Archive for the ‘Epiphany’ Category

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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