The traditional English Collect for the feast of the Circumcision & Naming of Jesus on January 1st moves quickly from the historical fact of the circumcising of the infant Jesus on the 8th day of his human existence to the need and duty of his disciples, female and male, to be circumcised spiritually.
The content of the Collect was suggested by the words of “A Benediction on the Octave of the Lord” (=eighth day after Christmas Day) in the Sacramentary of Gregory I. Translated from the Latin this reads:
“Almighty God, whose only Son on this day underwent bodily circumcision, that he might not break the Law which he had come to fulfill, purify your minds from all incentives to vice by spiritual circumcision, and pour into you his own blessing. Amen.”
Thus in 1549 Cranmer produced for The Book of Common Prayer the Collect for the Circumcision:
Almighty God, who madest thy blessed Son to be circumcised, and obedient to the law for man: Grant us the true circumcision of thy Spirit; that our hearts and all our members, being mortified from all worldly and carnal lusts, we may in all things obey thy blessed will; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.”
The scriptural passages in mind here were of course Luke 2:15-21 and Paul’s teaching on baptism and spiritual circumcision in Romans 2-4 & Colossians 2.
Later the Collect was amended to read “circumcision of the Spirit”.
When did you last hear a sermon on the Pauline teaching of spiritual circumcision?
Or when did you last hear a sermon on the submission by Jesus to the Law of Moses as a necessary part of his vocation to be the Messiah of Israel and Redeemer of the world?
Or when did you last hear a sermon on the shedding of the blood of Jesus at his circumcision and the connection thereby with his shedding of his blood on the Cross for us and for our salvation?
Or when did you last hear a sermon on the meaning of the Name of JESUS and the connection of this Name with the act of fleshly circumcision?
Finally why not ask your bishop or priest to use the Benediction given above on January lst and/or the following Sunday?
The Rev’d Dr Peter Toon the Sunday after Christmas 2001 Peter@toon662.fsnet.co.uk
The Revd. Dr. Peter Toon
Christ Church Rectory
Hot Lane, Biddulph Moor
Stoke-on-Trent ST8 7HP