January 9, 2024

Circumcision and Baptism in the Church Fathers

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

The Holy Fathers of the Church, interpreting the passages of Holy Scripture about the real and spiritual circumcision, which is Christian Baptism, present wonderful theological truths.

Saint Epiphanios teaches that the circumcision of the flesh prepared and served man until Baptism, which is the great circumcision, since by it we are freed from sins and sealed with the name of God. The sealing with the name of God is recognition that we belong to Christ.

Sacred Chrysostom says that, if circumcision of the flesh separated the Israelites from the Gentiles, much more this is done with Holy Baptism, since by it the believers are distinguished from the non-believers. We see here that those are called believers who were baptized and who rekindle the Grace of Baptism.

According to the teaching of Saint Cyril of Alexandria, the circumcision of the Old Testament did not abolish death, which is done with the circumcision of the New Testament. Truly, a person entering the Church through Baptism becomes a member of the resurrected Body of Christ. In this way spiritual death is abolished and there is certainty in the resurrection of the dead. If after Baptism physical death remains, it is for the sake of the abolition of sin.

Saint John of Damascus teaches that circumcision is the putting away of bodily pleasure and unnecessary and useless desires.

Source: From the book The Despotic Feasts. Translation by John Sanidopoulos.

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