On the eighth day from Christ’s birth, Mary and Joseph bring him to the temple to be circumcised under Jewish law and in fulfilment of the Covenant of God with His chosen people. After circumcision, Christ is given the name Jesus. We commemorate these events in His early life as we celebrate the feast of Circumcision of our Lord on 14 January, eighth days after the Nativity.
Today, Christians no longer circumcise their children as a religious practice. The New Covenant of God succeeded the Jewish law that required it. The early church fought successfully to eradicate the ritual of circumcision, and the sacrament of baptism has replaced it. Would it be right to say, then, that the Circumcision of the Lord is only about history?
Christ is absolutely clear on this. Fulfilment of a past law does not make it meaningless for the present. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them” (Matthew 5:17). Circumcision is not practised, but this does not mean that we do not need to make sacrifices for our salvation: “ Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these” (John 14:12). Clearly, today's feast is not about the past. It is about our present. It is an occasion to ask ourselves deep and sometimes uncomfortable questions about our lives – as human beings and as Christians.
Through circumcision, Jesus was accepted into God’s chosen people. Likewise, by becoming members of the Christian church, we also commit ourselves to be God's people and to show others the way of His truth. In the old times, being called a Christian was one of the greatest compliments to be made. People saw Christians as examples of generosity and love of their neighbour and one another. Are we still living up to the honour of being His people? Are we still known by others as true Christians by the way we live and act?
The name Jesus was given to our Lord at circumcision. It speaks of the greatness of His great life mission. As the son of man, he would know what it is to play with other children, learn the art of carpentry, and serve in the house of the Lord. In His ministry, he would experience the wonder of teaching, of healing the blind, the deaf and the crippled, and raising the dead. But he would also suffer rejection, pain, sorrow, loss and betrayal. He would endure his trial, passion, crucifixion and death. He would have accomplished all of this to be our Saviour. Likewise, at baptism, we are given the name of a saint as an example to follow on our quest for the Kingdom of Heaven. Are we living up to this high standard?
Jesus was circumcised in the flesh. Apostle Paul called on every Christian to be circumcised in the heart. If we imagined our hearts as a kingdom with a throne where only one person can sit, who would we put there? Ourselves, because of our pride? Our job, finances or home? Our spouse or our children, – because we love them so much in a personal way that they are more important than the Lord? To circumcise our hearts is to give its throne fully to the Saviour.
As we worship our Lord on this special day here at the Convent, we will be praying wholeheartedly that we all live like the saint dedicated by our name, like the Christian whose title we bear, and like the heart that is circumcised and enthroned by the Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. That we do so not just by our words or prayers, but our whole lives.
Christian denominations, including many Western Orthodox Churches, prepare to celebrate the Nativity of our Savior Jesus Christ (Christmas) on the 25th of December. However, in Belarus Christmas is celebrated on 7th January.