Volume 4: Number 9

October 28, 2013

Wonder Volume 4: Number 8

Church – Not Just a Sunday Thing

In our increasingly hectic lives, many Christians struggle constantly with the temptation to relegate religious worship and participation in Church to small, carefully boxed-off locations in our lives – generally Sunday morning. This is an unfortunate state of affairs for the human person, which Fr Alexander Schmemann once described primarily as worshiping beings (homo adorans). More concerning still is the general lack of awareness that many of us have of the depth and complexity of worship within the Church. Few Orthodox Christians know of the many other services that the Church celebrates, and fewer still feel comfortable enough with the non-Sunday services to participate in them. In this month’s edition of Wonder, four authors examine various non-Eucharistic celebrations. These include the All-Night Vigil, the Paraklesis, the Weekly Cycle within the Church calendar, and a brief overview of the relationship between Sabbath and Sunday. We hope that these reflections will foster within the readers a comfort and familiarity with the broader cycle of worship within the Church, so that each of us can engage with the rhythm of prayer and worship that the Church unceasingly keeps.

Participating in the Resurrection: The All-Night Vigil
Dn Gregory Ealy

Paraklesis: Ill am I in body; Ill am I also in soul
Ms Christina Andresen

The Weekly Cycle
Mr Brad Vien

The Weekend Predicament
Dn Jason Ketz

More information about the authors is available here.

Participating in the Resurrection: the All-Night Vigil

October 28, 2013

Participating in the Resurrection: the All-Night Vigil

Dn Gregory Ealy


What is Liturgy?

When we say the word liturgy, probably a few different things come to mind. Most likely, the first thing we think of is the Eucharist service that we celebrate every Sunday at church: the Divine Liturgy. By far, the Divine Liturgy is probably the most familiar service to Orthodox Christians. Whether or not we consciously think of it every week, Sunday is undeniably a special day. For us Sunday is the day that we set aside in our lives to go to church, both to hear and to be nourished by the Word of God. Even our civil calendar has been influenced by this notion that Sunday is an important day.  Most public places, banks, and the postal service are closed. Schools and universities don’t hold classes. Regardless of whether you’re connected to the life of the Church, Sunday is a unique day for almost all people living in North America.

The word liturgy, though, does not just refer to the Divine Liturgy, nor is it only on Sunday that people can celebrate liturgy. Generally speaking, liturgy can refer to any service held at a church throughout the day, week, or year. In other words, liturgy is the work of the church. When people come together to worship – whether it is on a Sunday at the Divine Liturgy or at a weekday vespers service – they are fulfilling their role as the Church; they are working together as the body of Christ. In fact the word liturgy (λιετουργία) is actually a Greek word, which literally translates as “people’s work” or “common work”. In the New Testament, in the original Greek, St. Paul uses the word liturgy to describe a work carried out for the greater whole, a ministry, or those who minister.[1] St. Paul even describes the work that Christ accomplished through his death and resurrection as liturgy.[2] So, liturgy does not just have one meaning, but has a broader understanding within the life of the Church.

prayerfulThe liturgy of the All-Night Vigil

On Saturday evenings in the Orthodox Church, especially at monasteries and cathedrals in many parts of the world, communities gather to worship, or, rather, to do their “work” as the Church in a service called the All-Night Vigil. This service unfortunately is not as well-known to many Orthodox, but it inaugurates the Church’s weekly commemoration of the death and resurrection of Christ while also preparing the Church for its most important service on Sunday, the Divine Liturgy. More immediately, though, the Church at this vigil comes together to remember the work or liturgy that Christ accomplished on the Cross and in his resurrection.

The Hymnography of Vigil

The hymnography of the Vigil service reveals quite clearly that the focus of the Vigil is a celebration of the work Christ accomplished on the Cross, through his death and resurrection. And although the service is a hybrid of multiple individual daily services, the theme of salvation through the Cross forms an expansive continuity through the entire service.

