By Stergios N. Sakkos
Translation from the book:
Στεργίου Ν. Σάκκου, ΚΥΡΙΑΚΗ ἡ ἀναστάσιμη ἡμέρα, ἔκδ. Δ΄, «Χριστιανική Ἐλπίς», Θεσσαλονίκη 2020.
By John Chrysostomos, PG 51,265. “About Charity”
Death was abolished on Sunday. The curse was erased. The sin was cleared. The gates of hades were torn apart. Devil was chained up. The ever-lasting war stopped and God reconciled with all people. Men came back to their previous or rather to a much more noble condition. The sun saw that wonderful and strange sight: men becoming immortal. So, if people have a feast and a formal celebration of their birthday –in honour of this exceptional event – it is even more important for us to honour Sunday. It is the day which can be certainly considered as the birthday of all human nature. Indeed, we were lost and found; we were dead and regained life; we were enemies and came to reconciliation. Therefore it is appropriate to honour Sunday only in a spiritual way: not with festivities, dancing, drinking and getting drunk but by helping generously our poor brothers.
Sunday: its history
Sunday: this word sounds so sweet in our ears and heart! It can touch even the most corrupt. It brings to our mind the most beautiful and tender moments of our life. It is wrapped in a festive glow and embellished with the happy meetings with the dearest ones. Most of all, it is wreathed in valuable, divine gifts; it is itself a divine gift to humans.
When mentioning Sunday we refer to Lord Himself, to the Church, the Gospels, God’s plan for man’s salvation. We trace its history and theology in the Holy Scripture since the beginning of God’s history.
When the six days of creation were over, God “rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done” (Ge 2,2). That is, He stopped the work of creation on the seventh day. But He did not stop working, because as Jesus Christ His Son, attests “My father is working still, and I am working” (Jn 5,17). He continued and goes on working, ruling and preserving the world. This ruling and preservation of the world is an act not inferior than that of the creation. His repose and rest means this ceaseless divine providence.
He built a beautiful house for us to enjoy: the universe. He created us with His love and then He rested. He stepped back and since then He is pleased and happy to take care of us and endow the world with His presence in various ways.
On the seventh day which He blessed and considered as sacred, He started communicating with His creatures. He made a distinction between that one and the rest of the days. He established it as the day of His worship and ordered His chosen people “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work; but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work” (Ex 20, 8-10). As the seventh day denotes for God His constant care and providence for us, in the same way the day of Sabbath implies for His people the exclusive service and worship of God. Lord created everything for man, but He created man for himself. So, He asks man to dedicate a day of rest from his daily duties in order to study God’s will and offer his love to others to be able to meet God. “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps 45(46),10) the psalmist suggests. This is the first aim of people’s resting and celebrating Sunday: undisturbed communication with God.
Unfortunately, soon after the creation of the world and the blessing of Sabbath, the transgression of the first men caused a breach to the relationship between humans and their Creator. Although the Law tried to keep open the road which leads from earth to heaven, the seed of sin which (circulated in) ran through human race, always raised an obstacle between the Creator and His creature. However, the bond between man and God was maintained. The covenant was preserved until the salvation was established that is, the new order our Lord Jesus Christ brought on earth. With His work and sacrifice a new cosmogony took place, a new world was created, the spiritual one: His Church. As after the first creation of the world, God rested and that signifies His loving care of the world, so Christ’s Resurrection, which sealed the second creation of the Church, determines a new relationship of familiarity between God and people.
On “The first day of the week” (Lk 24,1), Christ resurrected and our human nature was resurrected with Him. God blessed that day and turned it into a new Sabbath, which replaced the old one. This keeps all the old attributes while gaining new graces. Nobody has seen God creating or resting, so the old Sabbath was established through orders. The new one was founded on the fact of Christ’s resurrection and it is testified by history. The old Sabbath demanded sacrifices and offerings to God. The new one offers Lord’s sacrifice and He nurtures us with it. In Christ’s new creation we have a new day now. It is as if heaven opened and a fragrant flower appeared, as if a precious jewel was given to our hands, as if we were offered the most expensive gift by Lord. In order to consider(estimate) it as something special and not like everything else on earth, like an ordinary day, He wrote His name on it: Sunday (in Greek Kiriaki means the day of Kirios =Lord). Lord marked His day as we do, when we write our name on our own things to identify them, and then He donated it to us.
To be continued