Homily 389 – Circumcision/St. Basil
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
January 1, 2020
Epistle: (254) Colossians 2:8-12 (Circumcision) and (318) Hebrews 7:26-8:2 (St Basil)
Gospel: Luke 2:20-21, 40-52 (Circumcision, p 323) and (24) Luke 6:17-23 (St Basil, p 118)
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
In most cases, I’m not sure we think of the feast of the Circumcision of our Lord as a “mystical” feast.
Yet the hymnography from last night at vespers is striking.
He was eight days old on His mother’s side
but eternal on the side of His Father.
He made the Law, and He obeyed His own commands.
He fulfilled the words of the Prophets concerning Himself.
He holds the world in His hands, yet is bound in swaddling clothes.
We perhaps think of Christ as a child, an infant, and completely at the whim of his parents. That is certainly true.
And yet, at the exact same time, He is the creator of all that exists. Nothing happens without His consent.
At the Nativity, the second person of the Trinity entered time. There was something new – a beginning.
The one who existed without beginning had a beginning.
We might say that before the incarnation, Christ who lived outside time, had already experienced everything.
Even the word “already” doesn’t have meaning in this context.
It is impossible for us to imagine – but we can make a true statement that by our perception, everything that will happen has already happened.
And yet, we – like Christ – have free will. This presents a true conundrum. A mind-twister.
Nevertheless, it is true – we see it illustrated here, as the child is initiated into the nation and people He chose to covenant with. He made the covenant – and he participated in the covenant, through circumcision.
We see it again at the end of His earthly sojourn when in the garden He prayed that the cup might pass from Him, but – nevertheless – the will of the Father be done.
Why are these things important?
Recall that the Church often times refers to Christ as the “second Adam”. The tradition of the Church is that the place of the skull – Golgatha – is said to be the place where Adam was buried.
And in the icon of the Resurrection, we see that skull, and we see Adam and Eve being brought from the tomb – restored from death to life.
It’s important, because the person Christ is – the incarnation of God – is who we, humanity, was created to be.
Not that we were or will be divine – we won’t. But we will be united to Him, and participate in the energies, the expressions, the activity of God through theosis.
Theosis which is a restoration of our humanity. Restoration of our true nature, prefallen.
So too are Joseph and Mary, the earthly parents, acting according to their true natures in obedience to the commandments. They didn’t wait for the child to choose which faith to follow.
He was circumcised. He is a Jew.
And for His troubles? For the healings and deliverance He provided? Humanity rejected Him. Except for the ones He chose to Himself.
He knew humanity would reject Him. He knew that humanity will reject us – those of us who follow Him.
The world will not love us, nor even care about us. We will, as we read for the feast of St. Basil today, we will be hungry, weeping, hated, excluded, mocked.
For all this, what might be called “negativity”, we are to react – by rejoicing! By leaping with joy!
It means, beloved, that we are like Christ – and like Christ, the world will reject us too.
Our reward is not of the fallen earth. It is of the new heaven and new earth in the resurrection.
Because we will be restored – and be truly human.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!