Simply put, the All-Night Vigil on Saturday evening is a service that combines the Church’s evening (vespers) and morning (matins) services together to form one longer and festive service. (Don’t let the term “All-Night Vigil” scare you either. In most parish practices this service doesn’t last all night, but only a couple of hours). Both of these services are made up of psalmody, litanies, scripture readings, and hymnography. When vespers and matins are served together on Saturday evening as a vigil, they are decidedly different than when they are celebrated individually during the week. The chief reason for this is because of the hymnography they contain. Since the structure of both services is more or less fixed, it is the composed hymns (such as stichera, troparia, kontakia, and the Canon)  that make each service unique for every day. Each day throughout the calendar year a saint, a feast, or a particular event that is important to the Church is remembered. And, over the Church’s long history, hymnography has been compiled for all of these saints and feasts for every day of the year. Since the All-Night Vigil is a service that prepares the Church for the weekly remembrance of Christ’s resurrection, all the hymnography on Saturday evening recalls the events surrounding Christ’s death and resurrection.

paisiusChantingThere are different tools or techniques that hymnography uses to convey its message. For example, one way that a sticheron or troparion makes its point is simply by telling a story. On Saturday evenings, we repeatedly hear in many different hymns things about Christ’s death and resurrection; we hear about the tomb, the Cross, the Myrrhbearing Women, etc. Inseparable from this narrative and found within it is a theological truth that the text is trying to convey to us as well. We can see a nice example of this in a sticheron for vespers. It reads: When Thou wast placed in the tomb as one asleep, the sight was great and awesome. But when Thou didst rise on the third day as almighty God, Thou didst resurrect Adam with Thyself. Glory to Thy Resurrection, O only Lover of mankind![3] This sticheron is recreating in our minds the most important events that surround our faith: Christ’s death and resurrection. The theological truth we hear in this narrative is that, just like Adam, we also share in Christ’s resurrection. In other words we follow the same path as Adam. This first human, who was created by God and loved by Him, yet fell short of his potential to be with God through his own selfishness and choices, was nonetheless redeemed by God and shares in His resurrection. This I think is an important point. By singing this sticheron we are not just remembering these events, but, because we are like Adam, these events become a reality for us at that very moment. We are drawn into this narrative and we participate in Christ’s resurrection. By doing this we are doing the liturgy of the Church.

Many of the hymns also contain dialogue as part of its narrative. In stichera on Saturday evening we sometimes hear Christ having a plainspoken conversation with hell, or with his disciples, or with those in hell. Here is an example of a sticheron that has conversation between the Myrrhbearing Women and the angel at the empty tomb of Christ:  Desiring to return us to Paradise, Christ was nailed to the Cross and placed in a tomb. The Myrrhbearing Women sought Him with tears, crying, “Woe to us, O Savior! How dost Thou deign to descend to death? What place can hold Thy life bearing body? Come to us as Thou didst promise! Take away our wailing and tears!” Then the Angel appeared to them: “Stop your lamentations! Go, proclaim to the Apostles: ‘The Lord is risen, granting us purification and great mercy!’”[4]


Another great example of a dialogue comes from the troparia at the Evlogitaria in matins. One of the troparia reads, “In the tomb, the radiant angel cried to the Myrrhbearers, ‘Why do you women mingle myrrh with your tears? Look at the tomb and understand! The Savoir is risen from the dead!’”

If we allow it to, the liturgical dialogue can actually draw us deeper into the vigil’s celebration. Similar to the first example with Adam, we are drawn into the narrative, but here it is intensified in a way because, since we are uttering the words of the Myrrhbearing Women and Angel, we participate with them in the dialogue. Their words become ours as well. This is an important feature in Orthodox worship. We are not merely remembering past events, but making them present reality again, so that we can actively participate as well. In other words, at the Resurrection Vigil when we sing these stichera and remember Christ’s death and resurrection, we are doing the “common work” or liturgy of the Church. In doing so, the divisions of time and space are bridged, and we are joined and grafted more securely to one another, the Church, and ultimately Christ.

