[first published New Year's Day 2015]
Dr. David Pence writes:
"When eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Christ, His name was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived."
On New Year’s Day we celebrate a Divine resolution to reorder the public life of humanity and the material cosmos. The old order of the cyclic movements of stars and planets – that ends in the burning out of the stars and the dissipation of matter in an expanding universe – demonstrates how the Laws of Matter alone lead to death. But as Christ's blood is shed publicly for the first time, the spiritual message of an angel is no longer hidden in the womb of Mary. The young male is incorporated into the public covenant of Jewish brotherhood under God. He is not just Christ, the Anointed, the Messiah of Israel. He is named Jesus: "He who saves," the Deliverer, the one who rescues. His mother will be known as Theotokos ('God-bearer'). We will come to see that this Messiah to the Jews is named Jesus, not because He will free Israel from the Romans but because He will save mankind from death and the Dragon.
The human species has been recalled to our original mission to live forever in communion with God, who created the visible and invisible world. Most of the material world and many angels of the immaterial world are being cast out into oblivion and isolation, but humanity is meant to be drawn into the eternal life of communion and interpersonal love with the Trinity. A new Adam is named this day and will conform His will to the Father – as the first Adam failed to do. Part of his flesh is discarded as a prelude to the discarding of the old man by every Christian in the sacrament of Baptism. The first patriarch’s failure to accept the rule of the Father led to the murder of brother by brother. Because Adam failed as a son, he could not rule as a father; and the fraternity of his sons was replaced by fratricide. The great communal strength that Adam would have known as the father of sons in brotherly harmony was never to be. The new Adam, however, paints us a vivid picture of the fraternal bonds he forges, beginning with his circumcision and naming. He has allowed His blood to be shed, and has been incorporated in a Chosen People set aside as a holy nation to be a blessing to all the nations. He will show us the missionary nature of patriarchal fraternity – the miraculous incorporation that the love of Father, Son, and brothers has instituted for all humanity.
On New Year’s Day we remember Christ submitting to a religious ceremony for males, which binds them in a common duty to shed blood for the group defined by this Covenant with God. Forty days after His birth, Jesus alongside other firstborn males will be presented to God in the Temple of Jerusalem. The male covenant engenders a great communal strength that can tempt men to violent acts of domination. That is why numbering the able-bodied warriors was often depicted as an act of pride. The male covenant is necessary for survival, but it must always be subordinate to the will of God.
"God said to Abraham... This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you."
This fraternal shedding of blood foreshadows the Apostles' priestly participation in the "blood of the New Covenant." Just as the masculine covenant of circumcision will define Israel, so the priestly sharing in the chalice of Christ's blood will define the Apostolic Church. (The sharing of the priestly chalice with the laity was a central liturgical demand of the Protestant Revolution which eventually proposed a Church built on Baptism not Holy Orders.) The Judaic formalization by circumcision of shared male protective duty limited by the defined territory of a Promised Land will become the republican template of the nations. The public relationship (res publica) of shared masculine duty will become the fraternal lattice of classical politics and citizenship.
"It appears clear that contemporary ethical systems remain incapable of producing authentic bonds of fraternity, since a fraternity devoid of reference to a common Father as its ultimate foundation is unable to endure. True brotherhood among people presupposes and demands a transcendent Fatherhood. Based on the recognition of this fatherhood, human fraternity is consolidated: each person becomes a ‘neighbor’ who cares for others."
(POPE FRANCIS -- January 1, 2014 --
FRATERNITY: THE FOUNDATION AND PATHWAY TO PEACE)
The Pope speaks of fraternity in its most generic form: all men and women acting as brothers and sisters under God. That general fellowship, however, has an undeniable masculine foundation in biblical communities. Peter and Andrew, Phillip and Bartholomew are blood brothers in a spiritual brotherhood. These bonds are not set against each other, but reinforce the anthropological nature of male spiritual accord. The high calling of classical citizenship has a similar masculine character. In all classical thought, man as "a political animal" (politicos: a member of a city) refers to a shared form of piety, protective duty, civic friendship, social status, and masculine identity.
Fraternity to be most effective must be formalized. The polis is defined by city walls and social contracts. Nations need their boundaries and constitutions. This formalization of male duty for the group is expressed in Catholic sacramental life through the priesthood and the diocesan character of the Eucharistic bishop and his priests. Fraternity is formalized in civic life by young men being socialized as citizen soldiers, city fathers, state militias, and other masculine covenants to protect a defined territorial group. This public male bond of shared duty and law transcends kinship and the family justice system of blood vendettas. Formalized male socialization systems are foundational to the merit-based and duty-bound "wide radius" social trust systems that Francis Fukuyama explains in his books on Trust and The Origins of Political Order. Both the Pope and Mr. Fukuyama seek a richer deeper social bonding at the heart of political life. Neither one is quite ready in this feminist age to see masculine socialization as the source of that social capital. Shared fraternal duty elevates man's political vocation far above the soulless instrumental state managing the claims of atomistic rights-bearers. Patriarchal fraternities were foundational expressions of the Christian way manifested in those most pivotal institutions of the Christian republic: the monasteries.
