Sermon given by Father Pancras Raja on January 1st, 2020
The Circumcision of Our Lord
“After eight days were accomplished that the child should be circumcised, his name was called Jesus” (Lk. 2: 21)
On this first day of January, The traditional Catholic Church celebrates the feast of the Circumcision of Our Lord.
In the old law (Gen. 17: 12) it was required that every male child should be circumcised, and thus be admitted among God’s chosen people. The rite of circumcision (that is: the cutting of a tiny piece of flesh on the tip of the genital organ) was the seal of Abraham’s alliance with God – and only the circumcised children had the right to the promise made to Abraham.
THE MOST HOLY MARY IS INFORMED OF THE WILL OF THE
LORD, THAT HIS ONLYBEGOTTEN SON BE CIRCUMCISED
(City of God, Book 2, Chapter 13)
Most holy Mary requested saint Joseph to take the necessary steps for the Circumcision of the divine Infant. The time appointed by law for the Circumcision of the Child had arrived. Then he asked his heavenly Spouse how the Circumcision was to take place. She would herself hold Him in her arms. She requested saint Joseph to procure a crystal or glass vessel for preserving the sacred relic of the Circumcision of the divine Infant.
After these preparations the heavenly Lady asked saint Joseph to inform the priest of that town Bethlehem and request him to come to the cave where, without the necessity of bringing the Child to any other place, he might, as a fit and worthy minister of so hidden and great a sacrament, with his priestly hands perform the rite of the Circumcision.
It is the Divine Will that we call Him JESUS. This name we will propose to the priest, for inscription in the register of the other circumcised children.
THE DIVINE INFANT IS CIRCUMCISED
AND RECEIVES THE NAME JESUS.
The Blessed Virgin Mary sent her most fortunate spouse to Bethlehem to call the priest. The priest came to the gates or cave of the Nativity, where the incarnate Word, resting in the arms of his Virgin Mother, awaited him. When the priest looked upon the face of Mary and of the Child in her arms he was filled with great devotion and tenderness, wondering at the contrast exhibited amid such poverty and in a place so lowly and despised.
While holding the Child in her hands She so placed the towel that the relics and the blood of the Circumcision would fall upon it. The priest thereupon proceeded to his duty and circumcised the Child, the true God and man.
The priest asked the parents what name they wished to give to the Child in Circumcision; the great Lady, always attentive to honor her spouse, asked saint Joseph to mention the name. Both Mary and Joseph said at the same time: “JESUS is his name.”
Christ the only begotten submitted to the rite of circumcision in order to ratify (by his obedience) God’s decree that if any male person is uncircumcised, “there is no place for him among the people” (Gen. 17:14). Because circumcision (as baptism in the new law) “signifies the cleansing from sin” (St. Augustine). Therefore, it is because of sin, and in the sinful flesh, which he has assumed, that Christ accepts the alliance which he would replace by Baptism.
This event of circumcision is full of mysteries.
1 That the Son of God made himself subject to the law of God!
2 That the only begotten was made like a slave in his flesh!
3 That the lord of all became servant of all!
4 That he takes upon his body all evil and all guilt – feeling it, expiating it and redeeming it!
Let us linger for a while meditating on these mysteries of the circumcision. Look at the little child Jesus, although he is entirely sinless, he desires to appear as a sinner like any one of us, and to bear the mark of sin in his most holy body! A wound has been caused in his most tender flesh. It is the pinch of our sin that makes the child Jesus shed his blood – even as a child of eight days! Thus, Jesus at the rite of circumcision, for the first time sheds his blood and tears for the salvation of mankind! The blood and tears that he sheds today are no less than those he would shed in Gethsemane and Golgotha, the very blood and tears caused by our sin!
“Blood whereof a single drop has power to win all the world forgiveness of its world of sin.” (St. Thomas Aquinas)
And since this blood had been taken from the Immaculate and Virgin Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady too – as she holds the child Jesus for the rite of circumcision – shares in that first sacrifice Christ and offers that drop of blood – which is her blood too – for the salvation and sanctification of mankind! Yes, Our Lady gladly embraces those sufferings and joyfully sheds her tears in order to contribute for our redemption!
Holy mother the Church, which is the type of the Bl. V. Mary, takes the precious blood of Jesus in her hands and offers it daily and unceasingly to God on her altars for the forgiveness of her erring children! Because, the true Church has always one goal, and that is the salvation and sanctification of souls! Her dogmatic and moral teachings and the liturgical practices are all directed to this aim which is signified by the rite of circumcision of Our Lord.
What should be our attitude – face to face – with this event of redemption?
What plan of action do we make for the new Year as we stand by the crib?
Let us make resolutions!
1 To change our life to Holiness, by cultivating a horror of mortal sin!
2 To possess an ardent desire to become great saints!
3 To accept the law as Jesus did, never evading it, never setting ourselves above it – but ever mindful of the obedience of Our lady by which Jesus saved us!
4 To entrust this new year and all of us to the Immaculate heart of Mary, and to participate in the devotion of reparation regularly – by attending it on the first Saturdays!
5 To pray for the growth of our seminary and our convent so that many holy priests and religious may be produced here as the Apostles of Our Lady!
These resolutions for the New Year should include the purpose of dedicating all our actions during the coming year to God’s honour and Glory as to their ultimate end. (1 Tim. 1: 17)