[1] Romans 13: 6; 15:16.

[2] Hebrews 8: 6.

[3] Aposticha, Tone 7.

[4] Aposticha, Tone 6.

Paraklesis: Ill am I in body, Ill am I also in my soul

October 28, 2013

Paraklesis: Ill am I in body, Ill am I also in my soul

Ms Christina Andresen


Some days I am acutely aware of my complex psychosomatic existence. Hmm, that sounds dramatic. What I mean is that there are days when I can feel my bad mood become a headache or my sore muscles come out as crankiness at my family or my lack of prayer in the morning hang over my day as a gloomy cloud of lethargy. I can feel my emotions mixing with my thoughts mixing with my bodily functions mixing with my spiritual state, and I can’t tear any of it apart. It’s completely exasperating.

Well, here’s some good news for Orthodox Christians: that mixed up feeling between body and soul is part of what it means to be human and we have a service for that.

Diseased is the body and the soul;

Deem me truly worthy

Of divine guidance and your care

For you along are God’s Mother,

As the good and the birthgiver of the Good.

Paraklesis (or, as my husband calls it: Pair-uh-KLEE-sus…please, please don’t say it like that) is a canon of supplication (read: long poem asking for help) to the Theotokos. The funny name means “consolation” or “solace” because the service is sung to the Mother of God asking for her to bring comfort and solace to our broken bodies and souls through her prayers to her Son and our God.

In the Byzantine tradition, the Paraklesis is sung especially during the fast of the Dormition of the Theotokos, but it can be offered up at any time of the year. The service is centered around the chanting of the canon itself which is broken into nine parts or odes. The canon overflows with beautiful poetry, describing that confusion and suffering which our bodies and souls can cause us when we lack God’s grace and asking for the intercessions of the one who can bring miracles to fruition before their time.

What makes Paraklesis even more special? Each person brings a list with names of their family and friends–especially those who are sick, suffering, or feeling lost in life–and gives them to the priest. During the litanies of Paraklesis (you know, the ones that start with “Again we pray for…”), the priest offers up these names individually so that they are lifted from our hearts and into the heavens, placing our hope in the Theotokos who shelters and protects us in our times of need. The Theotokos relieves us with her love and her prayers of all of the anxiety, confusion, and mixed-up craziness of our lives and the lives of those we love.

Deliver us,

All of your servants, from dangers, O Theotokos;

After God, we all flee to you,

For shelter and covering,

As an unshakable wall and our protection.

College students, want to learn more about Paraklesis and share its beauty with others? Check out OCF’s newest Praxis Program, Day of Light to help make liturgy a way of life, not just a Sunday thing.


The Weekly Cycle

October 28, 2013

The Weekly Cycle

Mr Brad Vien


When I was a teenager I dreaded Sunday evening. Sunday evening meant the end of the weekend, and the end of the weekend meant the beginning of the school week. I didn’t want to go to school…

I wished the weekend would never end.

But, of course, I had to go to school, so I lived from weekend to weekend, counting down the days in between. Monday was the worst day of the week because it was the furthest from the next weekend. Wednesday wasn’t too bad, because it meant I was halfway to the weekend. And Friday was great, if I could just survive a few more hours of school, because it signalled the end of the week and the beginning of the weekend. I just couldn’t wait to experience that feeling of freedom that washed over me when I left school each Friday afternoon. I’d finally made it! This same experience of living weekend-to-weekend, of dreading Mondays, looking forward to Wednesdays (“hump day”), and rejoicing when Friday finally arrived, followed me into college and then into my life after graduation.

