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280Homily for 12/2/07 - P27 - Sabbath/Sunday

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  • Fr David Moser
    Dec 2, 2007
      Luke 13:10-17

      In the commandments we recall the commandment to honor the Sabbath day
      and to keep it holy - just as the Lord God, having created the world in
      six days, rested on the seventh day, so also we are to rest from our
      labors on the seventh day. In this we recreate in our own lives the same
      rhythm established by God in the founding of the world. But while God
      rested from the creation of the material world on the seventh day, He
      did not stop working entirely. We do not believe that God simply made
      the world and then sat back to watch it unfold - rather He continues to
      have his hand in the events of the world. All of creation is sustained
      because of the flow of the grace of God through it - for without Him,
      nothing could continue to exist. His hand is on the time and place of
      natural events and He guides and directs the development of history and
      the lives of men in order to lead us through this world and into the
      next. God does not rest in the sense that He ceases to act, but rather
      His work takes on a different purpose - our salvation.

      In this light, when we ponder the commandment to cease from our labors
      on the Sabbath, we cannot consider the Sabbath to be a cessation of our
      labors altogether, but a change. In six days we labor in the world,
      concerned with worldly things, but on the seventh day we turn our
      attention from the labor of the world to the labor of the soul and
      concern ourselves with spiritual things - with the salvation of our
      souls. Therefore the Sabbath day is set aside primarily as a day for
      corporate worship, for the glory of God and for the working out of our
      salvation. We see this, of course, in the Gospel, when our Lord healed
      on the Sabbath and was chastised by the Pharisees. He answered them from
      their own law which permits them to be merciful towards their animals on
      the Sabbath, even though it involves “work”. Acts of mercy and charity
      are spiritual acts, they are deeds which express our likeness with God
      and so are perfectly consistent with the commandment to keep the Sabbath
      day holy.

      Here for a moment we must stop and consider the question of the Sabbath
      day and the Lord’s day. These are not the same day, and yet they appear
      to be very similar in our thoughts. The Sabbath day is the 7th day of
      the week, that is Saturday, while the Lord’s day is the next day, the
      first day of the week, Sunday, the day of the Resurrection. How is it
      that the commandments concerning the 7th day are translated to apply to
      the 1st day? The Sabbath is a transitional day, it marks the end of the
      work of the creation of the world, and symbolically it marks the end of
      the work concerning worldly things. But it is not only the end of the
      worldly labors, but it is also the beginning of our spiritual labors. In
      the tradition of the Church, Sunday has a dual role - it is indeed the
      first day of the week, but it is also considered the 8th day of
      creation, the day upon which our Lord again took up His work, this time
      not for the creation of the world, but for the creation of the Church,
      the Heavenly Kingdom. In this light, the labor of righteousness, which
      is begun on the Sabbath continues on the Lord’s day. It is only natural
      then that we should begin the new week, not continuing to labor in the
      world, but to labor now in the kingdom of God. The worship, which began
      on the Sabbath, continues and intensifies as the labor of God’s kingdom
      continues. And so Sunday, the Lord’s day, does not replace the Sabbath,
      but continues it. Therefore all that applies to the Sabbath, applies
      also to the Lord’s day and indeed implies that our lives thereafter
      should also be directed more and more towards the labor of working out
      our own salvation. In Orthodox tradition, the Sabbath continues to hold
      an important place - and we see this no more clearly than in the fasting
      seasons when on all Saturdays as well as Sundays the fast is relaxed in
      recognition of the holiness of the day. Even during Great Lent, when the
      serving of Liturgy is not permitted on “ordinary” days, Saturday along
      with Sunday remain the two days on which this holy labor is permitted.
      Sunday, the day of Resurrection, does not replace the Sabbath, but
      supplements it.

      Having established this link between the Sabbath and the Lord’s day, let
      us continue to look at how we should live on these days. We should first
      gather together for corporate worship, this must not be neglected for it
      is the expression of our unity in Christ. We are not in the Church as a
      group of individuals, but rather as a unity of persons - in imitation of
      the Holy Trinity which is also a unity of persons. Our corporate prayer
      is something that we do in unison. We do not pray alone, we do not
      approach God alone - but together with the company of the saints and of
      our fellow Christians. When you come to the Church for the Divine
      Services, you must not come as a spectator, just to watch, but rather
      you must participate. Pray the prayers, remember your own particular
      petitions when the litanies are proclaimed. Sing the hymns of worship,
      the psalms and spiritual songs that make up the Divine services. Read
      the Gospel and Epistle beforehand so that when they are read in Church,
      you can attend more carefully and meditate upon their meaning. Let the
      words of the hymns which the choir sings become your words, let the
      spiritual states and feelings described in the hymns become your
      spiritual state. Let us weep together for our sins, let us stand in awe
      together before the throne of God, let us, together, sing the angelic
      hymns, let us rejoice in the Lord together. This corporate prayer is not
      something you watch - but it is something in which you must participate.

      Beyond the services, the Sabbath and the Lord’s day should be spent in
      spiritual undertaking. Your mind should be occupied with the Gospel and
      other spiritual writings. Your deeds should be deeds of mercy and
      compassion. On these days, make a special effort to be generous and
      charitable, make a special effort to be hospitable, make a special
      effort to be merciful. Look for opportunities to do these things rather
      than just wait for them to come around. Seek out the poor and needy so
      that you might help them. Invite others into your home to enjoy your
      hospitality. Seek out those who have offended you, or who you have
      offended so that you might forgive one another. Look for those who
      suffer and who are in need that you might show mercy to them. This
      should be how you occupy your time on Saturday and especially on Sunday.

      In our society, Saturday and Sunday - that is the weekend - have been
      set aside for leisure. The “work week” when we work for someone else is
      ended and we have these days as days in which to do our own work. Our
      own work is the work of the salvation of the soul and this work – that
      is: prayer, mercy, charity, hospitality, spiritual pursuits, etc –
      should be the primary labor on these days. In the Gospel, our Lord
      demonstrated the place of works of mercy on the Sabbath day, let us not
      forget His instruction about *how* we remember the Sabbath day, as well
      as the Lord’s day, and keep them both holy. In this way, with Saturday
      and Sunday as the beginning, we start to shift the focus of our whole
      lives onto the Kingdom of Heaven. The weekend is not the “end” of our
      labors, but rather it is the beginning of the most important task that
      we have in this life – the working out of our own salvation.

      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Website: http://stseraphimboise.org