The Feast of the Circumcision of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Humble Comments and Suggestions
On January, eight days after the Holy Nativity of our Lord, we
celebrate His Circumcision, one of the Feasts of the Lord, on whichin accordance
with Hebrew traditionHe received the name "Jesus": "And when eight
days were accomplished for the circumcising of the Child, His name was called Jesus, which
was so named of the Angel before He was conceived in the womb" (St. Luke 2:21).
The true descendants of the Patriarch Abraham were
separated from the other nations by the sign of circumcision (a prefigurement of Baptism: "the circumcision made without hands" [Colossians
2:11ff]) and thereby became members of the God-ruled community of the Old Testament; that
is, through circumcision, they entered among the chosen People of God.
Christ was now "made under the law," being
conformed to the prescriptions of the Mosaic Law (Galatians 4:4) and "fulfilling"
the Law (St. Matthew 3:15), in order to elevate the Church of the Law into a
Church of Grace, into a new "Israel of God" (cf. Galatians 6:16), into a Theanthropic organisminto His
The Circumcision of our Lord inspired our Holy Church to
institute a beautiful and deeply symbolic custom for the newborn children of Christians:
at eight days, the Priest reads the "Prayer for the Signing of a Child Who is
Receiving a Name on the Eighth Day After His Birth" (see the Small Evchologion);
in such a way the first "Seal" of Grace is given to the infant: "Let
the light of Thy countenance be signed upon Thy servant (name), and let the Cross of Thine
Only-begotten Son be signed in his heart and his thoughts...."
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1) A worthy thing it would be were parents not to neglect
this most blessed tradition of our most Holy Orthodox Church, so that newborn children
might immediately be "sealed" in Christ through the
blessing of a Priest.
2) And that parents should decide in a timely manner on
the name to be given to the infant; our Lords name, "Jesus,"
was "given" by an Angel even before
Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the immaculate womb of the Theotokos
(Annunciation: St. Luke 1:31).
3) A timely decision on a name means that an infant will
have its own Saint to protect it from an early stage, and the parents will immediately
call it by its Christian name, thereby avoiding the oddity of calling it "baby"
until it is Baptized and illumined.
4) The Orthodox Slavs have the good custom of giving a
child the name of the Saint who is celebrated on the day of its birth, in order to avoid
unnecessary and senseless friction in the family; moreover, this practice insures that
there are no "forgotten" or "displeased" Saints!
5) The name "Jesus," which
our Lord received at His Circumcision, means "Savior";
that is, in Greek, the name of our Lord is "Soter" ["Savior"] (St. Matthew 1:21): "For this name
(Jesus), when translated into the Greek language, is rendered salvation of
God; Jesus, therefore, is translated as Soter
[Savior]" (St. Theophylact, Patrologia Graeca, Vol. CXXIII, col. 704AB).
Perhaps, therefore, all those who are [among Greeks] named
"Soterios" or "Soteria" would do well to celebrate their Name Days on
January 1, so that the Feast of the Circumcision might become more familiar.
It is truly a pity that the profound symbolism of this
Feast should be "lost" in the "worldly
tumult" of the twelve-day period between the Nativity and Theophany, and particularly
on New Years Day; and that we should lose, as well, an opportunity for us to enter
more deeply into the "circumcision made without hands" of
our Holy Baptism.
From Orthodox Tradition, Vol.
XVI, No. 2 (1999), pp. 2-3. Translated from the Greek by Hieromonk Patapios from the
periodical Hagios Kyprianos, No. 282 (January-February 1998), pp. 9-10.