In his 2011 study of Orthodoxy in America, Alexei Krindatch estimates that only about 40% of Orthodox Christians (including children) in the OCA regularly attend Divine Liturgy on Sundays.[i] It is reasonable to assume that an even smaller percentage attend daily services during the week. One could conclude that no more than a third of Orthodox Christians in the OCA attend daily services outside of the Sunday Liturgy. There is a variety of possible reasons for this:  some parishes only offer services on the weekends, many parishioners live too far from church to attend services regularly, and many feel they are just too busy with the cares and responsibilities of life to attend. Whatever the reasons, many Orthodox Christians are rarely, if ever, exposed to the fullness of Orthodox worship. This is unfortunate, for it is in the prayers and hymnography of these services that the various “cycles” of the Church’s worship are most clearly expressed. By means of services such as Daily Vespers and Daily Matins, the Church, by the grace of God, sanctifies and redeems time, transforming the mundane weeks, days, hours and minutes of our lives, time which we so often allow to slip by unaware, into opportunities for worship, thanksgiving, praise, and repentance. The neglect of these services, however, ultimately leads to an impoverished spiritual life.

Campers attend Little Compline

One of the “cycles” of the Church’s worship that so often goes unnoticed is the Weekly cycle.[ii] In Orthodox worship, each day of the week has a particular commemoration. On Sundays, the Resurrection of Christ is commemorated; on Mondays, the Angelic Powers; on Tuesdays, St John the Forerunner; on Wednesdays and Fridays, the Cross and the Theotokos; on Thursdays, the Apostles and St Nicholas of Myra; and on Saturdays, the Saints and those who have fallen asleep in the Lord. These commemorations are expressed in the hymnography of the daily services,[iii] which is collected in a book called the Octoechos, a word derived from the Greek word for “eight tones.” This book is arranged in a cycle of eight weeks based on a musical system of eight tones or modes, each week being governed by one of the tones. Each tone has a particular melody, and the hymns of each week are sung according to the melody of the tone governing the week.

The eight-week cycle begins with Tone 1 on the second Sunday after Pentecost. Since the daily cycle of services begins with Vespers, the week governed by Tone 1 begins at Saturday evening Vespers and concludes with Ninth Hour the following Saturday. All of the Octoechos hymns sung at the services between these two services are sung in Tone 1. At Saturday evening Vespers of the third Sunday after Pentecost, the next tone (Tone 2) takes over. This process then repeats itself over the course of the eight tones, at which point it begins again. Each of the eight tones with its associated hymnography may be sung as many as six times over the course of the year.

damascusWhere does the Octoechos come from? Traditionally, authorship of the Octoechos has been ascribed to St John of Damascus in the early 8th century. It is likely, however, that he was more editor than author, compiling and arranging the material in addition to adding his own compositions. In fact, the most ancient material in the Octoechos originated at an earlier date in Jerusalem, and focuses on the Sunday celebration of the Resurrection. This material includes the resurrectional stichera [iv] sung at “Lord, I call…” and the resurrectional hymns sung at the Aposticha at Saturday Vespers, as well as the stichera sung at the Praises of Sunday Matins. Later additions of resurrectional kontakia and oikoi [v] were made at Constantinople. In fact, the title Octoechos originally applied only to this Sunday resurrectional material. Later additions of hymnography (from the 9th century onward) for the weekday services constitutes what is called in the Byzantine tradition the Parakletike, otherwise known as the “Great” Octoechos to distinguish it from the “Small” Octoechos, i.e., the original Sunday resurrectional material.

Although the history of the development of the Octoechos is complicated, its application in our lives as Orthodox Christians need not be. Do you remember how I lived from weekend to weekend during high school and college? I wanted a way to connect my Sunday morning faith to the other days of the week. For me, it was a great discovery to learn of the Orthodox faith and its daily cycle of services. Here, finally, was a way to redeem and sanctify the time. Mondays no longer had to be merely the first day back at work or school. Instead, Monday became a day to call to mind the Angelic Powers gathered around the throne of God. Wednesday and Friday no longer had to be merely “hump day” and the end of the work week. Instead, they became days of repentance and the remembrance of the Holy Cross of our Lord. Now I had a framework within which to structure my weekly life, a way to always be reminded of the “real world” in which we as Christians truly dwell. The “weekly cycle” as expressed in the Daily Offices of the Church offers all of us as Orthodox Christians opportunities for spiritual edification and growth by redeeming and sanctifying the very weeks, days, hours, and minutes of our lives.

