THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH

Her Doctrine and Morals

The feast of the Circumcision

1 January 2017

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Dear Friend,

This octave day of the feast of Christmas, also happens (this year) to be the first day of the week. In Genesis, we learn that God formed all of creation in six days and then on the seventh He rested from His labors. The octave or eighth day brings us back to the first day of the week — Sunday.

In the Old Testament, it was the last day of the week that was kept holy to God, but in the New Testament it is the first day of the week. The Old Testament was imperfect and a prefiguring of what was to come in the New Testament. All the days come from God and belong to God, and therefore, all days are holy. The practice of offering the last day of the week was imperfect because, in a sense, it is offering what is left over at the end rather than the first fruits. The Apostles have taught us to offer God the first day of the week, and to begin with a holy day dedicated to God, rather than wait to the end and offer Him what has not yet been used by us.

Christ rose from the dead on the first day of the week, and we are called upon to rise from the death of sin and begin a true life of grace within our souls on this first day of the week. This Sunday, we conjoin, in a manner, many things. We celebrate the Sacrifice of Calvary in the Mass, and unite with this, the celebration of the circumcision of Our Lord — where He begins His physical sufferings in reparation for our sins. We have before us today, the beginning and end of Christ's physical suffering and shedding of His Blood for our sins. The octave day takes us from beginning to end, and then starts us on our way again. We, also, celebrate eternal life in the Resurrection on the first day of the week. The work of our redemption was begun and completed in Christ, and now begins again within us.

Christ's birth begins our celebration, then on the eighth day we begin again in a certain manner. The promise of the Redeemer was fulfilled on Christmas Day; and the work of our redemption through the shedding of the Blood of Christ begins on this octave day. One phase is completed and the next is begun. We have completed the welcoming and rejoicing of the coming of our Savior, now we must begin the circumcising of our hearts by removing all our sins.

The Circumcision of Our Lord is the first Blood that He has shed for us. It is the literal fulfilling of the Law. This rite of circumcision prefigured the sacrament of Baptism. The physical cutting off of the foreskin signifies the spiritual cutting away of sin from our souls. It was not in physical circumcision that men were made holy or pleasing to God. The Old Testament is filled with examples of circumcised men who led very sinful lives and were very displeasing to God. It is the spiritual circumcision or cutting away of sin that makes us holy and pleasing to Him. This spiritual circumcision is found in the sacrament of Baptism.

The sacrament of Baptism does wash away sin and makes us pleasing to God. It is not an empty sign, but an efficacious one. That is, the sign of Baptism not only symbolizes the washing away of sin, but it actually does wash away sin. In this manner, we are truly made holy and pleasing to God.

We can also point out, from the time of Christ up to our own days, many who have been baptized, but are sinners and displeasing to God. The defect is not in the sacrament, but rather in the men who have not been faithful to the gifts that they have received. The sins within them were washed away, but they have soiled themselves again with sin. It is truly imperative that we retain or regain our Baptismal purity and innocence.

Today, we begin in the civil calendar a new year. It is a time of resolutions and promises. We can and should take this opportunity to close out the past and begin the future — as we finish one week and begin another. Our civil life needs to be guided by our spiritual life. Our New Year's resolutions should be spiritual ones, and this we can accomplish by doing all for God — turning everything that we do into a prayer. We begin this year with the Circumcision of Christ; the beginning of our salvation. Let us, for the love of Him, circumcise our hearts of all sins through a good confession, true penance, and a sincere purpose of amendment, never to offend Him again.

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