My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS BORN! GLORIFY HIM!
ON THE FIRST DAY OF THE MONTH OF JANUARY OUR HOLY ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHURCH COMMEMORATES THE FEAST OF THE CIRCUMCISION OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST
Eight (8) days after His 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" (St. Matthew, Ch. 5). He subjected Himself to the Law to free transgressors subject to the Law, as the holy 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 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" (Saint Ephraim, Homily on the Transfiguration of the Lord). Furthermore, His physical circumcision foreshadowed our spiritual circumcision. Fulfilling the ancient, external Law, He ushered in the new, spiritual law. The Old Testament commanded that fleshly 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 eighth (8) 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 (Fathers) of the Church. In the fourth ode of the Canon for the feast, the Venerable Stephen of Saint Savva's 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 be 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 in the Holy Scripture indicates the fullness of time so that all the millennia from the beginning of creation till the present are spoken as
"seven days"; the eighth day, then, is the age to come. Tr.)
Circumcision was the Old Testament foretype of Holy Baptism and of the expurgation of ancestral ('original') 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 submitted 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 that children are conceived in iniquities, as David says, (Psalm 50). Like the scars of sin on their souls, the scars of circumcision remained 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 Apostle says, "The Father "made Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin" (2 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 pain, the penalty for sin. The Innocent One suffered innocently and could say with David, "Then did I restore that which it 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, "if 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...
On this day the Divine Babe also received the name Jesus. When the Archangel Gabriel descended from heaven and appeared to the Most Pure Virgin Mary, he made known that her Son would be called thus; whereupon, she consented to the tidings and cried, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word" (St. Luke, Ch. 1). Immediately, the Logos/Word of God assumed flesh and took up his dwelling in her immaculate, most sacred womb. At His circumcision, the name disclosed by the Herald before the Virgin conceived was formerly given to Christ the Lord to announce the coming of our salvation. Jesus means salvation, as the same Angel explained to Joseph in a dream, saying, "Thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins" (St. Matthew, Ch. 1). Similarly, the holy Apostle Peter declared, "There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts, Ch. 4). The saving name of Jesus was reserved by the Pre-Eternal counsel of the Holy Trinity for our salvation, and on this day the righteous Joseph brings it forth like a priceless pearl from heaven's treasury, so that it may be used to redeem the whole human race. In it are revealed, "the hidden and secret things" of God's wisdom (Psalm 50). It shines on the world like the sun, as the Prophet tells us: "To you that fear My name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise" (Malachi, Ch. 4). It fills creation with the fragrance of myrrh, as it is written: "Thy name is ointment poured forth" (Song of Sol., Ch. 1). It is poured out and no longer hidden. So long as myrrh is kept enclosed in a jar, its aroma is trapped, but when the seal is broken fragrance fills the air. Similarly, while Jesus' name remained spoken on in pre-eternal counsels, its power remained unknown, sealed as it were, in a jar. When the Infant's Blood was spilled during circumcision, however, it descended from heaven to earth like the sweet smelling myrrh of grace. Now "every tongue" confesses "that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. Ch. 2). [Source: The Great Collection of the Lives of the Saints)
(To be continued)
DIVINE SERVICES ON JANUARY 1ST:
Orthros (Matins) at 9:00 a.m.
Divine Liturgy at 10:00 a.m.
Please Note: There is no better way to usher in the New Year for an Orthodox Christian and all people, then to begin it with thanksgiving, praise, and worship to our All-Merciful and All-Loving God. We believe that He is always in control of His creation, which includes us and our lives, and therefore with true humility and reverence, we begin by trusting in his loving kindness and compassion. We believe that we depend on Him for everything and that we can do nothing without Him.
Instead of making superficial resolutions that will never be fulfilled by us, let us instead, renew our commitment to follow Him, and make prayer and worship part of our life. It is there, in our sacred church, that we will find comfort, assurance of salvation, peace, and hope. It is there that by the grace of God we strengthen our personal communion with Him.
It seems that on that wonderful and first day of the new year that we would all come together to express our undying love to Him and strengthen the love for one another.
Think of this brand new day as a type of Sunday (Kyriaki) Lord's Day of which it is!
I pray to see you all on New Year's day to celebrate and rejoice a 'new beginning' and a future filled with hope, joy, peace, and a true spirit of brotherhood.
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!" - Saint John Chrysostomos
With sincere agape in His Divine Birth,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God