The masculine territorial relationship "sacramentalized" in circumcision provides a form that limits the boundless ambitions of empires, utopias, and universalistic ideologies. The personalities of male protectors guard particular lands and cheer for the athletic victories of the local club. There are no Pollyannish laws against bullying, but many well-placed men who do not tolerate the strong exploiting the weak.
Men are meant to live together in communal work and protective groups. Patriarchy and fraternity constituted the original plan of love for Adam and his sons, the prophetic structure for Abraham and the nations, and the fulfillment of the Kingdom found in Christ and the apostles.
The Gospel is meant for all the nations – it is not a creature of "the West." It came out of one nation to all the nations. Jesus the Savior of the world, the Messiah of the Jews, was marked in his manhood as a living part of God’s plan of old. He circumcised the souls of his apostles with the character of the priesthood to ready them to go forth and call back the sons of Adam into one Body. He called men from one territorial region: Galilee. Those men who shared the local ties of a common fishing district would be shaped into a priestly brotherhood for the cosmos. They would be sent out to find men in their tribes and cities and nations; and baptize those natural fraternal ties of land and country into the Universal Church representing our common humanity. In the ancient liturgy of the Church, the priest looked north to proclaim the gospel. The priest directed the good news to the periphery. The apostles were sent to preach to the nations -- Biblically depicted as the 70 grandsons of Noah. The 70 different nations under a common God and descended from a single patriarch is the Biblical blueprint for humanity's public life. We are not trying to eliminate the bonds of the nations, as at Babel; we are trying to baptize them. The oneness of humanity comes from religious incorporation in Christ. The natural form of the nation was consecrated in the circumcision covenant, which marked Israel in a special way. The other Abrahamic nations were blessed as well, but in a different manner. All the nations, though, would be blessed in Israel by adopting an analogical masculine form of communal duty and civic life. Baptizing the nations does not necessarily mean bringing them into the Church, but bringing them into fraternity under God, which allows the Temple of the Church to be built within the walls of a just city.
The Jesus, who was named on this New Year’s Day, had bigger plans for the nations than allowing them to fight it out like so many new Cains and Abels. He called a fraternity of men to drink a blood covenant with Him; and establish a Kingdom set above all the nations, and yet living within each of them. The nations must answer to a transcendent authority. Because both priests and presidents can be corrupted, it is good that there are many nations, and good that there are the two swords of Church and State.
Eight days after we celebrate the birth of Christ, with the joy of this season still reverberating, we honor the shedding of a Son’s blood necessary to establish the new Kingdom. The circumcision of Abraham is no longer necessary for salvation, but the new priestly blood covenant will provide the Baptismal and Eucharistic bond to Christ by which the human species will participate in eternal life.
New Year’s Day is a public setting of our calendar to the Supreme Authority who manifested on this day His Name as Savior. His name carried by the angels was planted in a covenant of fraternity, which was public, masculine, and sacrificial. Such covenants are the heart of our nations and the order of the Eucharistic priesthood of the Church. They mirror the interpersonal unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The new commandment Christ gave to his apostles was to love one another as the Father loved Him, and He had loved them. That is very different and much more profound than loving others "as we love ourselves." True masculine loves are driven outward in a saving mission to all humanity. The love which bound the Father to the Son is the love than binds men together as fellow Christians, and is leaven to the love of fellow citizens.
Because the world is beset by evil, fatherhood needs a faithful son and a band of brothers (fraternity) to effectively exercise authority. The fighting missionary bond of men was the proper formation to strike and defeat the principalities and powers which held the material world in slavery. The word "Israel" derives from STRUGGLE. Men cannot be good fathers unless first they are good sons, as Francis teaches. But it is also true that men cannot be good fathers unless there is a public socializing fraternity which strengthens, teaches, and assists men to safeguard families from the vicissitudes of nature, the marauding of criminals, and the perversity of Satan. No man can guard his house alone. A large group is needed because of the strength of our foes. A large group is needed because of the harshness of winter. A large group is needed because young males look not only to their individual fathers, but social groups of larger spatial-temporal consequence to establish their identity in the world as men. Most of our obstacles in nature and our enemies (seen and unseen) cannot be overcome by a man alone. When the male bond is broken, it is the widows and orphans who weep and the predators who cheer. It is the young males who become lost and disoriented.
On the day our Savior was named, Jesus entered the consecrated communal bond of Israel which He would reconstitute in priestly and political forms. Through His priestly Church and the baptized nations, He builds His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Fraternity is not only the foundation and end of peace – it is the pathway as well.