To Fulfill All Righteousness, To Proclaim the Name of All Names
Thomas A. Droleskey
Blood was shed on this day. Yes, the Most Precious Blood of Jesus was shed for the first time in His life as Man, eight days after His Nativity in Bethlehem.
His Most Blessed Mother and His foster-father, Saint Joseph, brought Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to be circumcised according to the precepts of the Mosaic Law then still in effect. Although He was the Author of the Old Law and would supercede it by the inauguration of the New and Eternal Covenant on the wood of the Holy Cross by the shedding of every single drop of His Most Precious Blood, Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ submitted Himself to the precepts of the Law in order to fulfill all righteousness. The Mosaic Law was to be in effect until the curtain in the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom at the moment Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ breathed His last breath atop Golgotha and uttered His last words on Good Friday. Teaching us yet another lesson in humility, therefore, Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ permits Himself to be ritually circumcised to demonstrate that He was not exempt from the Old Law, that He had come from the House of David and was born of a Jewish maiden to be subject to the authority of a Jewish carpenter.
The Mosaic Law consisted of over six hundred precepts designed to regulate almost every aspect of daily life. The people of the Old Covenant needed to have their lives bound in such a way so as to observe the Ten Commandments because the circumcision of the spirit, signifying the blotting out of our sins, that would be effected by Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ's Sacrifice to the Father in Spirit and in Truth had not yet taken place. Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ's Redemptive Act on the wood of the Holy Cross liberated man from the shackles of the Old Law, freeing him to live in accord with the precepts of the New Law of Love made possible by the out flowing of sanctifying grace, symbolized by the Blood and water that flowed from Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ's Wounded Side when It was pierced by the centurion's lance. Until that time, however, men who were of the stock of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Moses had to submit to the Old Law, codified in the Torah. By submitting Himself to the precepts of the Old Law, Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was teaching us that those of us who have been incorporated into His Death and Resurrection in the Sacrament of Baptism must submit to His New and Eternal Covenant at every moment of our lives without any degree of complaint or hesitation whatsoever.
Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ could have redeemed us with the shedding of just one drop of His Most Precious Blood at His Circumcision. He chose to redeem us by walking the Via Crucis, the Via Dolorosa, so that He would be united with the sufferings of all men and all times, and so that they would in turn give to Him all of their own sufferings through the Immaculate Heart of His own Most Blessed Mother, the Co-Redemptrix of the world and the Mediatrix of all graces. It was not enough that Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ shed His Most Precious Blood as a newborn Babe. No, He chose to endure the totality of suffering entailed by His Passion and Death to teach us of the horror of our own sins and of the incompressible, mysteriously ineffable nature of His unmatched love for us, His sinful, frequently ungrateful creatures. The shedding of His Most Precious Blood on this day, however, is a foreshadowing of the four other times He would do so: His Agony in the Garden, His scourging at the pillar, His being crowned with thorns, and His Crucifixion. Today's Blood-shedding is also a foreshadowing of the vast amount of blood that the martyrs would shed over the centuries for the sake of the Faith, which has circumcised our spirits to the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Father Benedict Baur, O.S.B., provided the following reflection on this Holy Day of Obligation in his The Light of the World:
Although He was the Lord of the Sabbath and in no way subject to the law of Moses, Christ freely and willingly submits to the prescriptions of the law. Although entirely sinless, He who is the Holy of Holies desires to appear before men as a sinner and to bear the mark of sin on His own holy body. He conceals the fullness of grace and holiness which He possesses, and subjects Himself to the law of circumcision, to which the older children of Israel were obliged. What sublime humility He shows by this act of submission! Such is the way of eternal wisdom.
"His name was called Jesus." He humiliates Himself by submitting to circumcision, and God exalts Him because of this sublime humility. At the moment of this humiliation, when He is being circumcised, He received the name of Jesus, "the Savior." For which cause God also hath exalted Him and hath given Him a name which is above all names" (Phil. 2: 9). Every man who is born into this world is born in the state of original sin, since he is a son of Adam. Likewise, all who escape this curse that was leveled at Adam, do so through the saving merits and the humility of Jesus. Those who receive grace from God, who perform any meritorious act, and who attain to the sonship of God, do so only by virtue of the merits and the humility of Christ. "He is before all, and by Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the Church, who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; that in all things He may hold the primacy. Because in Him it hath well pleased God the Father that all fullness should dwell" (Col. 1. 17-19). This is the first law of the supernatural life: "He that shall humble himself shall be exalted" (Matt. 23: 12)
The Church is deeply stirred by this voluntary humiliation of the incarnate Word of God. She listens as He declares: "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14: 6). "He that followeth Me walketh not in darkness but shall have the light of life" (John 8: 12).
"Learn of Me." Neither miracles, nor deeds of great valor are required of us, but only a deep and true humility. That is the first lesson our Lord wishes us to learn. He knows that the cause of our unfruitfulness is our pride, and in His divine wisdom He tells us through St. Peter: "In like manner, ye young men be subject to the ancients. And do you all insinuate humility one to another, for God resisteth the proud, but to the humble He giveth grace" (1 Pet. 5: 5).
