The kindest cut of all (or: That’s the story I’m sticking with, yes): Circumcision and Epiphany
Posted by David
I conclude this brief interlude on the liturgical calendar and story with a look at two feast days that, on North American soil anyway, are often overlooked in the post-Christmas Day holiday fatigue: The Feast of the Circumcision (January 1) and Epiphany (January 6). I bring them up together here because they are a well-matched pair. The former marks Christ’s receiving the sign of the old covenant, and the latter, Christ’s receiving the sign of the new – i.e. baptism. Or, if we think of Epiphany like well taught members of the Western Church, the Circumcision marks Christ as the glory of his people Israel, and the Epiphany marks Him as the light for revelation to the Gentiles. Either way, we might say that if the Christmas Feast marks the Creator God’s intense commitment to the medium of His creation – earth and breath, flesh and blood – the Circumcision and the Epiphany display the depth of the covenant God’s commitment to a particular story: the story of Abraham. God in Christ receives first the sign of the Abrahamic covenant – cutting off the foreskin – and then the sign of the new covenant – cutting off the foreskin of the heart by baptism – that He may personally fulfill the Abrahamic covenant, and at last make Abraham what He had long promised to make Abraham: a blessing to all the families of the earth.
This of course does not mean that those of us who tell stories must be ourselves incarnate in them (as if we had the knowledge or the faithfulness actually to do such a thing!). But it does mean that telling a story is a serious business, and that we ought to be committed to carrying through the tales we begin. And it means that we do this best when we commit to upholding the integrity of the story as begun.
So those who would be good sub-creators do not abort a story when it hits a snag; if God had done this, the Abraham story, commenced at the beginning of Genesis 12, would have ended by the end of Genesis 12. And we resist the temptation to devise cheap or out-of-whole-cloth solutions to problems in the story. We may cut foreskins and heart-foreskins – not for kicks, but so that we don’t have to cut narrative corners. For YHWH is a better storyteller than Procrustes.
 For the Eastern Church the Epiphany marks the manifestation of all three Persons of the Trinity at Jesus’s baptism.
 See St Luke 2:29-32 (the nunc dimittis).
 Genesis 12:1-3.