“Because of its three beginnings, this day signifies the primordial power of the Trinity”

Listen, my child, and I will tell you the reason why this tradition of observing the Lord’s Day and refraining from work has been handed down to us. When our Lord gave the Sacrament to his disciples, he took bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and handed it to them saying:

Take eat; this is my body, which is broken for you for the forgiveness of sin. In the same way he also gave the cup to them saying: Drink of this, all of you. This is my blood, the blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sin. Do this, he said, in memory of me.

Now this is the day we dedicate to the Lord’s memory, so it is called the Lord’s Day. Before the Lord’s passion it was not called the Lord’s day, but the first day. On this day the Lord began the creation of the world, and on this day he gave the firstfruits of the resurrection to the world. This is the day on which, as we have said, he bade us celebrate the holy mysteries. This great day has therefore become for us the beginning of all graces. It was the beginning of the world’s creation, the beginning of the resurrection, and it is the beginning of the week. Because of its three beginnings, this day signifies the primordial power of the Trinity.

Now every week has seven days. Six of these God has given to us for work, and one for prayer, rest, and making reparation for our sins, so that on the Lord’s Day we may atone to God for any sins we have committed on the other six days. Therefore, arrive early at the church of God; draw near to the Lord and confess your sins to him, repenting in prayer and with a contrite heart. Attend the holy and divine liturgy; finish your prayer and do not leave before the dismissal. Contemplate your master as he is broken and distributed, yet not consumed. If you have a clear conscience, go forward and partake of the body and blood of the Lord. But if your conscience condemns you for being guilty of wicked and immoral deeds, refrain from receiving communion until your conscience has been purified by repentance. Remain for the prayer, however, and do not leave the church until you are dismissed. Remember Judas, the traitor. Not remaining in prayer with all the others was the beginning of his downfall and destruction.

This day, as we have often said, was given to you for prayer and rest. This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it, and give glory to him who rose on this day, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now, always, and for endless ages.

Anonymous (5th-6th century)

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4 Responses to “Because of its three beginnings, this day signifies the primordial power of the Trinity”

  1. john burnett says:

    Interesting that already in 5th-6th century popular/imperial Christianity had at least in the writer’s milieu already lost the concept of the Sabbath, or rather had subsituted the Lord’s Day for the Sabbath. Well, i suppose that, not being Jews, the Sabbath wouldn’t have been a thing, culturally, and everbody would have been grateful for a day of rest at all— but i imagine two days of rest would have been considered too many in late antiquity / early middle ages. However, I’ve heard that it was the Byzantine Empire that actually gave us the “weekend”— but i have no information about that. Anyone know?

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  2. Amazing to see how incredibly incoherent and illiterate the early church fathers had become in such a short period of time, relatively speaking, from the early followers of Christ who were unquestionably zealous for the Sabbath, and in fact framed much of their discussions of the Messianic Age to come around it and its concepts. These important aspects of the gospel message are completely lost to this ancient writer. The Sabbath is the 7th day. It’s never been any other day. There is no other day of rest. Nor does the extra-biblical concept of trinity have any bearing on the first day of the week.

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  3. john burnett says:

    @David, you wrote, “how incredibly incoherent and illiterate the early church fathers had become in such a short period of time, relatively speaking, from the early followers of Christ who were unquestionably zealous for the Sabbath”.

    You may be right about that in some ways. However, there’s also another piece you may not be aware of. NONE of the fathers ever taught that the Lord’s Day was the same as the Sabbath; in fact the word for Saturday in ALL of the Church’s ancient languages to this day is “Sabbath”— Σάββατον (Sabbaton), Sabbatum, Subbota, and so forth; and the word for Sunday is the “Lord’s Day”— Κυριακή (Kyriakē), Dominica, etc, or, interestingly, in Slavonic, ‘Resurrection’ (Voskresenie). And liturgically from the most ancient times there is a difference between the Sabbath, the weekly commemoration of Creation (which indeed remains a day of rest but also becomes, in Christian practice, the day for commemorating the dead, since it was the day Christ rested in the tomb), and the Lord’s Day, which is the weekly commemoration of the Resurrection. It really isn’t until the Reformation and in Germanic countries that full confusion enters in and the Lord’s Day is identified with the Sabbath. Those are countries that name their days such things as Saturn-Day, Sun-Day, Moon-Day, and so forth. The upshot was that when British and German missionaries went to places like Africa, they everywhere named the days of the week Sabath (Sunday), First (Monday), Second (Tuesday). . . . Sixth (Saturday)!— and you have no idea how much trouble this causes for someone trying to translate the Christian liturgical tradition into, say, luGanda or ruTooro.

    There are a couple of articles about the relation of Sabbath and Lord’s Day by the foremost Orthodox liturgical scholar of the 20th century on my website, which you may be interested to look at; i’ll put the link below. As the article that Fr Aiden posted above puts it,

    “this is the day we dedicate to the Lord’s memory, so it is called the Lord’s Day. Before the Lord’s passion it was not called the Lord’s day, but the first day. On this day the Lord began the creation of the world, and on this day he gave the firstfruits of the resurrection to the world. This is the day on which, as we have said, he bade us celebrate the holy mysteries.”

    There author entertains no confusion about when the Sabbath is— that would have been impossible in the early Church, or even now in places like Greece. Everybody knows the names of the days of the week, and that the Lord’s day is the “Eighth Day” of Creation, the new First Day, the Day Without Evening, the Day of Resurrection. The church services are all about that.

    What i remarked about above was the loss of a sense of the Sabbath as a day of rest— but presumably the author was not writing to Jews, so culturally, his audience would not likely ever have experienced the Sabbath as the Jews kept it. After all, Sabbath observance was not one of the four laws that the Apostolic Council in Jerusalem required the Gentiles to keep (Acts 15.29).

    For the article i mentioned, see the first item at http://jbburnett.com/theology/theol-ltg-time.html; the “separate pdf” mentioned in the middle of that paragraph zeroes in on this issue, but the entire article on the “original Structure of Christian Worship” provides context and is well worth reading.

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  4. Stuart says:

    “What i remarked about above was the loss of a sense of the Sabbath as a day of rest— but presumably the author was not writing to Jews, so culturally, his audience would not likely ever have experienced the Sabbath as the Jews kept it. After all, Sabbath observance was not one of the four laws that the Apostolic Council in Jerusalem required the Gentiles to keep (Acts 15.29)”

    Arguably the Jewish Sabbath wasn’t included in the 4 laws of the Apostolic Council for the same reason the remaining 10 Commandments weren’t as it was considered a ‘given’, along with those.

    My reading on the subject ( from memory) suggests that initially Christians were viewed suspiciously as a sect of the Jews by the Romans but still, as such, were under the protectorate of Rome. When things went awry with the Jews and the Romans some Christians probably gathered on a Sunday not wishing to be grouped in with the Jews to avoid Roman persecution.

    I gather at the time of Constantine both Saturday and Sunday were being regarded as Sabbath; not both days by Christians but either or, depending on your persuasion.

    I believe it was Constantine who initiated the permanence of Sunday in his attempt to unify the masses which fitted too with the Sun worship of the pagans.
    I suggest that various arguments as to why the Sunday Sabbath should replace the Saturday came after the change rather than prior. Certainly seems no concrete NT argument for change for something which played such a significant part in Jewish history was part of the ’10’. As the 7th day ( Sat) and was arguably practiced by others such as Paul, after his Christian conversion, for instance.

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