Source: Rumblings from a Desert Cave
When God established His covenant with Abraham, promising that Abraham would be the father of many nations, with more descendants that there were stars in the sky or grains of sand on the beach, He also gave Abraham a command: All of the males who were to participate in this covenant were to be circumcised. The command was repeated to Moses, and then to Joshua. The sign of circumcision was a sign of those who were a part of the covenant; and those who disobeyed the command of God were cut off from the covenant, and to be cast out of the community of the people of God.
When our Lord Jesus Christ was eight days old, his parents, in accordance with the command of God, took the young child to be circumcised. He Who had given the covenant now was obedient to His own command, and was circumcised in the flesh that He had obtained from His mother, the Ever-Virgin Lady Theotokos. Later, when He presents Himself to be baptized – which feast we will celebrate later this week – He gives an explanation that also accounts for His circumcision: that He might fulfill all righteousness.
In the early days of the Church, there was a controversy raised when some were requiring converts to the Faith to be circumcised before they were baptized. The apostles acted to declare otherwise, and the apostle Paul wrote that those who were circumcised should not seek to change their condition; while those who were uncircumcised did not need to be circumcised in order to be baptized. As a result, baptism became the sign of the New Covenant in Christ – and all believers (not just the men) were to participate in this mystery, as a sign of their acceptance of the New Covenant.
So, each of us who has been baptized into Christ has entered into a covenant with God. What is that covenant? It is not the Law – that covenant is the covenant of circumcision. Indeed, St. Paul writes that those who are circumcised to fulfill the Law are responsible for keeping all of the Law. The Law is not bad; but the Law, by itself, is unable to save us. We are called, rather, to love: To love the Lord with all our heart and soul and mind and strength, and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. This is consistent with how the prophets of old understood the act of circumcision. The cutting of the flesh of the body was not only the sign of acceptance of the covenant; it was a direction to a deeper transformation that was required. “Circumcise your hearts,” the people of God were told. They were called to holiness, as an act of love toward God; and to acts of charity to those around them, as a way of loving our neighbors.
Brothers and sisters, our Lord was obedient to the command, and was circumcised in order to fulfill all righteousness. Will we be obedient to the command to love, and live so as to fulfill all righteousness, as Christ loves us, and gave Himself for us as an offering and a sacrifice? Will we give of ourselves, setting aside our pride and our pleasures, so as to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the homeless, and visit the sick and those in prison? Will we set aside our pride and our pleasures to give from what we have for the work of the Church? Will we set ourselves aside so that Christ may be seen in and through us, holy and righteous and without sin?If we will, we honor God, and fulfill the covenant He has made with us to save our souls. If we do not, we are at risk of being cut off from the covenant, and cast out of His community. The choice is ours…