Wednesday, January 1, 2014

On the Eighth Day of Christmas – The Circumcision of Christ and Sacred Tradition

And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. Luke 2.21 

A few days ago I came across a Washington Post article about the Jewish Rite of Circumcision, and more specifically, the growing “but small” number of Jews rejecting the practice. I particularly found this article intriguing as we Orthodox were about to commemorate the Feast of the Circumcision of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. How could it be, I wondered, that Jews would so boldly reject the earliest Covenant with God? So I read the article, and found it answered my question. This “small number” of Jews weren’t rejecting God; they were embracing secularism which rejects tradition based upon Faith.

Here are some excerpts from the article…
Speaking with God, the 37-year-old screenwriter and grandson of Holocaust survivors explained he was using the “free will and brain you gave me” to reject circumcision. God, he concluded, wouldn’t be impressed by the desire to do something simply “for tradition’s sake.”
 Several factors are fueling the trend, including growing secular discomfort with the practice, mixed data on medical necessity and an American culture increasingly open to reinterpreting religious practices and texts.
 “Because the American Jewish community is significantly educated, they’re more likely to do organic and wanting everything to be natural and snugly, and a bris is sort of primal and ancient,”
 “We live in a more cosmopolitan world, and Jewish families have become very intercultural,” said Biber. “For those families, a ceremony which regards Jewish males as privileged seems problematic, to put it mildly.”
 I found the final paragraph the most telling, as it captures why this issue isn’t trivial.
When it comes to religious evolution, she asks, “Where is the line? At what point is it no longer Judaism? Each choice distinguishes Jews, and it’s a slippery slope.”
If Jews are no longer Jews, ‘just so’ they fit into a secular world, which means they no longer consider themselves as God’s Chosen People, although I doubt they would agree to this point.

Living in a secular world has its challenges. We Orthodox Christians face a similar problem when it comes to living our Orthodox Christian life. It is becoming strange and even ‘exotic’ to be Orthodox Christian in our contemporary world. Many of our faithful aren’t comfortable allowing their faith to ‘show’ beyond their membership card for fears that they may be ostracized by their friends. We, like the Jews in this article, desperately desire to fit in to the society around them.

But God has called us to another way of life.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. "For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16.24-26)
 If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. "If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. "Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. (John 15.18-20)
If following the Sacred Traditions of Orthodox Christianity seem unnecessary, as this “small but growing number of Jews” feel about circumcision, consider the words of Saint Paul.
Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle. (2 Thessalonians 2.15)
Following the Sacred Traditions of the Holy Apostles, handed to us by the Holy Fathers and protected by the Church for twenty centuries, is not always the easy way, but it IS the Holy Way of life which leads to eternal life with God in Heaven. So a few neighbors see you as being strange; God sees you as being loyal and faithful. Which do you want to please?

No comments: