“O eternal Lord God, who has brought thy servants to the beginning of another year; Pardon, we humbly beseech thee, our transgressions in the past, and graciously abide with us all the days [of 2002 and] of our life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
This Collect is from the Proposed English [Deposited] Book of Common Prayer of 1928 and is found in The Shorter Prayer Book of 1946.
This prayer contains two general petitions which apply to every baptized Christian --- forgiveness for sins past and divine help through the divine presence for the present and future.
If we add to this Collect, the old English Collect for January lst, feast day of “The Circumcision of Christ”, then we give more content to the petition for divine assistance in 2002.
In this Collect we pray: “Grant us the true circumcision of the 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…”
It was Moses and the prophets of Israel who first talked and wrote of the “circumcision of the heart and mind” (see Deuteronomy 10:15-16; 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4; Ezekiel 36:26-27). They did not deny the need for the covenant sign of circumcision of the flesh for Jewish males, but they emphasized that with the fleshly went the spiritual. Circumcision of the heart pointed to inner repentance and a humbly and right response to and relation with God and applied to male and female.
The Apostle Paul took up the teaching of Moses and the prophets and wrote:
“It is not the outward Jew that is a Jew;
Nor is external, physical circumcision true circumcision:
He who is one inwardly is the (real) Jew:
And circumcision is of the mind, spiritual not literal" (Romans 2:28-29).
In the days of the New Covenant, inaugurated by the blood of Jesus the Christ, Paul teaches that what God the Father looks for is not an outward cutting of the flesh, for the law of the Lord is not to be seen as being fulfilled at this level. The circumcision that God now looks for is the circumcision of the heart, what the prophets had called for and thus something that applied to male and female, Jew and Gentile. And this spiritual and moral circumcision which involves the cutting away of all forms of sin and selfishness can only be achieved by the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit and by his guidance and help.
In his Epistle to the Colossians the Apostle takes up the theme of TRUE circumcision again:
“In Christ you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands by putting off the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ; and you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead…” (Colossians 2:11-12).
In union with the Lord Jesus Christ through faith by the Holy Spirit and in Baptism, believers are circumcised in heart and mind. The old is put away the new is put on. However, in the Christian life, this newness has to be put on continually and the old put off continually. Thus Paul constantly calls for the mortifying of the evil thoughts and deeds of the body of flesh, an humble submission to Christ Jesus as Lord, and the worship of the Father of the Lord Jesus in spirit and in truth.
Thus to the church in Philippi he wrote: “We are the true circumcision, who worship God in spirit, and glory in Christ Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh” (3:3).
Here, then, is the message for New Year’s Day. By union with Christ Jesus in Baptism you have been spiritually circumcised. Resolve to Renew that circumcision daily in your humble trusting, obeying and following of the Lord Jesus Christ.
New Year’s Eve 2001 Peter@toon662.fsnet.co.uk
The Revd. Dr. Peter Toon
Christ Church Rectory
Hot Lane, Biddulph Moor
Stoke-on-Trent ST8 7HP