This axiom, then, should light our way as we enter the new year. "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted" (Luke 14: 11; 18:14). Let us choose the path which Christ points out to us, the way of humility. We will possess the spirit of Christ in the measure that we imitate His humility. Today He gives us a sublime example of His humility in the Gospel; and in Holy Communion, He furnishes us with the strength to follow where He has led. Humility is the way to grace and to a life in union with God. Let us try to understand the lessons of the liturgy and practice them in our daily life. . . .
Mary's place in the liturgy of the feast of the Circumcision is so prominent that this feast may be considered as much a feast of the Blessed Mother as it is of the Lord.
Mary took an intimate and motherly party in the events celebrated in this feast. e fell her compassion for her son. But following the guide of the liturgy, we can hardly feel that this is a feast of the "sorrowful" Mother. We see her, rather, as the valiant Virgin Mother renewing her fiat and joining in the sacrifice of her child. On this day Jesus makes the first offering of His blood for the redemption of mankind. Mary suffers with Him, but she does so with joy, for she knows that in this ay the redemption of the race is being accomplished. Her love is heroic and disinterested, for she is not concerned with her own suffering, but looks upon it as a necessary sacrifice for the salvation of men.
Mary is here a type of the Church. The Church, too, looks on at this first offering of the blood of Jesus with compassion and love. This most precious blood for the redemption of mankind she offers up with Jesus and Mary daily and hourly without interruption. She knows that the shedding of His blood is for the redemption of men. No one understood better than she the immense value of a human soul and the terrible tragedy of the damnation of a single soul.
Like Mary, looking on and yet suffering with Christ, the Church has worked with diligence, suffered with patience, and has striven for two thousand years for the salvation of men. Thousands upon thousands of her priests daily approach the altar to renew this sacrifice in the interest of the salvation of the race. Daily they pray for themselves and for the Church: "Forgive us our trespasses; . . . led us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." She invites the faithful to the sacrament of penance, where these graces are freely dispensed. She urges them to receive the body of the Lord, that their souls may abound in grace and grow strong against the temptations of the world. Her liturgy is a continual appeal on the part of priests and religious for the salvation of men. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, she has instituted various confraternities of prayer, societies given to the practice of good works and penance, that souls may advance in holiness and grace. In fact, she exists only for the salvation of souls, and is ever restless until they rest in God.
We can well imagine the motherly compassion Mary endured with her Son at His circumcision. Our hearts should be filled with admiration and gratitude for this forgetfulness of self which makes her suffer so willingly for us.
Perhaps too few of us appreciated the great privilege that is ours in being members of the Church. She is a second Virgin Mary, animated by the Holy Spirit, and she has only one aim and ambition: the salvation of the souls of her children. Her principal work is the salvation of the souls of men. Her dogmas, her moral teaching, and her sacred liturgy are all directed toward this end. A man has no better assurance of his salvation than his loyalty and and devotion to the Church.
Every true son of Holy Mother the Church will share in this zeal for the salvation of souls. If the love of Christ resides in the soul of man, must of necessity thirst with Christ for the salvation of souls. We may well test the genuineness of our love for Christ by asking ourselves whether e are really devoted to the work of saving our own soul and that of our neighbor. (Father Benedict Baur, O.S.B., The Light of the World, B. Herder Book Company, 1954, pp. 123-126.)
Yes, each of us must be about the salvation of souls, starting with our own. We must be about the business of seeking to Catholicize every aspect of our own lives and to try to plant a few seeds for the conversion of others and of our very nation itself to the true Faith. This is not an option. This is a mandate of the Catholic Faith imposed upon us when we were taken to the Baptismal font as infants (or, in the case of converts, went there later in life).
As Father Baur noted in his reflection, today is also the day on which the Holy Name of Jesus was declared publicly to be the Name of the newborn Babe. Thus was fulfilled what Saint Gabriel the Archangel said to Our Lady at the moment of the Annunciation nine months and eight days before the Circumcision:
Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the most High; and the Lord God shall give him the throne of David his father; and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever. And of his kingdom there shall be no end. (Lk. 1: 31-33)
Saint Joseph had been told the Name of His foster-Son by the same Saint Gabriel the Archangel:
But while he thought on these things, behold the angel of the Lord appeared to him in his sleep, saying: Joseph, son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her, is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son: and thou shalt call his name Jesus. For he shall save his people from their sins. (Mt. 1: 20-21)
The Feast of the Circumcision is the first time that the Holy Name of Jesus, which is so hated in our world today, was uttered for the first time for the whole world to hear. The feast we celebrate solemnly tommorow, Wednesday, January 2, 2013, the Holy Name of Jesus, was instituted for the Franciscan order eighty years after the death of Saint Bernardine of Siena (1380-1944), who spent his life promoting devotion to the Most Holy Name of Jesus to make reparation for blasphemies against the Holy Name. It was raised to a Feast of the Universal Church in 1721 by Pope Innocent XIII. Saint Bernardine of Siena took seriously the words of the first Pope to the Jews as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles:
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said to them: Ye princes of the people, and ancients, hear: If we this day are examined concerning the good deed done to the infirm man, by what means he hath been made whole: Be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God hath raised from the dead, even by him this man standeth here before you whole. This is the stone which was rejected by you the builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other. For there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4: 8-12)
If the proclamation of the Holy Name was good enough for Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ's parents and for the Apostles, then it is good enough for us. We must never fear the consequences of proclaiming His Holy Name, especially in "mixed company." Remember Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ's own words:
For he that shall be ashamed of me, and of my words, in this adulterous and sinful generation: the Son of man also will be ashamed of him, when he shall come in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. (Mk. 8: 38)
Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ used the occasion of the discourse at the Last Supper to remind the Apostles that the world would hate them on account of His Name, but that they had to rely upon the help of the Holy Ghost to remain steadfast in loyalty to Him:
If the world hate you, know ye, that it hath hated me before you. If you had been of the world, the world would love its own: but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember my word that I said to you: The servant is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you: if they have kept my word, they will keep yours also.
