Inside the Domestic Church Part 15: How to Keep the Lord's Day
We often hear the phrase “there’s a time and place for everything,” and though we may use it to correct our children (or remember being told similarly as children ourselves), there is also a time for the Lord. The fourth Mosaic commandment made this clear for the Jews: “Six days shall you labor and perform all your tasks. But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. You shall do no work on it; neither shall your sons or daughters or your servants: not even the c attle or the strangers who may be staying with you” (Exodus 19:9-10).
Jesus changed this concept of the Sabbath as a day of rest. He worked, taught, healed, and did good. The violated the letter of the Law in order to emphasize something that was missed in the Jewish interpretation of the Scriptures: A New Creation was being ushered in, God’s rest was not as final as it had seemed. The new Christians added a new festival, the Lord’s Day, on the first of the week. This day was the day of Christ’s Resurrection, and became the day on which Christians gathered for worship, teaching, and fellowship. The Sabbath therefore took second place to the Lord’s Day, the celebration of the New Creation.
In the Eastern Churches, reverence for the Sabbath (Saturday, as opposed to the Lord’s Day, Sunday) continues. Perhaps it is because of this continued observance of the Sabbath that we do not consider Sunday as primarily a day of rest, but as a day of worship to be given to the Lord and His purposes. Today we might be accustomed to a minimal approach to Sunday--Divine Liturgy, and preferably a short one! This is a far cry from the practice of the early Church, when a Sunday liturgy might last into the night. Still, we do our best to preserve the totality of the day as a day of worship. In our present-day tradition, our observance begins with Saturday evening Vespers, which announce the weekly remembrance of the Resurrection. We also celebrate Orthros, the dawn service on Saturday morning (in current usage, usually celebrated just prior to the Divine Liturgy). The Divine Liturgy remains the high point of Sunday worship, but many parishioners extend our observance to include fellowship either immediately after the service at the parish or later by gathering in their homes.
There was a time when Sunday was sacrosanct, a day reserved for church. Increasingly, secular activities eat up our time on Sundays. Public schools are some of the worst offenders, regularly scheduling athletics on Sunday morning. Weekend jobs for teens also often take advantage of the less restrictive hours to put teens to work on Sundays, and some teens might use this as an excuse to find a way out of church. Parents who are serious about being a domestic church need to help their children keep in mind that this day is not chiefly for recreation or added income, but for the Lord.