The Feast of the Circumcision of Our Lord is a Christian celebration of the Brit milah (ritual circumcision) of Jesus, eight days (according to the Semitic and southern European calculation of intervals of days) after his birth, the occasion to on which the child was formally given his name, Jesus, a name derived from Hebrew meaning "salvation" or "saviour".
The circumcision of Jesus has traditionally been seen, as explained in the popular 14th century work the Golden Legend, as the first time the blood of Christ was shed, and thus the beginning of the process of the redemption of man, and a demonstration that Christ was fully human, and of his obedience to Biblical law.
The feast day appears on 1 January in the liturgical calendar of the Eastern Orthodox Church and of the Eastern Catholic Churches of Byzantine Rite. It also appears in the pre-1960 General Roman Calendar, and is celebrated by some churches of the Anglican Communion and virtually all Lutheran churches.
Eastern Orthodox Church
The feast is celebrated with an All-Night Vigil, beginning the evening of December 31. The hymns of the feast are combined with those for Saint Basil the Great. After the Divine Liturgy the next morning, Russian Orthodox churches often celebrate a New Year Molieben (service of intercession) to pray for God's blessing for the beginning of the civil New Year (Orthodox commemorate the Indiction, or Ecclesiastical New Year, on September 1).
On the Julian calendar, 1 January will correspond, until 2100, to 14 January on the Gregorian Calendar. Accordingly, in Russia, 14 January in the civil calendar is known as "The Old New Year", since it corresponds to 1 January in the Julian Calendar, still used by the Church.
Roman Catholic Church
Until the 15th century the Roman Catholic Church also celebrated the Circumcision and what is now the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus together. The emphasis on the latter in the preaching of Saint Bernardino of Siena appears to be the origin of the de-coupling. Until 1960, the General Roman Calendar gave 1 January as the Feast of the Circumcision of the Lord and the Octave of the Nativity. In the 1960 revision by Pope John XXIII, included in his 1962 Roman Missal (whose continued use is authorized by the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum), 1 January is denominated simply the Octave of the Nativity. Since 1969, the General Roman Calendar celebrates 1 January as the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, referring to it also as the Octave of the Nativity.
1 January is listed in canon 1246 §1 of the Code of Canon Law as a Holy Day of Obligation, on which, as the following canon 1247 states, "the faithful are obliged to assist at Mass, to abstain from such work or business that would inhibit the worship to be given to God, the joy proper to the Lord's Day, or the due relaxation of mind and body". Since episcopal conferences are authorized, after getting the approval of the Apostolic See, to suppress some of the holy days of obligation or transfer them to a Sunday, 1 January is not observed everywhere as a holy day of obligation. Countries where it is observed include Canada, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, and the United States.
Church of England
The Church of England's Book of Common Prayer liturgy celebrates this day as the Circumcision of Christ. The newer Common Worship liturgy observes this day as a Festival called the Naming and Circumcision of Jesus.
Since it was a feast of Christ and related directly to Scriptural passages (notably Luke 2:21), the Feast of Circumcision was retained by churches of the Lutheran Reformation. It remains on most Lutheran liturgical calendars to this day, although there has been a general move to call it "The Name of Jesus." Martin Luther preached at least one notable sermon on this feast day which is still available in his Church Postils, and up until the late 1970's, Lutheran hymnbooks would contain several hymns relating to this subject.
- ↑ In the northern European calculation, which abstracts from the day from which the count begins, the interval was of seven days.
- ↑ (King James Version): "And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb."
- ↑ Catholic Encyclopedia: Feast of the Circumcision
- ↑ Greek Orthodox Archdiocese calendar of Holy Days
- ↑ General Roman Calendar as in 1954
- ↑ Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarchate of Moscow
- ↑ Code of Canon Law, canon 1246 §2
- ↑ As in the Lutheran Book of Worship, page 10. Copyright 1978, Augsburg Fortress.,
- An essay on the feast of the circumcision from Anglicans Online
- An article on the Feast Day of the Holy Circumcision on The Daily Beast
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