Why Christ Submitted to Circumcision but We Do Not

On the Octave Day of Christmas each year (i.e., January 1), we recall that Our Lord and Our Lady both perfectly observed the Law of Moses. On this day, the author of the Law subjected Himself to the Law and shed the first drops of His Precious Blood for our salvation. In Old Testament Law, a child was not a son of Abraham or a true part of the family until his circumcision at 8 days of age.

The Feast of the Circumcision of Our Lord as explained by Dom Prosper Guéranger:

“Being now circumcised, He is not only a member of the human race; He is made today a member of God’s chosen People. He receives, at the same time, His holy Name. The Name is Jesus, and it means a Savior. A Savior! Then, He is to save us? Yes; and He is to save us by His Blood. Such is the divine appointment, and He has bowed down His will to it. The Incarnate Word is upon the earth in order to offer a Sacrifice, and the Sacrifice is begun today.”

Jesus respected the sacredness of the Old Law and submitted to its ceremony of circumcision. The rite officially incorporated Him into the Jewish religion and was a figure of Christian Baptism. The Savior came to complete the Old Law and to incorporate people of all nations into His Mystical Body through Baptism. From Him, the Head, they receive all the graces needed to live worthily as His members. We become “acceptable” to God in the measure that we are cleansed from sin, give God His due worship and obedience, and render our fellow men everywhere on earth both full justice and Christ-like charity.

If Christ Shed His Blood As an Infant in Circumcision, Was His Passion and Cross Necessary?

Dom Prosper Guéranger continues by answering this essential question:

“This first shedding of the Blood of the Man-God was sufficient to the fullness and perfection of a Sacrifice; but He is come to win the heart of the sinner, and that heart is so hard that all the streams of that Precious Blood, which flow from the Cross on Calvary, will scarcely make it yield. The drops that were shed today would have been enough to satisfy the justice of the Eternal Father, but not to cure man’s miseries, and the Babe’s Heart would not be satisfied to leave us uncured. He came for man’s sake, and His love for man will go to what looks like excess – He will carry out the whole meaning of His dear Name – He will be our Jesus, our Savior.”

As St. Thomas Aquinas says, “The very least one of Christ’s sufferings was sufficient of itself to redeem the human race from all sins; but as to fittingness, it sufficed that He should endure all classes of sufferings, as stated above” (Summa Theologica: Third Part, Question 46, Article 5, Reply to Objection 3).

Why Are Christians Not Circumcised Like Jews?

St. Paul in Galatians 5:1-6 stated that the observance of circumcision and the requirements of the Law of Moses from the Old Testament were abrogated and no longer binding. The only remaining elements of the Old Testament that are required are the moral law – the ceremonial laws are not. And that is why the requirement for wearing tassels on your clothes (cf. Deuteronomy 22:12), abstaining from pork or shellfish, or not using two different species to plow a field at the same time are abrogated.

At the time of Our Lord, the Jews counted 613 different laws. However, all of the ceremonial laws no longer apply, since their very purpose was to prepare God’s people for the coming of the Messiah. In and of themselves, the ceremonial laws could not cleanse sin. Rather, they were meant to teach God’s people by the powerful means of prefigurement and to prepare their faith in Christ. God allowed the ceremonial laws in the Old Testament to be effective, not because they were inherently meritorious or necessary, but because He freely chose to bestow His grace on those who obeyed the Mosaic ceremonials. Yet, after the consummation of Christ’s Sacrifice on Calvary and the establishment of the New and Eternal Covenant in His Blood, there is no need for these ceremonial laws. They had fulfilled their purpose.

Father Nicholas Gruner remarked on this important point and also mentioned how even seeming to appear in support of former Jewish law is sinful:

“Now the First Council of Jerusalem had already defined that circumcision was not necessary for salvation. Saint Thomas Aquinas proves in his Summa Theologica that to insist on circumcision is an act of heresy, an act of denial of the Faith, because that Sacrament of the Old Testament testified to the coming of Christ in the future. Once Christ had come then circumcision was no longer necessary and to insist upon it was to deny that Jesus is the Christ. Saint Paul instinctively understood the danger. Saint Peter did not say that the Judaizers were right; all he did was simply not eat with the Christians who were not circumcised. By doing this he gave rise to the impression that he refused to eat with them because they were unclean, as the Mosaic law said.”

We are no longer incorporated into God’s family by circumcision. We have Baptism, which is not a foreshadowing, like circumcision, but a real and true ontological change in our soul.

Honor the Seven Times Our Lord Shed His Most Precious Blood

Christ our Lord shed His Most Precious Blood seven times. To honor Him, pray the Seven Offerings of the Gloria Patri Prayer taken from the Raccolta:

  • Circumcision
  • The Agony in the Garden
  • The Scourging at the Pillar
  • The Crowning of Thorns
  • The Carrying of the Cross
  • The Crucifixion
  • The Piercing of His Sacred Heart
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