[i] Alexei Krindatch, ed. Atlas of American Orthodox Christian Churches (Brookline, MA: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2011), 143.

[ii] See Job Getcha, The Typikon Decoded: An Explanation of Byzantine Liturgical Practice (Crestwood, NY: SVS Press, 2013), 24-31.

[iii] There are eight services each day: Vespers, Compline, Midnight Office, Matins, 1st Hour, 3rd Hour, 6th Hour, and 9th Hour.

[iv] Stichera is plural for sticheron, a word that refers to a short hymn between Psalm verses. The Psalm verse is called a stichos (pl. stichoi).

[v] A kontakion (plural, kontakia) is a hymn sung after the sixth ode of a canon. It is followed by another hymn called an oikos (plural, oikoi).

The Weekend Predicament

October 28, 2013

The Weekend Predicament

Dn Jason Ketz

What is the significance of Saturday and Sunday to Christians?

What do the scriptures say about each of these days?

How to we celebrate each day?

Ask a group of six Christians (Orthodox, ‘orthodox’ or otherwise) these questions, and you’ll likely receive seven different answers, but all will be based on a number of presuppositions and even misconceptions that most Christians hold about both days that form our weekend. An understanding of sacred time is critical If we have any hopes of thinking of our faith and our worship as anything more than a “Sunday thing.,” And what better place to start than by exploring the significance of the two holy days that bookend our every week: Sunday and Saturday.likely receive seven different answers. Unfortunately, there is a great deal of confusion about the unique significance of both the Sabbath and the Lord’s Day. Nearly all of us are guilty of some measure of transference of Sabbath characteristics to Sunday observance, so that, to some degree we observe Sunday as a type of New Sabbath.  In other words, Sunday – the Lord’s day – is what the Sabbath was. This transference was made law by the Emperor Constantine,[1] but even in recent generations, long after the fall of the Byzantine Empire and outside any religious states, Christians have continued to treat Sunday as a day of rest – a Christian version of Sabbath Observance. Many are actually no longer aware that the Sabbath is (still!) Saturday, which is explicitly not the Day of Resurrection.  Even stating this fact does little to clarify or resolve our confusion about the Christian weekend, and perhaps only forces this issue to a head.


Origins of the Sabbath

The Seventh Day has a long history of sanctity in the Old Testament, earning a place in both the Decalogue (Exod 20:8-11; Deut 5:12-15) and in the Creation story (Gen 2:3).  This day was given as a day of rest; a reminder that the Lord delivered Israel from the hand of the Egyptians. This command, while certainly a gift, is nonetheless given by God with every expectation that the Sabbath would be observed. And the day’s sanctity is established not merely by law, but also by divine action: God himself is shown keeping the first Sabbath, resting after creation was completed in six days. God sanctifies the Sabbath by blessing it (Exod 20:11) and keeping it (Gen 2:2-3).

The Sabbath was not just for Jewish people, either. The Sabbath rest applies to the foreigner and sojourner as well as to the Israelite (Deut 5:14. The same is true for the Sabbath years and the Jubilee set forth in Leviticus 25). Nor was the Sabbath a simple remembrance of the past. It had a distinctly forward-looking, messianic character. Keeping the Sabbath allows the celebrants to participate in the saving act of God,[2] and to look forward to the final fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation, described (for instance) in Isaiah 61:1-3 (a passage heard also at the beginning of Christ’s ministry in the Gospel of Luke, 4:18-19). In short, the day becomes a weekly celebration of the passover, always coupled with anticipation of the Messianic age to come. This was the seventh day; the one uniquely holy day of the week, as the Old Testament established it.

