Sermon of Bishop Gregory of Brookline (HOCNA) on the Feast of the Circumcision, 2014,
delivered at Holy Nativity Convent, Boston.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
We have come, dear sisters in Christ, to the eighth day after the Nativity according to the flesh of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ, and on this eighth day the Saviour Who became man fulfills the covenant that He gave to His servant Abraham, one of four covenants that He gave to human beings.
The first covenant was that given to Noah, the covenant that was confirmed by the rainbow, saying that there would not be a deluge anymore to punish the iniquities of human beings. And our Saviour fulfilled this covenant because not only was there not a deluge, but water itself was transformed from a means of destruction to the means of salvation through Holy Baptism.
The second covenant He gave to His servant, the father of all the faithful, Abraham. The third covenant was given on Mt. Sinai—the law which was proclaimed by Moses.
And the fourth and final covenant was revealed by our Saviour Himself when He became incarnate of the Virgin Mary. And thus were fulfilled the words of the Prophet Jeremias who said that there will be given another law and another circumcision—not the law written on tablets of stone, but a law written in the hearts of men and circumcision not of the foreskin, but circumcision of the heart. This our Saviour fulfilled by His Incarnation, when He gave us a new law, new life, new commandments—the final covenant.
But today our Saviour is Himself submitting to the covenant that He gave to Patriarch Abraham, being circumcised and named that wonderful and blessed name—Jesus.
When Abraham believed in God and fulfilled everything that God had bidden him, our Saviour gave him the covenant saying that “you shall circumcise the foreskin of all your progeny, and in your seed all nations shall be blessed.” And He changed his name from Abram to Abraham. And truly, in his seed, as Paul the Apostle tells us, in his seed (he uses the singular form of the word in Greek ), that is, in our Saviour, all the nations are blessed.
A great thing is revealed today. If we read carefully the homily written by St. Dimitry of Rostov concerning this feast, we shall understand the depth of the wisdom of God. Our Saviour was circumcised, fulfilling the law, but also on this feast He reveals to us a great treasure—the great treasure of that Name by which He will be called from here unto eternity. By all the Angels and men, unto eternity, unto the ages of ages, God the Son will be known as Jesus, the sweetest of names, close to the heart of everyone that believes.
And St. Dimitry of Rostov most beautifully explains that until now, until this Name was revealed, it was [kept as myrrh] in a jar. But on this day of Circumcision the jar was opened, and the Name was spread abroad. And in this was fulfilled that which was written in the Song of Songs by the Prophet and King Solomon; for this whole Song of Songs is a dialogue between the bridegroom and the bride. And the Fathers say that the dialogue is really between Christ, the Bridegroom, and His beloved, the Church. And the Church, the bride, tells our Saviour, “Thy Name is as myrrh spread and poured forth. Therefore the virgins love Thee.” Truly His Name is as myrrh, as fragrant myrrh spread abroad in the whole world, and this begins today.