Archive for January, 2013

He was a lawyer out of arguments,
A honeytongue whose words no longer stuck,
Crushed and laid out — his filthy mouth seared clean.
Then he heard the question, “Whom shall I send?”
And spoke, for the first time in his true voice:
Here am I; send me.


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Muriel Singer was one of those very quiet, appealing girls who have a way of looking at you with their big eyes as if they thought you were the greatest thing on earth and wondered that you hadn’t got on to it yet yourself. She sat there in a sort of shrinking way, looking at me as if she were saying to herself, “Oh, I do hope this great strong man isn’t going to hurt me.” She gave a fellow a protective kind of feeling, made him want to stroke her hand and say, “There, there, little one!” or words to that effect. She made me feel that there was nothing I wouldn’t do for her. She was rather like one of those innocent-tasting American drinks which creep imperceptibly into your system so that, before you know what you’re doing, you’re starting out to reform the world by force if necessary and pausing on your way to tell the large man in the corner that, if he looks at you like that, you will knock his head off. What I mean is, she made me feel alert and dashing, like a jolly old knight-errant or something of that kind.

P. G. Wodehouse, Leave it to Jeeves, in My Man Jeeves (1919).

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On this first day of the year I look at two feast days that are often overlooked in the post-Christmas Day holiday fatigue: The Feast of the Circumcision (today) and the Epiphany (January 6). I bring them up together because they are a well-matched pair. The former marks Christ’s receiving the sign of the old covenant, and the latter, Christ’s receiving the sign of the new – i.e. baptism.[1] Or, if we think of Epiphany like well taught members of the Western Church, the Circumcision marks Christ as the glory of his people Israel, and the Epiphany marks Him as the light for revelation to the Gentiles.[2] Either way, we might say that if the Christmas Feast marks the Creator God’s intense commitment to the medium of His creation – earth and breath, flesh and blood – the Circumcision and the Epiphany display the depth of the covenant God’s commitment to a particular story: the story of Abraham. In Christ, God receives first the sign of the Abrahamic covenant, cutting off the foreskin, and then the sign of the new covenant, cutting off the foreskin of the heart by baptism, that He may personally fulfill the Abrahamic covenant, and at last make Abraham what He had long promised to make Abraham: a blessing to all the families of the earth.[3]

The Father decrees, and the Son submits to the decree, that the foreskin be removed – not for kicks, but so that He doesn’t have to cut narrative corners. Christ becomes servant to the circumcised to confirm the promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and so that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy. YHWH’s mercy is that He is a better storyteller than Procrustes: He cuts to save.

[1] For the Eastern Church the Epiphany marks the manifestation of all three Persons of the Trinity at Jesus’s baptism.

[2] See St Luke 2:29-32 (the nunc dimittis).

[3] Genesis 12:1-3.

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