From the blog Mode of Life, a discussion of the Circumcision of Christ by Fr. George Dion Dragas, PhD, DD, DTh., Protopresbyter.
“When Christ was circumcised, the Law was incised.
And when the Law was incised, Grace was inserted!”
- The Matins service
The 1st of January is primarily The Despotic Feast of the Circumcision of Christ, whereby we commemorate an event which took place eight days after Christ’s birth in the flesh at which Christ received his name Jesus (i.e. Savior). This Feast conjoins The Despotic Feast of Christmas, i.e. of the Birth of Christ (25th of December) with The Despotic Feast of the Theophanies or Lights, i.e. of the Baptism of Christ (6th of January), and constitutes with them the so-called festal period of The Dodekaemeron (The Twelve Days). Initially these three Despotic Feasts of The Dodekaemeron were included in one ancient feast, The Feast of the Theophanies (6th of January), the theme of which was the revelation of the One God in Trinity in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.Complete post here.
The selection of the 6th of January for this Feast seems to have been caused by the fact that it was already a festal day in the old Roman calendar as the day of the winter solstice (equal day and night) when the duration of the day began to increase and against that of the night which began to diminish proportionately. The Roman idol worshipers celebrated on that day the birth of the invincible sun as the god of the physical light which supports the physical life of the world. The Christians responded to this challenge by celebrating the coming of Christ into the world and putting forth Christ as the sun of righteousness who grants the uncreated Light of the One true God in Holy Trinity which enlightens every human being that comes into the world. Later on the 25th of December was established as the day of the winter solstice and of the birthday feast of the visible sun. The response of the Christians to this new challenge of the idol worshipers was the transference of The Feast of the Birth of Christ (Christmas) to this date, while the 6th of January was retained ever after as The Feast of the Baptism of Christ. It was inevitable that The Feast of the Circumcision of Christ would eventually follow The Feast of Christmas eight days afterwards.
The oration On the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ by St. Andrew of Crete (660-740), who is known from his amazing hymns and sermons, explains to us the meaning of this Despotic Feast, which belongs to the entire work of the revelation of God and our salvation, accomplished by the incarnate Son and Word of God, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Because this oration is too dense, we present it here in a more analytical and exegetical way...