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Briss Day

Brit Milah
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Brit milah (Hebrew: בְרִית מִילָה [bə'rīt mī'lā] literally: "covenant [of] circumcision"), also berit milah (Sephardi), bris milah (Ashkenazi pronunciation) or bris (Yiddish) is a religious ceremony within Judaism that welcomes infant Jewish boys into a covenant between God and the Children of Israel through ritual circumcision performed by a mohel ("circumcisor") in the presence of family and friends, followed by a celebratory meal (seudat mitzvah).

Brit Milah Articles

What is Bris? | Bris Bris | Holy Prepuce: Jesus Christ's Bris/Brit (Circumcision) Foreskin | Bris Gift | Bris Milah: Jewish Tradition | Bris Outfit | Brit | Brit Milah | Brit Milah Photo | Jewish Bris Celebration

Holy Prepuce: Jesus Christ's Bris/Brit (Circumcision) Foreskin

The Holy Prepuce from Jesus Christ's Bris/Brit Circumcision

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Holy Prepuce, or Holy Foreskin (Latin prŠputium or prepucium) is one of several relics purported to be associated with Jesus. At various points in history, a number of churches in Europe have claimed to possess it, sometimes at the same time. Various miraculous powers have been ascribed to it.

Theological origin

As a Jew, Jesus would have been expected to be circumcised on his 8th day after birth. According to the Gospel of Luke (but none of the other Canonical Gospels), Jesus' parents were explicitly instructed by the Archangel Gabriel to take Jesus to be circumcised at the Temple in Jerusalem. Luke states that when Jesus is circumcised, a man named Simeon, who had been awaiting the Jewish Messiah, prophecies in Luke 2:34-35 (KJV) "And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." After this, Simeon praised God using the words of what has become to be known as the Nunc dimittis, and is part of the Christian liturgy of Vespers and Evensong. Luke also states that an old woman who spent all her time in the temple praying, named Anna, praised the Lord.

Since the circumcision removed his foreskin, this raises the question of what happened to it once Jesus had ascended forty days after his death. Some ancient Christians believed that Jesus ascended bodily, hence implying that Jesus' foreskin would be one of the few physical remainders of Jesus left behind on Earth, unless it had been restored to him during his resurrection, and by the fourth century this became the traditional stance.

There was also some theological dispute as to whether Jesus can really be said to have ascended wholly into Heaven if this part of his body was actually missing. This was resolved by noting that his foreskin was no more an obstacle to this than the hair and fingernails that he had cut throughout his life or the blood he shed. The Jewish custom of burying the foreskin in the earth would, however, seem to argue against its preservation, and hence its ability to be a relic.

Some argue that when God achieves something by miracle, it is arbitrary to propose limits to what that miracle can restore. In Mark 12:18-25, Jesus responded to the Sadducees' question about marriage after the resurrection, saying that "For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven." (KJV) This suggests that the resurrected dead may have certain anatomical differences that may make the question irrelevant. But then again, he may have restored the foreskin in heaven without taking the discarded one away from earth.

The act of circumcision was a ritual of profound religious significance to Jews, and marked their membership in the covenant community. The New Testament contains extensive discussions about whether circumcision was needed for Gentile converts, and concludes that it was not; the position settled upon is that Jesus' crucifixion established a new covenant for Christians for which the rite was not necessary.

The modern, peri'ah style of circumcision did not become the standard mode until around the time of the revolt led by Simon bar Kokhba in AD 132ľ135, whereas the style of circumcision practised by Jews in Judea prior to bar Kokhba removed only the 'tip' of the foreskin, not all of it. Thus modern, and probably medieval, ideas of what Jesus' foreskin would be like were, and are, wide of the mark.


The abbey of Charroux claimed to possess the Holy Foreskin during the Middle Ages. It was said to have been presented to the monks by Charlemagne, who in turn is said to have claimed that it had been brought to him by an angel (although another version of the story says it was a wedding gift from the Byzantine Empress Irene). In the early 12th century, it was taken in procession to Rome where it was presented before Pope Innocent III, who was asked to rule on its authenticity. The Pope declined the opportunity. At some point, however, the relic went missing, and remained lost until 1856 when a workman repairing the abbey claimed to have found a reliquary hidden inside a wall, containing the missing foreskin.

The abbey church of Coulombs in the diocese of Chartres, France was another medieval claimant. One story says that when Catherine of Valois was pregnant in 1421, her husband, King Henry V of England, sent for the Holy Prepuce. It was believed that the sweet scent that the relic was supposed to give off would ensure an easy and safe childbirth. According to this legend, it did its job so well that Henry was reluctant to return it after the birth of the child (the future King Henry VI of England).

As well as the Holy Foreskin claimed by the Lateran basilica in Rome, other claimants in history have included the Cathedral of Le Puy-en-Velay, Santiago de Compostela, the city of Antwerp, and churches in Besanšon, Metz, Hildesheim, and Calcata.

Modern practices

Calcata is worthy of special mention, as the reliquary containing the Holy Foreskin was paraded through the streets of this Italian village as recently as 1983 on the Feast of the Circumcision, which was formerly marked by the Catholic Church around the world on January 1 each year. The practice ended, however, when thieves stole the jewel-encrusted case, contents and all. Following this theft, it is unclear whether any of the purported Holy Prepuces still exist. In a 1997 television documentary for Channel 4, British journalist Miles Kington travelled to Italy in search of the Holy Foreskin, but was unable to find any remaining example.

Allegorical importance

Apart from its physical importance as a relic, the Holy Foreskin is sometimes claimed to have appeared in a famous vision of Saint Catherine of Siena. In the vision, Jesus mystically marries her, and his amputated foreskin is given to her as a wedding ring. However, this has not been traced any earlier than a seventeenth-century anti-Catholic parody, and as such is of dubious credibility.

During the late 17th century, Catholic scholar and theologian Leo Allatius in De Praeputio Domini Nostri Jesu Christi Diatriba ("Discussion concerning the Prepuce of our Lord Jesus Christ") speculated that the Holy Foreskin may have ascended into Heaven at the same time as Jesus himself and might have become the rings of Saturn, then only recently observed by telescope.

Voltaire, in A Treatise of Toleration (1763), ironically referred to veneration of the Holy Foreskin as being one of a number of superstitions that were "much more reasonable... than to detest and persecute your brother".

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