My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
SUNDAY SPORTS VS SUNDAY WORSHIP
As Orthodox Christians we believe that Sunday, the Lord's Day (Κυριακή ή Ημέρα Κυρίου), is a special day consecrated to the service and worship of the Almighty God. It is a unique Christian celebration. It is "the day the Lord has made" (Psalm 117 (118):24). Its nature is Holy and joyful. Sunday is the day on which we believe God the Creator acted decisively to liberate the world from the tyranny of sin, death, and corruption through the Holy Resurrection of Jesus.
The primacy of Sunday is affirmed by the liturgical practice of the early Church. Saint Justin the Martyr writing around 150 A.D. notes that "it is on Sunday that we assemble because Sunday is the first day, the day on which God transformed darkness and matter and created the world and the day that Jesus Christ rose from the dead (First Apology, 67)." Sunday has always had a privileged position in the life of the Church as a day of worship and celebration. On Sunday the Church assembles to realize her eschatological fullness in the Divine Eucharist by which the Kingdom and the endless Day of the Lord are revealed in time. It is the perpetual first day of the New Creation, a day of rejoicing. It is a day for community, feasting and family gatherings.
Sadly Sunday has become less of a day of worship and family and more like a day for recreation and sports. It is all a matter of priorities, of course. Human beings are going to worship something, and in our culture athletics has become a god to many people. There is certainly nothing wrong with sports in and of itself, but the excessive focus that so many place on it should serve as a reminder that the true race is not for the perishable crown of the praise of others, but for the imperishable crown that God gives to His True and faithful servants. If athletes and fans devote so much for what amounts to recreation and entertainment, how much more should Orthodox Christians devote themselves to fighting their passions, serving Christ in their neighbors, and participating in the collective worship of the Holy Church as a foretaste of the Heavenly Banquet?
Sunday morning was marked as the dawn of what Christians called the Kyriake, the Lord's Day. As Patristic scholar Father Alexander Schmemann has observed, the Lord's Day was understood by the early Church in relation to the Jewish Sabbath, or Seventh Day (our Saturday), the day of rest. The Sabbath (Saturday) commemorates the creation of the world and the rest God took having made everything 'very good.' However, Sunday, the morning of Christ's Resurrection from the dead, represents the Messianic fulfillment of the New Creation. This is the day which the Jewish imagination designated as the 'Eighth Day,' the day of redemption from the cosmic tyranny of sin and death.
And so, I believe it is time for the Church to say no more sports on Sunday mornings! When we put anything ahead of God, it's sin, and God is offended. When we do it with our children, we teach them (with the most powerful teaching method available; our actions) that they do not have to go to Church. Our number one priority as parents, grandparents and godparents is the children. Our children and grandchildren. Not someone else's children. An entire generation is being shown that sports are more important than God.
Please make every effort to attend the divine services of our Holy Church and worship on Sunday mornings as a Christian family. When I call you and ask where is your son or daughter don't tell me without any hesitation or any embarrassment that he is or she has a sports game this morning Father. Sports may be fun but will not save your son or daughter. No Orthodox Christian should replace worship on Sunday with a sports game. No Orthodox Christian should replace our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ with the athletic coach. No Orthodox Christian should replace the chanting of our holy hymns with the cheers of the spectators. No Orthodox Christian should replace the Heavenly Banquet with an athletic competition. No Orthodox Christian should replace the Heavenly Joy with earthly fun and recreation.
From the day that you, the Orthodox Christian parent, decided to baptize your child your child in the Christian Faith, you assumed the responsibility to raise that child in the Church. Your child is a gift from God to you and it is the duty of every Orthodox parent to keep his promise to God. Time given to Christ is never time lost, but is rather time gained. If God forbid something happens to your child you run to your church and your priest not to some coach. You run and supplicate Christ to save your child, the Physician of our souls and bodies, and not to some coach.
Worship as a Christian family on the Lord's Day and you and your family will be truly blessed. You will not receive God's blessing playing some sport when He is expecting you to offer worship, praise and thanks for the many blessings that He has given you over a lifetime. "The chief end of our life is to live in communion with God. To this end the Son of God became incarnate, in order to return us to this divine communion, which was lost by the fall into sin. Through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, we enter into communion with the Father and thus attain our purpose" (Saint Theophan the Recluse).
With agape in Our Merciful Lord,