Sunday and the Resurrection

resurrectionUntil the resurrection of Christ, the first day of the week was not set aside as uniquely significant, but in the Old Testament, it was grouped with all of the first six days of the week, and recognized primarily as ‘not Sabbath.’ It is only through the resurrection – and specifically through the belief that the resurrection happened on the First Day of the week – that Sunday became significant for worship and theology.[3] And just like the Sabbath, this change required an act of God. Just as God’s resting on the Sabbath after creation sanctified the Seventh Day, our Lord’s Resurrection before the dawn on the first day of the week (Mk 16:2) sanctifies the First Day – the Lord’s Day, which is also the Roman Sun-day. Very quickly within the Christian tradition,[4] the faithful gather to worship on this newly-sanctified Sunday (the Lord’s Day), which is regarded with a great deal of solemnity. The worship is not precisely Sabbath observance, but there was a celebration of the Eucharist in some form; some type of Agape meal, overlayed with remembrance and participation in the New Testament “Last Supper” shared by Christ and his disciples. Additionally, the Passover was not explicitly remembered, but the Lord’s Passion was, and Christians have long drawn parallels between the Exodus and the Passion and Resurrection. And again, this had quickly developed into a weekly (and not an annual) cycle. In other words, the Passion and Resurrection was not merely a replacement for the atonement sacrifice, but an event which the faithful could regularly participate in. This pattern in the earliest Christian communities of weekly worship and anamnesis of historical events shows the very clear ritual parallels between Jewish Sabbaths and Christian Sundays: “the Sabbath became for the Israelites the weekly extension of the annual Passover, [just as] Sunday later became for many Christians the weekly commemoration of the annual Easter-Sunday.”[5]

However, while the Resurrection certainly sanctifies the First Day of the week, it does not deprive Saturday of any level of sanctity, and the Resurrection certainly does not contradict the Sabbath or the commandment to keep it. In the Resurrection, we now have two holy days established by God.  Concerns over Christian observance of the Sabbath arise not in discussions of the Resurrection, but in discussions of Jesus’ ministry, especially as depicted in the Gospels.

Jesus and the Sabbath

While the Resurrection does not contradict the Sabbath, Jesus’ ministry certainly may have. Jesus is depicted in the Gospels as working miracles on the Sabbath, which was seen by the religious leaders of his day as a violation of the command to rest on the Sabbath. This is a heavy accusation, which has received a great deal of scrutiny over the centuries: did Jesus actually violate the Sabbath? Did he reform it? Or was he working within some technical nuance or exception that might permit his actions? In response to the technicalities at work within Judaism at the time of Christ, rare exceptions could be made for Sabbath observance. such as life or death situations, or situations which require an immediate action (for those interested, 1 and 2 Maccabees offer opposing viewpoints on Sabbath observance in times of war). Jesus mentions the ’emergency situation’ exemption himself in one of his exchanges with the Pharisees before he works a miracle (Lk 6:9). But while Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees on their own terms in arguing this technicality, Jesus’ actions were not in response to life or death scenarios.  In other words, Jesus’ healing miracles and actions on the Sabbath could have waited a day. Take the man with the withered hand, for instance (Luke 6). Waiting a day to heal him certainly would not have jeopardized this man’s life in some way. So Jesus’ decision to heal this man unquestionably violated the Pharisee’s expectation for man to literally rest on the Sabbath, and in their teaching, the healing could wait until Sunday.[6]


The Sabbath and the Messiah

If we see Jesus as a mere man working miracles in Galilee, then we are forced to acknowledge that he did, in fact, violate the Sabbath precepts. But if we attribute the healing actions to God, and moreover, if we willingly recognize Jesus as the Christ of God, then his actions on the Sabbath are no longer out of line. In fact, one could reasonably suggest that such Sabbath actions would be expected of (or indicative of) the Messiah. The Messiah is bringing a fulfillment of what was begun, so to speak, with the exodus. So does the Messiah keep the Sabbath? Does God? This is another riddle in which Christ engaged the Pharisees. People are born and die on Saturday, and since life and death are the work of God, God is therefore at work on the Sabbath. Would not his Messiah do the same, in the process of inaugurating a permanent age of Sabbath or Jubilee for the faithful?

