With devotion, humility, and profound gratitude, we celebrate today the exalted moment when the Most Benevolent Lord, our Creator of the entire universe, showed us His unparalleled humility. What an immeasurable act of love it is that He brought salvation to humankind through His Incarnation! There is no greater sacrifice than this: the Son of God and the Word, the Creator of all that exists, willingly accepted our fragile and vulnerable body. He, surrounded by angelic choirs in the heavens, humbled Himself to be cradled in the arms of the elderly. The One who sits on the heavenly throne, beyond the reach of the Cherubim and Seraphim, allowed Himself to be touched and swaddled in human hands. In His Incarnation, the Lord came to this world not just as a king or ruler, but foremost as an Infant, powerless and vulnerable, born in a manger among speechless animals and in a foreign land.
Today’s observance of the Circumcision, though an act of modesty and obedience, symbolizes something much deeper – the promise of eternal rest and salvation through baptism in the Holy Trinity. The meek Christ God did not shy away from physical circumcision. He, as the Lawgiver, with perfect obedience fulfilled the Law, showing us that in fulfilling the Divine will lies our life, our joy.
The Circumcision on the eighth day after Christ’s Birth is not merely the fulfillment of a custom, but also a foreshadowing of the eternal life awaiting the faithful in the age to come. With this act, the Lord shows that though He came in human form, His mission transcends the limits of time and space, leading to eternal truth and light in the Eighth, everlasting day.
“The first six days are days of creation, of work. The seventh day is a day of rest, the Lord’s Day. The eighth day, however, symbolizes the coming age, a day of eternal celebration with Christ. Lord Christ underwent circumcision and completely fulfilled the Old Testament, bequeathing to us the New Testament circumcision – baptism, an internal, spiritual circumcision, a covenant for communion of man with God, and the endeavor to maintain that communion. For according to the teachings of the holy fathers, circumcision, i.e., baptism, signifies the renunciation of bodily pleasures and unnecessary desires of the soul that separate man from God. This ascetic symbolism in the interpretation of circumcision unveils a great mystery. Just as the Old Testament faithful through circumcision pledged to serve God, so we, the New Testament Israel – Christians, through holy baptism pledge to ‘renounce Satan and his works’ and ‘unite with Christ’, entering into a close, eternal covenant with Him. In the Old Testament, the flesh was circumcised as a seal of the covenant, but in the New Testament, we are called to ‘put off the sinful body’, that is, every sin that undermines our communion with God.
Many have chosen this path of asceticism, serving others for the sake of Christ, not only keeping the covenant made with God but also joining His friends. Today, we commemorate one of them, deemed worthy to be called ‘great and universal teacher’ – ‘the wise and faithful Basil, who was a bishop in the Cappadocian region, in the city of Caesarea, and who proclaimed the salvific doctrines throughout the entire universe. Truly, Basil is a foundation of virtues, a book of praises, a life of miracles, a servant of the earthly, a contemplator of the heavens, a splendid leaf of sacred wisdom, written from above with Divine letters’ (St. Ephrem the Syrian).”
Bishop Mr. Partenij, Abbot of the Bigorski Monastery
Last night, in the blessed hours of the night, when silence envelops the world and hearts are more inclined to prayer and contemplation, our holy Monastery, along with the faithful who gathered, entered into the mystery of the great feast of the Lord’s Circumcision and the remembrance of Saint Basil the Great with prayers and psalmody during the night vigil. In those prayerful hours, when time seemed to pause and usher us into an eternal presence, we became witnesses to the mysterious dialogue between God and man.
Today, under the leadership of our beloved elder and bishop, Bishop of Antania, Mr. Partenij, the Divine Liturgy of Basil was celebrated, establishing a living connection with holiness, where all threads of our existence are gathered, interwoven with prayers and thanksgivings that ascend to Heaven.
After the grace-filled Eucharistic mystery led by our Elder, the traditional breaking of the Vasilopita took place in the solemn monastic synodicon, in memory of Saint Basil the Great and the miracle he performed. On this occasion, the Elder addressed the gathered people with a fatherly lesson:
My beloved, let us give thanks to the Lord God for deeming us worthy to spend another year in His kindness and for all the blessings He has showered upon us during the past time. Let us pray that He will not deprive us of His mercy in the upcoming year, but grant us a time filled with virtues, with a desire for striving for His name’s sake. And may He, the All-Good, forgive us for all that we have erred so far, and let us promise Him and ourselves that in the coming year we strive to be better, true, sincere Christians.
I believe it is clear to all of us how swiftly the time of our lives passes, or rather, how quickly we pass through time. Therefore, our efforts should be directed towards the beneficial use of time, in a good and proper manner, so it does not consume us in our spiritual lethargy and sloth. For, our Savior and Benefactor calls us to vigilance and attentiveness: “Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is” (Mark 13:33, King James Bible). In His care for us, He desires that we be in His ship – the Church, where He is the helmsman. Being in that ship with faith in Him and constantly directing our gaze towards the Helmsman Christ, we will not be consumed by time, but overcome it and transition into timelessness, into the Kingdom of our Heavenly Father. The Christian who strives to live eucharistically, not only anticipates the departure from time and the onset of eternal life but also pre-tastes that eternal time in Christ Jesus.
I now especially implore my brothers, the monks, and the sisters, the nuns: let us be better servants of God, greater ascetics, setting a good example. Life in the monastery is an arena, a fierce battle. Likewise, the life of laypeople, all of you who have come here to celebrate with us – your life is a battle. People hope in the prayers and asceticism of the monks. The eyes of many Christians are fixed on you. They rely on our fasts, our prayers, asceticism, abstinence. Let us pray to the Lord to give us strength in the year ahead, so we do not disappoint all those who see hope in us. First and foremost, let us not disappoint Christ, but let our eyes always be fixed on Him, and He will not forsake us, He will give us strength to successfully complete the path we have embarked on. I will repeat again: let the next Year of the Lord be filled with zeal for asceticism, for abstinence, for virtues, to please God, because – do not forget, my beloved monks, brothers, and sisters – that in that arena, in the battle of this life, you are on the front line.
“May the New Year of the Lord’s goodness be blessed for us! For many years!”