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The Winter Pascha, Chapter 30: The Circumcision of the Lord

The following is an excerpt from The Winter Pascha, by Fr. Thomas Hopko

The Circumcision of the Lord On the eighth day of the feast of the Nativity, which also happens to be the first day of the civil new year, the Church celebrates the Lord's circumcision and His receiving the name Jesus, which means savior.

And at the end of eight days, when He was circumcised, He was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. (Lk 2:21)

This day is also the anniversary of the death of St. Basil the Great, whose memory is part of the liturgical feast.

The Lord of all accepts to be circumcised;
Thus in His mercy He circumcises the sins of mortal men.
Today He grants the world salvation,
While Basil, high priest of God our creator,
Rejoices in Heaven as the radiant star of the Church.


According to the Church's liturgy, the Lord underwent circumcision in order to fulfill the law of Moses, which no one had been able to fulfill before. In performing "everything according to the law" (Lk 2:39), the Messiah finds it fitting "to fulfill all righteousness" (Mt 3:15). In this sense He is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets; not only by doing what was written of Him, but also by doing all things that everyone should do if they truly fulfilled the Word of God.

The God of all goodness
Did not disdain to be circumcised.
He offered Himself as a saving sign
And example for us all.
He fulfilled the words of the prophets concerning Himself.
He holds the world in His hands,
Yet He is bound in swaddling clothes.
Let us glorify Him.


In performing everything exactly according to the law, the Lord shows that He has come to be a servant, and to identify Himself completely with His sinful creatures. This is God's divine humility, His exceedingly great lovingkindness and compassion, His ineffable and unspeakable humiliation and condescension to us who are lost. For He not only is found "in the likeness of men," but He empties Himself of His divine glory, and takes on the "form of a slave" (Phil 2:7-8), He submits to the high priest's knife, enduring the sign of complete submission to God, the act which expresses the total helplessness and weakness of unholy creatures before their Holy Creator. Words cannot convey the condescension of the Lord in His willingness to be circumcised. It is an act of self-emptying humiliation which is wholly ineffable.

Enthroned on high with the Eternal Father and Your Divine Spirit,
You willed to be born on earth, O Jesus,
From the unwedded handmaiden, Your mother.
Therefore You were circumcised as en eight-day child.
Glory to Your most gracious counsel!
Glory to Your dispensation!
Glory to Your condescension,
O only Lover of man!




St. Vladimir's Seminary Press
The Winter Pascha by Fr. Thomas Hopko



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The Winter Pascha by Fr. Thomas Hopko.