The Circumcision of the Lord
Posted by james0235 on January 2, 2008
Yesterday, the 1st of January, was a Holy Day of Obligation. It was the Octave Day of Christmas – the 8th day of Christmas. In the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite it is also known as the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. But, in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite it is known as the Feast of the Circumcision.
Even though the name has been changed and the Blessed Mother is now more emphasized the Octave Day of Christmas is still a celebration of the Circumcision of the Lord. The Gospel Reading makes this clear:
When eight days were completed for his circumcision,
he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel
before he was conceived in the womb. (Luke 2:21 NAB)
When we look at what the Old Testament has to say about circumcision it becomes clear why we celebrate this event on the 8th day of the Nativity:
This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you that you must keep: every male among you shall be circumcised. Circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and that shall be the mark of the covenant between you and me. Throughout the ages, every male among you, when he is eight days old, shall be circumcised, including houseborn slaves and those acquired with money from any foreigner who is not of your blood. (Genesis 17: 10-12 NAB)
We celebrate the Circumcision of the Lord on the 8th day because the Lord was circumcised on the 8th day in obedience to the Mosaic Law.
Now that we know why we celebrate the Circumcision on the 8th day of Christmas another question comes to mind: why do we celebrate it at all?
Because it is the first time Christ shed his blood for us. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen explains it better than I ever could:
In the Circumcision of the Divine Child there was a dim suggestion and hint of Calvary, in the precocious surrendering of blood. The shadow of the Cross was already hanging over a Child eight days old. He would have seven bloodsheddings of which this was the first, the others being the Agony in the Garden, the Scourging, the Crowning with Thorns, the Way of the Cross, the Crucifixion, and the Piercing of His Heart. But whenever there was an indication of Calvary, there was also some sign of glory; and it was at this moment when He was anticipating Calvary by shedding His blood that the name of Jesus was bestowed on Him.
A Child only eight days old was already beginning the bloodsheddings that would fulfill His perfect manhood. The cradle was tinged with crimson, a token of Calvary. The Precious Blood was beginning its long pilgrimage. Within an octave of his birth, Christ obeyed a law of which He Himself was the Author, a law which was to find its last application in Him. There had been sin in human blood, and now blood was already being poured out to do away with sin. As the East catches at sunset the colors of the West, so does the Circumcision reflect Calvary.
Must he begin redeeming all at once? Cannot the Cross wait? There will be plenty of time for it. Coming straight from the Father’s arms to the arms of His earthly mother, He is carried in her arms to His first Calvary. Many years later He will be taken from her arms again, after the bruising of the flesh on the Cross, when the Father’s work is done.
(The Life Of Christ pp. 37-38 )