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I am a Third Order Franciscan of the Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

The Feast of the Circumcision

On January 1st we will celebrate the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God. This day used to be known as the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ because it took place eight days after Christ's birth. Indeed devotion to the Holy Prepuce used to be very prominent in the Catholic Church as it was believed to be one of the few relics of Christ's earthly body that the Church possessed.

I'm not sure why the Catholic Church chose to change the name of this day, perhaps because the idea of circumcision cut some people the wrong way [sorry!] - perhaps to give greater attention to the Blessed Mother and her role in salvation. But I think that we are missing some important theological messages that were carried by the Feast of the Circumcision worth restating.

Christ's willingness to become circumcised, even though he did not have to, gives an important sign of the importance of obedience to God. The blood shed during the circumcision serves as an important sign of the Crucifixion where again out of obedience to the Father, the Son will give up his life. The Christmas season is full of images of cute, happy baby Jesus but this is a child who is born to suffer and die for our sake. The Feast of the Crucifixion forces us to ask whether or not we are also willing to be obedient through suffering and even obedient unto death.

In a world where some people deny the Jewishness of Jesus, the Feast of the Circumcision served as another way to re-emphisize that the salvation of the world came out of the Jewish people.

There are also some nice hymns to be sung in honor of the Circumcision:

From the hymn, "The Ancient Law Departs" :
His infant body now
Begins the cross to feel:
Those precious drops of blood that flow
For death the Victim seal.

From the hymn, O Happy Day, When First Was Poured:
O happy day, when first was poured
The blood of our redeeming Lord!
O happy day, when first began
His sufferings for sinful man!


Lord, circumcise our hearts, we pray,
Our fleshly natures purge away;
Thy Name, Thy likeness may they bear:
Yea, stamp Thy holy image there!

I don't know whether you could start a movement called "Bring back Circumcision" but perhaps priests might mention something about it in their homilies on the 1st of January and others might bring it up in casual conversation.

This is the time when we remember how Jesus lived a truly human life in faithfulness to the Father and that we who have found the Child Jesus in Bethlehem are called to follow his example.


Blogger Papa Buck said...

Thank you for this reflection and the hymns. I doubt that this will brought up in any homilies this Sunday.
Truly God is the ultimate general. He never asks His troops to do anything He wouldn’t do.
This is a lesson for our leaders today. God obeys His own laws.

2:33 PM  

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