised in order to teach men that circumcision, which He Himself had given to the Jews, had served humanity and prepared the ground for His own presence (St. Epiphanios). It was not a useless rite. Through circumcision the Jews had remained faithful to God's law and had waited for the Messiah.

According to Saint John of Damascus, circumcision was a figure of Baptism. Just as circumcision cuts off from the 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 separates the one who is faithful from the unfaithful one who lives in the same nation.

(Source: The Feasts of the Lord by Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos)



Saint Basil the Great was born about the end of the year 329 A.D. in Caesarea of Cappadocia, to a family renowned for their learning and holiness. His parents' names were Basil (Vasileios) and Emily. His mother Emily (commemorated July 19th) and his grandmother Macrina (Jan. 14) are Saints of the Church, together with all his brothers and sisters: Macrina, his elder sister (July 19th), Gregory of Nyssa (Jan. 10th), Peter of Sevastia (Jan. 9th), and Nafcratius. St. Basil studied in Constantinople under the sophist Ilbanius, then in Athens, where he also formed a friendship with the young Gregory, a fellow Cappadocian, later called Saint Gregory "the Theologian." Through the good influence of his sister Macrina (see July 19th), he chose to embrace the ascetical life, abandoning his worldly career. He visited the monks in Egypt, in Palestine, in Syria, and in Mesopotamia, and upon returning to Caesarea, he departed to a hermitage on the Iris River in Pontus, not far from Annesi, where his mother and his sister Macrina were already treading the path of the ascetical life; here he also wrote his ascetical homilies.

About the year 370 A.D., when the bishop of his country reposed, he was elected to succeed to his throne and was entrusted with the Church of Christ, which he tended for eight years, living in voluntary poverty and strict asceticism, having no other care than to defend holy Orthodoxy as a worthy successor of the Apostles. The Emperor Valens, and Modestus, the Eparch of the East, who were of one mind with the heretic Arians, tried with threats of exile and of tortures to bend the Saint to their own heretical confession, because he was the bastion of Orthodoxy in all Cappadocia, and preserved it from heresy when Arianism was at its strongest. But he set all their malice at naught, and in his willingness to give himself up to every suffering for the sake of the Faith, showed himself to be a martyr by volition. Modestus, amazed at St. Basil's fearlessness in his presence, said that no one had ever so spoken to him. "Perhaps", answered the Saint, "you have never met a bishop before." The Emperor Valens himself was almost won over by Saint Basil's dignity and wisdom.

The truly Great Basil, spent with extreme ascetical practices and continual labors at the helm of the Church, departed to the Lord on the 1st January, in 379 A.D., at the age of forty-nine.

His writings are replete with wisdom and erudition, and with these gifts he set forth the doctrines concerning the mysteries both of the creation (see his Hexaemeron) and of the Holy Trinity (see On the Holy Spirit). Because of the majesty and keenness of his eloquence, he is honored as "the revealer of heavenly things" and "the Great."



The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.



Glory Be To God For All Things!



With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George