Dismissal Hymn of the Feast of the Circumcision of Our Lord – January 1st
«Μορφὴν ἀναλλοιώτως ἀνθρωπίνην προσέλαβες, Θεὸς ὢν κατ᾽ οὐσίαν πολυεύσπλαγχνε Κύριε· καὶ Νόμον ἐκπληρῶν περιτομήν, θελήσει καταδέχει σαρκικήν, ὅπως παύσῃς τὰ σκιώδη, καὶ περιέλῃς τὸ κάλυμμα τῶν παθῶν ἡμῶν. ∆όξα τῇ ἀγαθότητι τῇ σῇ· δόξα τῇ εὐσπλαγχνίᾳ σου· δόξα τῇ ἀνεκφρράστῳ Λόγε συγκαταβάσει σου.»
“Without change you took a human form, by nature being God, O most compassionate Lord; and fulfilling the Law, you willingly accepted circumcision in the flesh, that you might banish shadows, and strip away the covering of our passions. Glory to your goodness; glory to your compassion; glory to your ineffable condescension, O Word!”
In this modern, civilised world we live in, it may be difficult to understand why our Church celebrates the perpetration of a barbaric act against a newborn baby. Characteristic are the Old Testament accounts: “Then Zipporah took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son and cast it at Moses’ feet” (Exodus 4:25, see also Joshua 5:3).
Christ Himself was to remind the Jews that although circumcision was a precept of the Mosaic Law, it existed before Moses, being a physical sign of the covenant between God and Abraham: “ Moses therefore gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers)” (John 7:22).
We can only comprehend this Feast within the prism of Christ’s Love of mankind. It is only out of His unfathomable love for us, that Christ accepts the circumcision of the flesh. Christ, being born in a specific place and time, underwent all the customs and traditions He was born into.
Christ shows that as the Law-giver, He had to abide by the Law. Furthermore, in being circumcised, Christ reveals that He was truly human. How could Christ save humanity if he did not receive a completely human body in his Incarnation?
Even more deeply though, Christ underwent physical circumcision to open the way to the more essential “circumcision” as the Hymn explains, the stripping away of the covering of our passions. Apostle Paul explains: “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter” (Rom 2:28-29). This is achieved in Christ’s own Baptism, which He gave to the Church. St John of Damascus interprets the link between physical and spiritual circumcision – namely Baptism: “…the circumcision was a sign, dividing Israel from the Gentiles with whom they dwelt. It was, moreover, a figure of baptism. For just as the circumcision does not cut off a useful member of the body, but only a useless superfluity, so by the holy baptism we are circumcised from sin.”
Source: Lychnos December 2016 / January 2017