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Sermon 1 on the Circumcision

St. Bernard, Abbot

A great and awesome mystery! The Child is circumcised, and is called Jesus. Why are these two events connected? "Jesus" means "Savior," and circumcision seems to pertain more to one who needs to be saved than to the Savior, so that we should expect the Savior to do the circumcising rather than to be circumcised Himself. But the connection is seen if we recognize Jesus not only as Savior but also as Mediator between God and men. From the very beginning, from His birth, He allies the human with the divine, the lowest with the most sublime. He is born of a woman, but one whose fruit-fulness came about in such a way that the flower of virginity remained. He is wrapped in swaddling bands, yet these very cloths share in the honor of angelic praises. He is ensconced in a crib, but is made known by a star shining from heaven. So indeed the circumcision shows the reality of the human nature He has taken up; while the name which is above every name reveals His glorious majesty. Being a true son of Abraham, He is circumcised; being the true Son of God, He is called Jesus.

For my Jesus does not bear this name, like some before Him, as an empty title. With Him there is no foreshadowing of a great name, but rather the reality itself. Indeed, the Evangelist bears witness that the name is of heavenly origin: "the name given Him by the Angel before He was conceived in the womb." And note the depth of meaning in the word: after His birth He is called "Jesus" by men; even before His conception He had been called "Jesus" by an Angel. This means that He is Savior of both Angels and men: of Angels from the beginning of creation, of men from the time of His incarnation. "His name was called Jesus," says the Gospel, "the name given Him by the Angel." Thus "in the mouth of two or three witnesses every Word is established." And that Word which is found in the Prophet's book as "cut short" is manifested in the Gospel as the Word made flesh.

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