St. John Chrysostom National Oratorical Festival

St. George Church, Bethesda, MD



Topic No. 5

In our day, when people’s lives have become more and more scheduled with events,

how might we reclaim our understanding of Sunday (the Sabbath)

as a day of rest and honoring the Lord?

by Athena Chapekis

St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church

Ann Arbor, Michigan

The topic I chose asks the question: how might we reclaim Sunday, the Sabbath, as a day of rest and honoring the Lord? The easy answer would be: don't schedule events on Sunday. But I'm not going to stand up here and talk about what we already know. The first thing that caught my eye when I looked at this topic was that it wasn’t entirely accurate.

Sunday is not the Sabbath.

When the Ten Commandments were issued to Moses on Mount Sinai, we were told to remember the Sabbath and keep it Holy. This "Sabbath," the seventh day, the day of rest, was Saturday. Contrary to popular belief, though, the Sabbath never changed days from Saturday to Sunday. It still is Saturday. The Sabbath was always, and continues to be, worshipped as the commemoration of God's resting after He created the world, this world. The Church also reveres the Sabbath as the day Christ descended in to Hades. What we do not do is observe the Sabbath in a Jewish way, with restrictions on work and travel. As Jesus says in Matthew (12:11), "If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out?" This tells us that it’s ok to do work on the Sabbath, therefore we do not really have rules on what to do and what not to do. We, as Christians, instead remember the Sabbath with special services and liturgies.

Sunday, though, has taken a more prominent role in our worship. It has been observed as the Lord's Day, a separate day, since the beginning of Christianity, but never as the Sabbath. There are some similarities in the Sabbath and the Lord's Day. They are both days on which fasting is usually forbidden. Both are also days dedicated to the worship of our Lord. But the Sabbath is a day of anticipation, meditation, reflection, and preparation for Sunday, the Lord's Day. The Sabbath has been superseded by the coming of the Son of God.

In Revelation (21:1), St. John says, "Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away." Saturday was recognized in the old creation, or, 'the first heaven and earth' as the week's ending. As St. John says, it passed away to make way for Sunday, which is the new creation. This new creation will never pass away. It is commemorated as the beginning. It is the day of Resurrection: the Lord's eternal day. This day goes beyond the current worldly cycle of a seven day week. This is why we consider the Lord's Day the Eighth Day.

So I ask: if the Lord's Day is a day of celebration, why wouldn't you want to celebrate it? Instead of making other commitments, go to church and be with your family. In fact, you shouldn't limit this "family time" to just Sunday. You should make your behavior and attitude on Sunday the blueprint for the whole week. Pray to God every day. Spend time with your family every chance you get. Jesus gave the ultimate sacrifice when He died for us on the cross, so why aren’t we all willing to sacrifice our Sunday for the Lord?

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.