Long before the Christ Child was
born in the flesh in a humble cave outside Bethlehem, His Father had named him
for us through His angels and prophets:
For to us a Child is born, to us a Son
is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder, and His name will be
called, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6,
RSV — other translations of the Bible are not as lyrical)
Then the angel said to her, “Do not
be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will
conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call his name Jesus
[that is, “God saves”]. He will be great, and will be
called Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the
throne of His father David.” (Luke 1:30-32)
…behold, an angel of the Lord
appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to
take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy
Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for
He will save His people from their sins.” So all this was done that it might
be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet [Isaiah], saying,
“Behold, the virgin shall be with Child, and bear a Son, and they shall call
His name Emmanuel,” which is translated “God with us.”
(Matthew 1:21-23, citing Isaiah 7:14)
In the Jewish tradition, every
male child is “marked in the flesh” as a son of Abraham — a keeper of the
Lord’s covenant — and formally named on the eighth day after birth.
The Jewish ritual for circumcision
is called a bris: the rabbi (Hebrew for “teacher,” as Jesus
was called by His disciples!) removes the baby boy’s foreskin (a flap of skin
that covers the head of the penis) with a small knife, as all his family
witnesses his reception into the Jewish religious community. Most other male
children born in America are circumcised at birth by a pediatrician, ostensibly
for reasons of hygiene.
The Gospel tells us about the
circumcision of Jesus Christ:
And when eight days were completed for
the circumcision of the Child, His name was called Jesus, the name given by the
angel before He was conceived in the womb. (Luke 2:21)
The Church observes the Feast of
the Circumcision of our Lord on January 1st/14th, eight days after His Nativity.
This feast celebrates God’s intention to perfectly fulfill the promise of the
Law through His Son, and foretells the salvation of human flesh through the
destruction of death by His bodily resurrection:
You Who are by nature God, did without
change take human form, O most compassionate Lord, and in fulfilling the Law of
Your own will did receive circumcision in the flesh, to banish hades and roll
away the veil of our passions. Glory to Your goodness; glory to Your compassion;
glory to Your condescension, O Word!
Troparion of the Feast (Tone 1)
In undergoing circumcision, the Lord of
all has circumcised the sins of mortal men. On this day He gives salvation to
the world. And the Hierarch Basil, the Creator’s light-bearer and Christ’s
mystic, rejoices in the highest!*
Kontakion of the Feast (Tone 3)
*The Hierarch Basil is also
commemorated on January 1st/14th! See “Celebrating the Feast of St. Basil the
Great,” Orthodox Family Life, vol. 3, iss. 2 (Winter 1997-1998),
pp.8-10, for more background and a recipe for Vasilopitta, a special
bread made for the feast in the Greek tradition.
to a CD or tape of Handel’s Messiah as a family during dinner one
evening before the Nativity, and pay special attention to the names given to
the coming Messiah. Discuss why the names are proclaimed so joyfully, and
what they mean.
a family “scavenger hunt” to see who can find and list the most names
revealed for God — the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Use your Bible and the
troparia and kontakia for the eight tones (from the appendix of your Divine
Liturgy book) as the “hunting ground.”
a family, discuss how you and your spouse chose names for your children, and
how you all decided on names for your pets.
the meaning of your own name(s), both in a “baby name” book (from the
library or the grocery check-out line) and a compilation of the lives of the
saints, e.g., The Prologue from Ochrid. Do you “fit” your name?
Attend the Divine Liturgy served for the Feast of the Circumcision, if your parish offers it. It’s a wonderful way to start out the secular New Year — partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, and praising His name! (Many parishes serve a Vesperal Liturgy on December 31st for this feast.)
by Nichola Toda Krause
1999-2000 by Orthodox Family Life and the original author(s).
URL: http://www.theologic.com/oflweb. This web site is donated and maintained by TheoLogic Systems, which provides software and information tools for Orthodox Christians and parishes world wide.