Jesus never explained his ministry in such terms, but his conduct suggests it. Christ’s Messianic treatment of Sabbath is most obvious in the healing of the woman in Luke 13, Christ three times declares the woman “freed” using the Greek λύειν, which means to free or loosen, as in ‘freed from bondage to the Egyptians’ – the main theme of Sabbath observation. And our Lord did state that he was reforming the Law (or adherence to it), of which the Sabbath is a part. As he indicated in his Sermon on the Mount (esp Matt 5:17, 21ff) and elsewhere in his discourses, Jesus clearly feels that the commandments in Scripture may be honored, without keeping the subsequent precepts espoused by the Pharisees of his day.[7]  Therefore, while the Sabbath is not kept by Christ as it was expected to be by the religious leaders, he is reforming and fulfilling it for the faithful, and not nullifying it. He certainly kept the day Holy. 

However, even when we accept the possibility that Jesus did nothing to contradict the Sabbath, we are still faced with subsequent Christian tradition in which the Sabbath is deliberately set aside in favor of the Lord’s Day. Since we are in no position to break with such a long-standing tradition, what then are we to do with our Saturday?

In light of the incarnation, it is now possible to honor a day and keep it holy, and still do ‘work’ (or at least ‘ministry’). We Christians are, in fact, given an alternative day for salvation and rest, different from the Sabbath in the Law. The letter to the Hebrews explains that, instead of the Sabbath, we now have today as the day of our salvation (cf Heb 3-4, especially the reasoning which culminates at 4:7-12).[8] This is a highly significant change of perspective. In suggesting that the coming age of the Messiah has, in fact, already come, every day has a character of holiness (i.e. freedom; realized salvation) that the Sabbath alone had previously (cf Heb 3:13). Because we are now between Christ’s resurrection and the general resurrection, time is sanctified somewhat differently than it was before the incarnation. It should follow, then, that our engagement with sacred time would also differ from the past.

And in this new, eschatological sanctification of time, we are also given another, liturgical oportunity to observe the Sabbath. Saturday has long been given over by the Church as a day of remembrance of the departed – those who have fallen asleep, and are at rest, awaiting the Resurrection. So while the Sabbath is not kept by Christians in a weekly rhythm, we absolutely keep this pattern within God’s economy of human rest in expectation of God’s action (Sabbath) followed by God’s act of salvation (resurrection) wrought on the First Day.  Nowhere is this rhythm more clear than on Holy Saturday, when we celebrate Christ keeping the Sabbath in the tomb, after declaring from the cross that “it is finished” (Jhn  19:30, perhaps better rendered ‘it is accomplished’), and before rising and thereby making all things new (Rev 21:5).


Saturday is emphatically still the Sabbath, whether or not we are expected to rest on it. And Sunday is certainly a new day of rejoicing, but it is an active one. Sunday is a day of ministry and a day of worship. Although the decision of the Council of Laodicaea (Canon 29),[9]  served to transfer the command to rest from Saturday to Sunday, there is no scriptural basis for this decision. The commandment still stands within the Decalogue, and the only modifier is perhaps the Christian expectation that we are to keep today (every day) in this manner – not as a literal day of physical rest, but as a celebration of our salvation in the Resurrection, an opportunity to rejoice and give thanks to our creator and redeemer. So, despite a long history against Sabbath-keeping, Saturday is  still uniquely holy within scripture, and on some level we should realize this. Furthermore, for 21st century Christians, there may well be a good pastoral reason for keeping certain time within our week as Holy Time, in which we do pause from our busy schedules to rest, reflect upon and rejoice in our salvation. I suggest this not to undermine our venerable traditions or the holy men and women who have established them, but in recognition of the value of rhythm and sacred time within our lives. Even if our Lord has fulfilled Sabbath expectations for us, and time is differently Holy after the Resurrection, and even if synodal decree has released us from any Old Testament obligations, that does not mean that we would not benefit from the practice of keeping time – weekly time – as sacred and specifically reserved for worship and rest – especially time in our own homes, outside of a Church building.[10] The Labor Movement has worked hard in past generations to establish the “weekend.” We would do well to take advantage of both of these Holy Days, which have been indelibly marked on even our secular calendars, as opportunities for worship, refreshment, and celebration.

