||Last Updated: Feb 8th, 2011 - 05:50:02
Source: Patriarchial Parishes of Russian Orthodox Church in Canada
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit!
Today we celebrate the great feast of the Circumcision of Christ and also the New Year by the Julian calendar and memory of Saint Basil the Great of Caesarea in Cappadocia.
The feast of the Circumcision is connected with an absolutely concrete event: according to the Old Testament law on the eight day after the birth of a male infant there had to be performed the circumcision of the foreskin Ė in commemoration of the testament between God and Abraham. Of course, the Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnated Son of God, didnít need circumcision. His mission of saving humanity exceeded all that Abraham and all righteous men who had lived before Him and who had lived, lived and would live after the Nativity of Christ, had done. No circumcision could increase or decrease the importance of this mission or influence the cause being performed by the Lord.
Nevertheless, Jesus Christ took circumcision. And this circumstance makes us think over the importance of the rite and religious custom. The Circumcision was a rite according to which a man who took it, as if confirmed his connection with the Testament between God and Abraham. It was a visible sign to it. But didnít all people who had been circumcised remain true to the commandment which God had given Abraham? Of course, not. And the sermon of the Saviour Himself testifies to it with all its power. The Saviour exposes the Scribes, the Pharisees and Hypocrites who carefully fulfilled all customs but in their hearts moved away from God and practically violated the Testament of God with Abraham. Thus, the Circumcision didnít prevent a man from performing both bad deeds and even formal fulfilling the Old Testament law.
Why did the Lord take the Circumcision? He fulfilled this custom so that we could correctly understand what was the religious custom and the religious rite.
All of us having a body, feeling, mind, sight, intellect, smell, touch, live in this world and even the necessities of our soul we often realize bodily, because we canít do it differently. A man can express and show himself through the action of the body, the movement of mind and will. And people also discover religious feeling, religious life physically. For example, we all have come to the church today. Each of us got up in the morning, got to this holy place, came into the church, crossed himself and began to pray. We all express spiritual movements, the movements of heart physically. And the custom including the church, religious custom is the form by means of which we express our religious feeling in such a way as we can express it being people physically connected with nature, with the world created by God.
But there is some danger in all this: in the consciousness of some people, especially those who got insufficient spiritual enlightenment, those who seldom read the World of God, patristic writings, those who donít think over their faith, but simply got used to go to church, dangerous and incorrect attitude to the rites is being formed. They think that exact fulfilment of the rite saves a man and you neednít do anything more. Moreover, you can take part in the rite being in the church, and at the same time push aside a man who is nearby you, and even here in the church offend your neighbours. Our confidence that formal action saves us automatically is dangerous delusion and a sin. We often think that if we come and put a candle, we will get automatically all we asked for.
We canít get anything from God automatically. God gives us His grace, His power according to our faith and good deeds connected with our faith. It is this power that saves us, it is this power that overcomes our sins, as no human efforts and formal fulfilment of religious rules can overcome a sin. God gives us His grace which overcomes our sin. And attracting Godís grace, we can share it with others. When the grace is in abundance a man begins to share it with other people.
May God help us to increase in faith and piety. Letís go to the church with reverence, fulfil church customs and rules knowing that itís useful for soul and at the same time constantly think about our faith, read the Word of God, edify ourselves by it and in our practical life be guided by our faith, prayer and good deeds attracting to ourselves Godís grace which ďheals weak people and fills up scarce onesĒ. Amen.