But all these things they will do to you for my name's sake: because they know not him who sent me. If I had not come, and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. He that hateth me, hateth my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no other man hath done, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated both me and my Father. But that the word may be fulfilled which is written in their law: They hated me without cause.
But when the Paraclete cometh, whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceedeth from the Father, he shall give testimony of me.And you shall give testimony, because you are with me from the beginning. (Jn. 15: 18-27)
Do not be surprised, therefore, that the world will hate us as much as it hated Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Who told us in the Sermon of the Mount that those who were persecuted for His Name's sake would have a blessed reward:
Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake: Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven. For so they persecuted the prophets that were before you. (Mt. 5: 11-12)
Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ repeated this in the Sermon on the Plain as recorded in the Gospel of Saint Luke:
Blessed shall you be when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake.
Be glad in that day and rejoice; for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For according to these things did their fathers to the prophets. (Lk. 6: 22-23)
The first Pope wrote the following in his first Epistle to instruct us to be ready to suffer for the sake of the Holy Name of Jesus:
If you be reproached for the name of Christ, you shall be blessed: for that which is of the honour, glory, and power of God, and that which is his Spirit, resteth upon you. (1 Pt. 4: 14)
No one has suffered for the Holy Name of Jesus the way that Our Lady did in her Seven Sorrows during the life of the Son to Whom she gave birth eight days before His Circumcision, eight days before the world heard for the first time the Holy Name that forces men to choose whether they are for Him or for the devil He came to vanquish by His redemptive act on the wood of the Holy Cross, extended to us in an unbloody manner in each and every offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Our Lady saw the first drop of her Divine Son's Most Precious Blood be shed during His Circumcision, which caused her to cringe, a foretaste of the swords of sorrow that would pierce her Most Sorrowful and and Immaculate Heart that the aged Simeon had prophesied during her Purification would wound her as her Son became a Sign of Contradiction to the world. Our Lady stood with her Divine Son as His Blood was shed for the first time. She would stand beneath the foot of the Holy Cross as He shed every single drop of His Most Precious Blood for our redemption. May we give her our thanks and love on this Christmas Day of rejoicing, vowing never to grieve her Immaculate Heart again by our sins.
On this day, the Octave Day of Christmas, we turn therefore to Our Lady, without whom we would still be idolatrous pagans, lost in a world of darkness and the miserable, blind slavery of our senses. The Immemorial Mass of Tradition reflects this gratitude in the Collect and the Postcommunion Prayers that are prayed by the priest when offering Holy Mass today:
O God, who by the fruitful virginity of blessed Mary hast bestowed upon the human race the rewards of eternal salvation; grant, we beseech Thee, that we may experience the intercession of her, through whom we have been made worthy to receive the author of life, Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who with Thee liveth and reigneth.
We must call upon Our Lady to help us to circumcise our hearts all times so that they, consecrated totally to her Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart and to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, will be ready to reject the evils and temptations of this passing world, ever ready to suffer for the sake of the Holy Name, ever desirous to possess the glory of the Beatific Vision of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in an unending Easter Sunday of glory in Paradise.
The Christmas Octave ends this evening. The Christmas season continues through February 2, the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We will be celebrating the great Feast of the Epiphany--and its ancient Octave--in but five days. Our festivals for this great season, therefore, are far from over. May we use this season of rejoicing to help our hearts long for the possession of eternal rejoicing with Our Lady, Saint Joseph, and all of the angels and saints at the Throne of the Lamb of God Who taketh away the sins of the world.
Vivat Christus Rex!
Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us.
Saint Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church and Protector of the Faithful, pray for us.
Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.
Saint John the Baptist, pray for us.
Saint John the Evangelist, pray for us.
Saint Michael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Gabriel the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Raphael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Joachim and Anne, pray for us.
Saint Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, pray for us.
See also: A Litany of Saints
Isn't it time to pray a Rosary now?