[1] Carlyle B Haynes, (The attempt to change God’s Holy Day…) From Sabbath to Sunday (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishers, 1928), pp 36-46.

[2] Samuele Bacchiocchi, From Sabbath to Sunday, (Rome: Pontifical Gregorian Univ. Press, 1977), 23.

[3] It is likely that Sunday worship by Christians also had an anti-pagan element to it (worshiping the Son of God on the day of the Sun). See Haynes, From Sabbath to Sunday, 39. However, the antiquity of Sunday worship (seen in 1 Cor 16:2, Acts 20:7, Rev 1:10, then in post-apostolic literature as early as Justin Martyr [First Apology, chapter 67] and the Didache [14.1]) deserves consideration as an independent and genuinely Christian ritual.

[4] This topic receives a full scholarly treatment by Bacchiocchi, From Sabbath to Sunday 91-131.

[5] Bacchiocchi, From Sabbath to Sunday, 23.

[6] Many Christians would find it distasteful, and even ‘wrong’ that the Law should be upheld and an act of mercy and healing be delayed in favor of ritual observance and ‘inaction.’ Of course, such a judgment is the direct offspring of our allegiance to the Gospels as offering the ‘correct’ interpretation of Jewish Law. But more than merely recognizing our bias in the matter, we must take care to recognize just how slippery is the slope on which such reasoning sits. The argument that the Sabbath did not need to be literally upheld because Jesus taught something better leads immediately to arguments against elaborate Christian rituals, hierarchical organization, canons and ‘high Church’ worship. Most Orthodox are understandably upset by such arguments, so we should use caution when discussing their corollaries.

[7] Bacchiocchi, 34-6.

[8] Obviously, if a Sabbath rest remains for Christians, and we are to honor ‘today’ as a holy day, we will inevitably have to work on some of these ‘todays’ that are being so highly regarded in Hebrews.

[9] Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, Series 2, Vol 14.

[10] Here I appeal to the insights of a Jewish theologian, Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath (New York: Farrar Strauss and Giroux, 1951), who on pp 27-32 offers a beautiful contemplation on the value of sacred time and the need for freedom from our technology, which although Jewish, seems entirely compatible with a Christian mindset.

Vol 4: No 9 Authors and Contributors

October 28, 2013

Dn. Gregory Ealy  Originally from the Diocese of the South, Dn Gregory grew up at St. Stephen’s Orthodox Church near Orlando, FL. In 2007 he earned an M Div. and an MA in Liturgical Music from St. Vladimir’s Seminary. Currently he serves as Music Director at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Minneapolis, MN.

Ms Christina Andresen is the Chapter Relations Coordinator for Orthodox Christian Fellowship. She received her Master of Divinity from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology and her BA in English and Philosophy from Texas A&M University where she was very involved in OCF and her local parish. Christina now lives in Dallas, TX with her husband and daughter where they attend Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church.

Mr Brad Vien is a second-year student at St Vladimir’s Seminary in Crestwood, NY. Originally from Marietta, GA, Brad is a 2003 graduate of Asbury College in Wilmore, KY and a 2008 graduate of the University of Kentucky in Lexington, KY with an M.A. in Philosophy. Prior to attending St Vladimir’s, he worked as an Instructor of Philosophy at both the University of Kentucky and Asbury.

Deacon Jason Ketz is an alumni of St Vladimir’s Seminary and a deacon at St Mary’s Cathedral in his hometown of Minneapolis, MN.  Jason holds a bachelor’s degree in Microbiology, and in addition to his work at St Mary’s, is employed  in the Quality department of a leading medical device company in the Minneapolis area.