Circumcision of the Lord and Feast of Saint Basil the Great


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



Eight days after the Nativity, Our Lord Jesus Christ deigned to be circumcised. He submitted to circumcision, first of all, to fulfill the Law. "Think not that I am come to destroy the Law," said He; "I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill" (Saint Matthew, Ch. 5). He subjected Himself to the Law to free transgressors subject to the Law, as the Apostle teaches: "When the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the Law, to redeem them that were under the Law" (Galatians, Ch. 4). By being circumcised, He demonstrated also that He had truly assumed human flesh, silencing the heretics who taught that His birth was an illusion. Christ's circumcision clearly showed that He had put on our nature, for how can a fleshless being undergo circumcision? Saint Ephraim the Syrian asks, "If Christ was not in the flesh, who was it that Joseph circumcised? Verily, Christ was incarnate, was circumcised as the Son of man, was reddened by His own infant blood; He suffered and cried from pain, in accordance with human nature" (St. Ephraim, Homily on the Transfiguration of the Lord). Furthermore, His physical circumcision foreshadows our spiritual circumcision. Fulfilling, the ancient, external Law, He ushered in the new, spiritual law. The Old Testament commanded that fleshly men be circumcised according to the flesh, but the spiritual man of the New Testament is taught to cut off the passions of the soul: anger, jealousy, pride, unclean desires, and other sinful inclinations. Christ was circumcised on the eight (8th) day to indicate that we are enrolled as inheritors of the future life by being marked with His Blood, for the eighth day is the symbol of eternity, according to the teachers of the Church. In the fourth ode of the canon of the feast, the venerable Stephen of Saint Savvas' Lavra writes, "The eighth day, whereon the Master was circumcised, is an image of the everlasting life of the age to come." And Saint Gregory of Nyssa tells us, "The Law dictated that a child is circumcised on the eighth day, the number eight being symbolic of the future age." (Saint Gregory of Nyssa, Homily on the Lord's Circumcision. The number seven (7) in the Scripture indicates the fullness of time so that all the millennia from the beginning of creation till the present are spoken of as seven days"; the eighth day, then is the age to come.)

Circumcision was the Old Testament foretype of Holy Baptism and of the expurgation of ancestral sin by Christ's Blood shed willingly at the Passion. As such, it could not actually wipe out the transgression of our First Parents. The ancient rite was an antecedent of true purification but was not the cleansing itself, which Our Lord (Who substituted the New Testament Baptism of grace by water and the Spirit for Old Testament circumcision) performed when He took sin "out of the way, nailing it to His Cross" Col. Ch. 2). Circumcision was a punishment, as it were, for Ancestral ("Original) Sin, and a reminder on the flesh of infants. Christ, however, was born sinless: like us in every other way, He was a stranger to all iniquity. The brass serpent which Moses fashioned in the wilderness resembled a living snake, but had no venom; similarly, Christ, while possessing our nature, was born supernaturally and without sin of a blameless, unwedded Mother. He had no need of enduring the painful wounds of circumcision, being sinless and Himself the Giver of the Law; nonetheless, He underwent the rite like a sinner. In coming to us, He assumed the transgressions of the whole world, as the holy Apostle says, "The Father "made Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin" (II Cor., Ch. 5). By His circumcision the Master showed even greater humility than by His Nativity, for at the Nativity He "made Himself of no reputation, and was made in the likeness of men" (Phil., Ch. 2), as Saint Paul confesses; but at the circumcision the Blameless One appears as a sinner, enduring paid, the penalty for sin. The Innocent One suffered innocently and could say with David, "Then did I restore that which I took not away" (Psalm 68), that is, "I suffered for sins I did not commit." Circumcision was the beginning of Christ's sufferings on our behalf, a foretaste of the cup from which He drank the bitter dregs on the Cross, when He cried, "It is finished" (St. John, Ch. 19). Now blood drips from the extremity of His flesh; later, rivers of blood will flow from every member of His body. It is helpful to gain proficiency at an early age in skills needed for later life, so He begins to suffer in infancy, becomes accustomed to suffering, and as a grown man can endure the cruelest of sufferings.

Human existence, which is full of labors and sufferings, has a morning and an evening, like the day. In the morning the God-man Christ goes "forth unto His work" (Psalm 103). He is always laboring, toiling from His youth. He remains at His labor from the sixth till the ninth hour, when there is darkness over all the land, (Matt. Ch. 27; Mark, Ch. 15), and until the evening. He says to the Jews, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work" (St. John, Ch. 5). What is the work of the Savior? It is our salvation, for "He hath wrought salvation in the midst of the earth" (Psalm 73). To perform this work perfectly, He toils as it constantly from infancy, enduring physical pain and travail of heart for us His children, until "Christ be formed in us" (Gal., Ch. 4). From the morning He scatters the seed of His Blood, and dusk reaps the fine harvest of our redemption. (Source: The Great Collection of The Lives of the Saints, Vol. 5).

(To be continued)


"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom


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

+Father George