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Happy Circumcision!

2009 December 30
by Gordon Reid

After Thursday’s High Mass, as the congregation leave, I will wish them a Happy Circumcision – well, some of them – those with a sense of humour (which is almost all)! The modern Church has gone all prissy about the name of this Feast, calling it the Naming of Jesus or even changing it to Mary, Mother of God. I prefer the earthiness of the Circumcision, which rams home the fact that Jesus was fully human, fully Jewish and fully helpless. All three of these attributes are vital in comprehending what God was doing through his Son in the Incarnation.

And if you are ever on Mastermind or any such quiz game, and you are asked: “When did Jesus first shed his blood for mankind?” the answer is not “On the Cross” but “When he was circumcised”. It may astonish the quiz-master, but the Catholic Faith is often astonishing.

6 Responses leave one →
  1. David O'Rourke permalink
    December 31, 2009

    Father, I don’t by any means dispute the three points you are trying to ram home and the title “The Naming of Jesus” may indeed be the result of prissiness but the Collect for that day is the same as the Collect for the Lady Anthem from Christmas Day to Candlemas (unless you use Cranmer’s collect) and the psalms in the Breviary are the psalms from the feasts of Our lady. Anciently this apparently WAS a feast of Our Lady. Much of the old Circumcision Propers remain intact, at least in the Offices in the Novus Ordo which is more than can be said of the Sunday within the Octave of Christmas.

  2. J ~ An unhappilly circumcised Catholic permalink
    December 31, 2009

    I agree that it is important to recognize the significance of Jesus’ Humanness/Jewishness, and part of that is accepting the fact that he was circumcised according to Jewish custom and law.

    However, it is unfortunate that we don’t recognize that Jesus fulfilled all of those prophesies and customs so that we don’t have to. Jesus came into the world as a Jew, but ministered to the gentiles as well. I don’t think changing the name of the feast was a matter of prissiness or avoidance of the topic, but rather a shift of focus away from something we are no longer expected to participate in to

    It is a shame that during the same Mass where that gospel passage is read of Jesus’ circumcision, we don’t also have a reading from Acts 15 or Galatians 5, so we are reminded that that “yoke” was taken off us by the Council of Jerusalem. Part of the ‘happiness’ we should have in Jesus’ circumcision is that we don’t have to go through it ourselves. But alas, that brutal procedure ( still happens to many helpless babies across the USA, because their parents don’t get the full message of how complete Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament covenants.

    Perhaps part of a homily on that day (or bulletin insert for that week) could use an article or two from this website:

    Circumcision is definitely NOT a happy thing, I’m sure this other baby would agree:

    • December 31, 2009

      “Neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free, male or female” was St Paul’s liberating message, so I agree with what you say.

  3. John Reilly permalink
    January 1, 2010

    Father, there is an excellent post on this subject on the New Liturgical Movement site today:

    “It was formerly the custom of the church of Rome to celebrate the last day of the Christmas octave as a feast of the Virgin Mary, much as the Byzantine Rite keeps December 26th as the “Synaxis of the Most Holy Mother of God”. The Collect and Post-communion of the Roman Mass of the Circumcision are a reminder of this ancient custom, both referring to the Virgin Mary.”

    The post is here:

    Also, the first entry for today in the modern Martyrologium Romanum (2001) begins: “In octava Nativitatis Domini et die eius Circumcisionis, sollemnitas sanctae Dei Genetricis Maria…”

  4. David O'Rourke permalink
    January 2, 2010

    Father, you refer to one “Grant” with the presumption that the reader should know who he is. I,for one, do not know who he is. Could you suppy us with a little context so that the mention of his name isn’t meaningless?

    Happy New Year!

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