Circumcision of Christ, Our Lord, God, and Saviour And Our Father among the Saints: Basil the Great
2000 years after Christianity, it feels odd to be talking about circumcision. So it was definitely worth it for me to spend time looking into why we celebrate Christ’s circumcision as a major feast day.
The Meaning of Circumcision for Christ
So, why do we celebrate this? Well, first of all any event in the life of Christ is something worth celebrating. While Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ, it could also be considered a celebration of His life. Particularly since the humility of His birth captures the depth of the mystery of the Incarnation. That is, that God, who is the creator of all, would enter into His creation as a creature so tiny and “helpless” as a little babe.
Circumcision is first and foremost a sign of the covenant with Abraham. Therefore Christ’s circumcision expresses the faithfulness of God to His covenants and ordinances. Also, it reveals Christ is bound to to both sides of the covenant, in His humanity as well as His divinity. Another aspect of the circumcision is that it is proof of Christ’s humanity. You can’t circumcise an illusion, so this event emphasizes that Christ took on flesh… for real life! This event is also significant because it his the first occasion upon which Christ shed blood. Jewish circumcision is a prefiguring of Christian baptism, and it is also when Christ officially receives His name, Jesus.
In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision, by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. – Colossians 2:11-12
On this feast day we use the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil. Saint Basil’s Divine Liturgy is the oldest recorded version of Divine Liturgy that is still used today in Byzantine churches. The beginnings of this liturgy trace to Antioch (Syria) and Jerusalem (Israel). It is actually quite similar to the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, with most of the major differences occurring in the silent prayers.
Here are the times we use the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil
- Eve of Nativity/ Vigil Mass for Nativity of Christ
- Feast of St. Basil/Circumcision of Christ
- Eve of Theophany/Vigil Liturgy for the Baptism of Christ
- The first five Sundays of Great Lent
- Holy Thursday/Last Supper
- Holy Saturday
Prayers and Tropars for the Circumcision of Christ
Troparion: (tone 1)
You are seated on a fiery throne on high, with Your Father who is without beginning and Your Divine Spirit. And yet You willed, O Christ Jesus, to be born of a virgin maiden, your mother. And, as a man, You were circumcised on the eighth day. Glory to Your all-gracious will. Glory to Your providence. Glory to Your condescension, O You who alone love mankind.
Kontakion: (tone 3)
The Lord of all submits to circumcision, and in His love cuts off the failings of mortals. Today He gives the world salvation, while in the highest hierarch Basil rejoices in the Creator and bearer of light, and in the divine incarnation of Christ.
Prokeimenon: (tone 6)
Save Your people O Lord, and bless Your inheritance
Verse: Unto You I will cry, O Lord my God, lest You turn from me in silence.
Prayers and Tropars for St. Basil
Troparion: (tone 1)
Your message has spread throughout the earth; it accepted the word with which you taught in a manner befitting God. You explained the nature of things and ordered human conduct. O namesake of the royal priesthood, our venerable Father Basil, pray to God that our souls may be saved.
Kontakion: (tone 4)
You appeared as a firm foundation for the Church, maintaining its authority as a sure refuge for mortals, sealing it by your doctrine, O venerable Basil, reveal-er of heaven.
Prokeimenon: (tone 1)
My mouth shall speak wisdom, and the meditation of my heart, understanding.
Verse: the heavens tell the glory of God, and the firmament declares the work of His hand.
The Byzantine Life
Thank you for checking out this week’s article. If you haven’t already, you can read our article about the upcoming feast of Theophany.
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