The Circumcision of Our Lord Jesus Christ
A Homily by St. Ambrose the Bishop
And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the Child, hi Name was called JESUS : This is the Child of whom it is said ; Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given : or again : Made under the Law to redeem them that were under the Law : or again : To present him to the Lord. (In my Commentary on Isaiah I have already explained what is meant by being presented to the Lord in Jerusalem, and therefore I will not enter into the subject again.) He that is circumcised in heart gaineth the protection of God, as it is written : The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous. Ye will see that as all the ceremonies of the Old Law were types of realities in the New Law, so the circumcision of the body signified the cleansing of the heart from the guilt of sin.
But since the body and mind of man remain yet infected with a proneness to sin, the circumcision of the eighth day is meant to put us in mind of that complete cleansing from sin which we shall have at the resurrection. This is doubtless to be inferred from the words: Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy unto the Lord. That is, these words are literally true only of the delivery of the Blessed Virgin. Verily, he that opened her womb was holy, for he was altogether without spot. And we may gather that the Law hath this meaning because the Angel said almost the same words : That Holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
Among all them that are born of women the Lord Jesus Christ steed alone in holiness. He alone, because of his immaculate birth, felt no contagion from human corruption ; it came not near him because of his heavenly majesty. Otherwise ( that is, if we are to apply this passage of the Law literally ) we are obliged to say that without exception every male that openeth the womb is holy ; and how then shall we explain that so many were unrighteous? Was Ahab holy? Were thay holy on whom Elijah justly called down fire from heaven? But he to whom the sacred commandment of the Law of Ho9d is mystically directed is the Holy One of Israel. And he alone hath opened the secret womb of his holy virgin - bride the Church, filling her with a sinless fruitfulness whereby to bring forth the People of God.
Antiphon on the Magnificat:God, for his great love… wherewith he loved us, * hath sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, alleluia.
Collect:Almighty God, who madest thy blessed Son to be circumcised, and obedient to the law for man; Grant us the true circumcision of the Spirit; that, our hearts, and all our members, being mortified from all worldly and carnal lusts, we may in all things obey thy blessed will; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Antiphon on the Benedictus:A great and wondrous mystery… is made known to us this day : in a new manner are natures united, for God is become incarnate * what he was, he still abode ; and what he was not, he took unto himself, suffering in his Person neither confusion nor division.