The Meaning of Circumcision in the Old Testament and the Circumcision of Christ

Luke 2: 20-21
Colossians 2: 8-12

The full life of a Christian begins with the baptism. In the church of the Old Testament, circumcision played a similar role. Already in the times of Abraham, the Lord commanded him: “This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.» (Genesis 17:10–14). With baptism, we inherit the eternal life, while in the Old Testament times someone who was not circumcised could not count even on a life on earth: “Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

Similar to baptism today, circumcision gave a child his name. “On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.” Having a name is paramount. Unlike other beings, man is a person. Our name is what makes us distinct among all other persons; others recognise it by it.

So why did the Lord command that the ritual of entry into the fold of His Chosen People be so unusual, from our today’s perspective? With Christ’s circumcision, this mystery of the Old Testament was dispelled. The circumcision made it evident for all that He had the same flesh and blood as all the other people. Perhaps the circumcision was meant to make it visible to all, that Jesus had not become incarnate as a ghost, but that in him all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form. In history, many heretics have claimed that God could not possibly have humbled himself so much as to come into the flesh of a human. So after Christ’s Ascension, the Apostles had to admonish the faithful: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.”

We believe in the Lord Jesus Christ who was incarnate and became man. While the Nativity is the feast of Him becoming incarnate, His Circumcision is the feast of His becoming man. The perfect man is not just a biological or a social being but by necessity a religious one. Man must know his brothers in the flesh, but also his Father in heaven. The history of the Christian era does not start from the Nativity, but from the Circumcision of Christ on the eighth day from His birth.

By fulfilling the law of circumcision, Jesus abolished it. He participates in our human nature, just as we are called to participate in His sacrificial love, purity and holiness. Apostle Paul writes: “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ, you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. In him, you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.”

Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds

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