Circumcision of the Lord and St Basil the Great

Today on the Byzantine calendar, the Church commemorates both the Circumcision of the Lord and our father among the saints Basil the Great, Archbishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia.

Our Lord was circumcised on the eighth day after His Nativity in accordance with Jewish law as a sign of God’s covenant with Abraham and his descendants. The significance of this is manyfold; in emptying Himself, He who wrote the Law submitted Himself to it, which He came not to destroy but to fulfil. This submission also demonstrated that Christ was truly incarnate, truly robed in flesh, and not simply appearing to be a man.

Saint Basil the Great was born to a wealthy yet pious family at Caesarea in 330. Highly educated in philosophy, philology, oratory, law, naturalist, astronomy, mathematics and medicine, he developed a close friendship with Saint Gregory the Theologian in Athens. He later returned to Caesarea, where he became an ascetic and laid the foundations of Eastern monasticism, later being joined by Saint Gregory.

As the heresy of Arianism spread through the Empire and even to the imperial throne, Saint Basil arose as one of the principal defenders of Orthodoxy, being consecrated Archbishop of Caesarea in 370. He died on 1 January nine years later, shortly after blessing his friend Saint Gregory to accept consecration as Archbishop of Constantinople, and was immediately acclaimed as a saint. The Church continues to celebrate the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great today and on nine other occasions during the year. (SSC)

The 8th Day of Christmas

Happy New Year, Blessings for 2022!

Today the Church honors the 8th day of the Nativity, the circumcision of the Lord. The ritual also includes the naming of the child –Jesus. It is also a day on which we consider our own incorporation into the Church through Baptism. In both cases, today is a day celebrate our being made anew in Christ.

For the Christian, baptism has replaced circumcision as the entrance into the life of the church. Colossians 2:11-12 witnesses to this: “In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not administered by hand, by stripping off the carnal body, with the circumcision of Christ. You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.” One of the reasons for this, though not the only one, is that now Gentiles were entering the Church.

St. Paul says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28) Even in the Scripture, it was decided that Gentiles did not need to be circumcised. Circumcision was a limited entrance, it could only be for males. However, both circumcision and baptism did require a change of heart, a true repentance, a turning to the Lord. The prophet Jeremiah preached, “Be circumcised for the Lord, remove the foreskins of your hearts” (4:4).

This was echoed in the New Testament by St. Paul, “One is not a Jew outwardly. True circumcision is not outward, in the flesh. Rather, one is a Jew inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart, in the spirit, not the letter; his praise is not from human beings but from God” (Romans 2:28-29).

Circumcision was done of the eighth day, it was the beginning of a new creation, for God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh, the new creation begins on the eighth day. For the Christian, baptism, too, is the beginning of a new creation: “you should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth” (Ephesians 4:22-24). The Feast of the Circumcision, then, is in the middle of our passage from the Birth of the Lord to his Baptism in the Jordan. It is a time to renew our hearts, and begin to live in Christ.