“God Isn’t Ashamed of His Law”: the Role of Circumcision

Every male Jewish baby was to be circumcized on the eighth day of his life, in accordance with the Mosaic Law. Circumcision was a sign of his belonging to the God’s chosen people. Our Lord Jesus Christ went through that ritual, too, For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. (Matthew 5:18). The Lord came not to break the Law but to fulfill it because He is the Lawmaker. It was him that Moses concluded the Covenant on Mt. Sinai with. 
The Church of Christ hailed the Lord for his wise stewardship and utmost condescension to us with unparalleled beauty and theological depth. The Bride of the Lamb conveys the immense experience of prayerful contemplation and spiritual insight, which inspired her best sons. Let’s quote some of such spiritual insights and be amazed at the bountiful wisdom of God, which enlightened the hearts and minds of the greatest Orthodox authors.
The all-good God was not ashamed to be circumcized. He gave himself as the image and example for the salvation of all: for the Lawmaker submits to the law and the prophecies of the prophets. O Lord who holds everything in his hand and is swaddled in cloth, glory to You!
This wonderful sticheron by a monk named John is sung during the Vespers of the holiday. The holy father aptly underlines God’s goodness and the fact that He wasn’t ashamed of this ritual but performed it for the sake of our salvation, as ancient prophets had foretold. The book of Psalms contains the following words, Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart (Ps. 40:7-8). God came to earth and although He holds all universe firmly in his hand, He willed to be born as a small and vulnerable baby, wrapped in cloth.
Not as a God-opposer but as the performer of the Law, the incarnated Christ appeared and voluntarily submitted himself to circumcision on the eighth day.
This troparion of Ode 3 of the feast canon stresses a very important fact of the Christian faith, which was frequently doubted both in ancient times and nowadays. The Lord goes through circumcision, which means that He doesn’t oppose Old Testament regulations. He does not oppose the God of the Old Testament: in fact, He came to accomplish his Father’s will. We often hear, “The God of the Old Testament is bitter and angry, while in the New Testament God is gentle and merciful, and therefore they are two different gods.” We can’t agree with that because the entire Old Testament preaches the imminent coming of the Messiah and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth. I and my Father are one, said Jesus. Moreover, according to the Christian revelation, the God of Old Testament spoke with the forefathers and prophets via his Son, his divine Logos.
The Master is circumcized on the eighth day as a baby and adopts the name of Jesus, for He is the Savior of the world and its Lord.
The Lord takes the name ‘Jesus’ which means ‘God saves’. The Church instructs parents of newborn babies to name them on the eighth day of their lives, the day when the Lord was circumcized. What is the connection between the name of God and naming of a baby on the eighth day? The answer lies in the prayers from the Book of Needs. Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann explains the meaning of the Sacrament of Baptism and related rites and points out that the eternal life, the overabundant life consists of knowing the Name of God and glorifying it with one’s entire life. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent (John 17:3). It is for the sake of this life that we get a name on the eighth day, the day that symbolizes eternity and plenitude, which means that our names and our personalities must be sanctified by the Name of God and lit up by the knowledge of God and his will. That’s why the Lord came into this world and willingly submitted himself to circumcision and swaddling. Let’s praise his holy Name and do everything we can to please God.
By John Nichiporuk,
a Bachelor of Theology,
specialized in Biblical Studies.
The Catalog Of Good Deeds, 2018
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  1. Nice until you quoted Fr. Alexander, he is only superficially Orthodox and his writings secular in spirit

  2. I am not so sure about superficiality of the Orthodoxy of Father Alexander. For many orthodox Christians the writings of Father Alexander are a fount of inspiration and joy and I personally very thankful to him for his works, they strengthened my faith and my love to Orthodoxy. However, thank you for your comment.

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