Explaining the Mystery of the Sabbath and the Lord's Day (Kyriaki)

Martyr Charitina of Amisus

Martyr Charitina of Amisus

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

By Saint Gregory Palamas

Our word today is intended to reveal a little more of the mystery of Sunday to your agape, as far as time allows. If this is a great and exalted mystery, and not even its more accessible aspects are easy for everyone to understand, we must give thanks to the Lord of all who gave His name to this day, and Who, through His coming in the flesh, bestowed on those who draw near to Him through faith things which are perhaps a little difficult for our mind and reason to grasp.

But heed the sense of my words, all of you. And if anyone is unable to understand everything, he will grasp the full meaning from the little he does understand, since the Holy Spirit's teaching is a word of light. In six days God not only made and adorned the whole visible world, He also created and brought to life the only creature with senses and a mind: man (Genesis 1:1-27; 2:7). To him He granted dominion over all the animals and plants throughout the world (Genesis 1:28). Then on the Seventh Day God rested from all His works, as we are taught by Moses (Genesis 2:2), who was born later, but beheld the foundation of the world long before his time, or rather as the Holy Spirit in His love for mankind sounds in our ears and souls through Moses' words, "And God", it says, "blessed the Seventh day and sanctified it" (Genesis 2:3). Why did He bless and sanctify the first day as the most highly exalted, which is why it was referred to by Moses as "one" and not as "first" (Genesis 1:5), that day on which God brought forth everything out of nothing all at once, and illuminated it with new light, although He had not yet put it in due order, assigning everything to its place and kind. And if He did not bless and sanctify that first day, why not the following day, on which He established the great firmament, and stretched out around us the first heaven and after it the second? Then again, why did He did not bless the day after that, or the ones following, during which the earth was formed by the waters drawing back and took all nature as it adornment, the heavens received the two great lights for eyes, and the birds and sea creatures took their being from the waters by Divine command, each after their kind?

If we leave those days to one side, why did God not bless the sixth day on which He not only drew out of the earth the living souls of reptiles and cattle, but also demonstrated a work worthy of His own Counsel? He crowned the whole of creation, brought together into unity the senses and the mind, greatest of all, put Himself within His creature through His Divine grace, and showed man a living being upon earth in His Own image and likeness, capable of knowing Him. So why did He not bless and sanctify that day instead of the seventh, which was a day of inaction? As I want to explain the matter and offer a solution to the problem, I must first, for the sake of the more learned among you gathered here, refute those who have not given a good explanation. There are some, such as Josephus and Philo and their followers, who revere the number seven calling it "unbegotten" (a prime number), and also "virgin" as it does not "beget", or multiply, like, in their opinion, the divinity. For they cannot understand that when God begot the Son He did not set aside virginity, but begot Him without union, variation of passion. Those who contend that these properties of the number seven are the reason why only the seventh day was given God's blessing misrepresent not only God, denying His Fatherhood, but also the number seven itself. Every number originates from units, and since seven is a number it is not "unbegotten"...

"...God wanted to impart to us a strong awareness of works of this kind, and to demonstrate that they are more to be sought after than any works perceptible to the senses. So He blessed and sanctified the Seventh Day, on which He ceased making the visible creation, so that this day might be like an ascent, by means of rest, from things below to those better things above. To quote the great Dionysius, God, "in His superabundant goodness, goest out of Himself and transcending all things comes down into all things, in accordance with His ecstatic, supraessential power which is inseparable from Him".

Condescending in His love for man, as He willed and as was fitting, He made this visible world of ours. Then on the Seventh Day He went up again, as behooved God, to His own heights, which He had not left, and showed that His rest on that day was still more blessed than what had gone before. In this way He taught us to seek to enter, as far as we are able, into that rest, which is contemplation according to the mind, and ascent to God by that means. The holy Apostle too explicitly urges us towards this rest. Having referred to God's words through the psalmist about the Jewish race, "Unto whom I swore in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest" (Psalm 95:11), he continues, "He spake in a certain place of the Seventh Day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works" (Hebrews 4:4). A little further on he writes, "Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest" (Hebrews 4:11). For anyone who enters into it, rests from his works as God did from His...

"...Another reason why that day was blessed is that He Who formed this world in six days foresaw that man would turn towards evil and would, as a result, go back to the ground, descend to Hades and be imprisoned there, and this whole world would grow old and useless because of man, but would be renewed by God becoming man. This renewal was affected when God incarnate descended into Hades through death and declared there on the Sabbath the recall of souls. It was because He foresaw that this would happen on the Sabbath that although that He rightly deemed it the only day worthy to be blessed. However, although this work was secretly made ready on the seventh day, the Sabbath, everything was clearly brought to light and accomplished when the body too had been summoned to immortality through the Lord's Resurrection on the eighth day. This is why we call it the Lord's Day. As Friday, the day of preparation, stands in relation to the Sabbath, so is the Sabbath in comparison with Sunday, which is obviously superior to it. As perfection and reality surpass beginning, pattern and shadow, so is Sunday more excellent and honorable, because on it the exceedingly blessed work was finished, and on it we await the General Resurrection of all, the perfect entry of the saints into the divine rest and dissolution of the world into its elements.

(To be continued)



The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.


"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--St. John Chrysostom


With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George