Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Mazel Tov! It’s a Boy!

The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God is celebrated on January 1st, exactly 8 days after the Nativity of our Lord.  In Jewish tradition, the 8th day is the Brit Milah (circumcision) for every baby boy.  This was and is the sign of the Abrahamic Covenant. So this would have been the day that our Lord would have been circumcised.  In fact, this Feast of the Circumcision was celebrated for centuries by our Church before 1974. 

In the early centuries of the Church, January 1st was used as a celebration of the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary but by the 13th and 14th centuries the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ had come to replace the Marian feast in many areas.  By 1570, Pope Pius V expanded the Feast to the entire Roman Catholic Church.  Then in 1914, the feast of the “Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary” was established in Portugal, occurring on October 11. In 1931 this feast was expanded to the entire Roman Catholic Church and stayed on October 11.  Then after the Second Vatican Council in 1974, Pope Paul VI removed the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ from the liturgical calendar and replaced it with the Feast of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. 

We, who are of Hebrew origin understand very clearly that this day is still a celebration of both Motherhood and her baby boy.  We love our Jewish Blessed Mother, Miriam and love to celebrate her as “Theotokos”, the Mother of G-d.  She is the quintessential Jewish Mother.  And even though we no longer officially celebrate the Circumcision we are free to acknowledge that our Lord was circumcised on the 8th day after his birth.  This 8th day for every Jewish family then and even today is a celebration of the birth of a son.  It is also the day when the Jewish baby boy is given his name, formally.  It is a family celebration of the birth of a baby and is also a celebration of Motherhood and Parenthood. 

In Catholic Christian tradition this Feast has deep theological significance too.  This is important because it is the first of seven times that our Messiah spilled his blood for all mankind.  They are:

  1. The Circumcision
  2. The Agony in the Garden
  3. The Scourging at the Pillar
  4. The Crowning with Thorns
  5. The Via Crucis
  6. The Crucifixion
  7. The Piercing of His Side

It is also the time when our Lord received his name, Yeshua.  I always wondered why more English speaking people do not question the name, Jesus.  Our Lord’s Hebrew name has so much significance but is often lost in English translation.  Yeshua, in Hebrew means Savior or Yahweh our Savior.  An Angel told Miriam that she will conceive and have a son and she will name him Yeshua.  Our Blessed Mother would have known instinctively what the Angel was really telling her.  (Matt 2: 18-23).  Similarly, Christ is not his last name but the Greek translation of His Title, in Hebrew Mashiach or Messiah.  Messiah simply means the Anointed One.  So in Hebrew, Yeshua haMashiach, Jesus the Messiah or Jesus the Christ! 

Circumcision in Hebrew is “Brit Milah” or in most Jewish families it is called a “Bris”.  So the Bris of our Lord occurred on the 8th day following his birth on January 1st. Even though the Church does not formerly celebrate this Feast any longer it is still important to all Catholics and Christians. This day in a Jewish family is full of joy and also some anxiety for it is the day that the Mohel, or the Rabbi who is trained to do the ritual circumcision comes to the home with a house full of people to perform the circumcision. This is a day that families extended families, friends, neighbors; celebrate the birth a baby boy and honor the new parents.  In fact, the first thing all the visitors say to the new Mother and Father is “Mazel Tov”! 

Of course, we are obedient to the Holy Father and celebrate the Feast of Miriam’s Motherhood and Miriam always leads us to her son, in this case  her and “our” baby boy. Along with the shedding of blood, our Lord also gets his name and lives among us.  This is G-d becoming one of us. 

So on January 1st we shout Mazel Tov, it’s a boy and his name is Yeshua and he is our Messiah.  Let us celebrate this Feast with renewed love and appreciation for Yeshua and Miriam and the Jewish roots of our Faith.   

St. Edith Stein and Miriam Mystical Rose, pray for us!

Shalom in Yeshua,
Gershon ben Sha'ul 

1 comment:

  1. It is beautiful to think of Christ's circumcion, and how it is one of the marks of the fulfilment of Torah in His Incarnation. I think I can explain how we get "Jesus" from "Yeshua". We are pronouncing the Latin in the English way, but the Latin is Jesus with the J said like a Y, and the -us ending is the typical nominative ending for a boy's name. "Jesus" is thus just the Latinisation of "Yeshua" Ye=Je (said Ye) shua=sus (to make it a boy's name in Latin). "Sh" is not a typically Latin sound, so to reduce this to a simple "s" would make sense.