Circumcision of our Lord (traditionally 1 January)


This is from a series of bas-reliefs depicting the life of Jesus from the arcade in the choir at Chartres. I have also derived an innocent (I hope without conceivably causing offence to any reasonable person) amusement from this, as also from a hymn commemorating the occasion (here as translated and altered a little):

1. O blessed day when first was poured
The blood of our redeeming Lord!
O blessed day when Christ began
His saving work for sinful man!

2. While from His mother’s bosom fed,
His precious blood He wills to shed;
A foretaste of His death He feels,
An earnest of His love reveals.

3. Scarce come to earth, His Father’s will
With prompt obedience to fulfil,
A victim even now He lies
Before the day of sacrifice.

4. In love our guilt He undertakes;
Sinless, for sin atonement makes.
The great Lawgiver for our aid
Obedient to the Law is made.

5. Lord, circumcise our heart, we pray,
And take what is not Thine away.
Write Thine own name upon our hearts,
Thy Law within our inward parts.

6. O Lord, the Virgin-born, to Thee
Eternal praise and glory be,
Whom with the Father we adore
And Holy Ghost forevermore.

In fact, this hymn forms part of a long tradition, recounted in some detail here, where I learn that Thomas Aquinas found “not one, two, or three reasons [why Christ should have been circumcised], but seven:”

First, to show the reality of his human flesh against the Manichee who taught that he had a body which was merely appearance; against Apollinarius who said that the body of Christ was consub stantial with his divinity; and against Valentinus who taught that Christ brought his body from heaven.

Second, to show approval of circumcision which God of old had instituted.

Third, to prove that he was of the stock of Abraham who received the command about circumcision as a sign of the faith which he had in Christ.

Fourth, to deprive the Jews of a pretext for not receiving him had he been uncircumcised.

Fifth, to commend the virtue of obedience to us by his example; and so he was circumcised on the eighth day as was prescribed in the Law.

Sixth, that he who had come in the likeness of sinful flesh should not spurn the customary remedy by which sinful flesh had been cleansed.

Seventh, to take the burden of the Law upon himself, so as to liberate others from that burden……

It’s a cheap shot, I know, but I can’t help thinking that, lacking the internet or television to distract him, old Thomas had waaaaaay too much time on his hands to think about this.

2 Responses to “Circumcision of our Lord (traditionally 1 January)”

  1. Victor Says:

    I don’t think my parents saw any Messianic qualities in me when they had me circumcised.

  2. wanderer Says:

    What he had was waaaaaay too much guilt.

    This retrospective allocation of purpose (I’m sure there’s a clever word for that) started the whole thing off in the first place…”A victim even now He lies
    Before the day of sacrifice.”

    Such attribution (is that it?) reveals quite a forward thinking 8 day old.

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