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Πέμπτη, 7 Νοεμβρίου 2013

St. Gregory Palamas (+1359) - Homily on the Sabbath and the Lord's Day

  
                                             Pascha - The Eleventh Day

In the Gospel passage from last Sunday (JN. 20:19-31), we read and heard of the "first day" of the week" and the "eighth day." Below, St. Gregory Palamas offers some profound insight to the meaning of the "Lord's Day" - Sunday - as both the first and eighth day of the week, and how this relates to Old Testament typology and the Resurrection of Christ.
"Moses esteemed the seventh day because it led into the truly honorable eighth day. Just as the law given through him is honorable in so far as it leads to Christ (cf. GAL. 3:24), so the seventh day is honorable because it leads into the eighth day on which the Lord's Resurrection took place. The eighth day comes next after the seventh day, and if you look carefully you will find that after the seventh day, when we are told that all the dead from past ages were resurrected, on the eighth day Christ rose. Not only was Christ's resurrection accomplished on the eighth day, but it was both the eighth day in relation to the day before, and also the first day in relation to the hoped-for resurrection, the rising again, of all human beings in Christ. That is why Christ is hymned as "the first-fruits of them that slept" (I COR. 15:20) and "the first begotten of the dead" (REV. 1:5). In the same way, Sunday is not just the day eighth in order after the preceding days, but the first of the days that come after. So it becomes in its turn the New Day, the first of all days, which we call the Lord's Day, and which Moses referred to not as the first day but as "one day" (GEN. 1:5 LXX), being exalted above the others and the prelude of the one day without evening of the age to come."

St. Gregory Palamas continues to reveal the deeper meaning of the Lord's Day - Sunday - and its relationship to the Resurrection of Christ:
You will understand how much better Sunday is than other feastdays from what follows. Every other festival comes round once a year, but the Lord's Day comes round four times each month, and this frequent recurrence makes the whole year a year of true remission for us, a year acceptable to the Lord (cf. Isa. 61:2). It was in order to teach us to celebrate it in practice at the end of each week that the Lord first appeared to the disciples inside the house while Thomas was absent (Jn. 20:19-24). He proved He was alive and gave them peace. By His breathing upon them He renewed the divine breath given in the beginning (Gen. 2:7), and endowed them with the grace of the Holy Spirit, imbuing them with divine power to bind and loose sins. He made them sharers in the exercise of His heavenly lordship, saying to them, "receive ye the Holy Spirit: Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whoseover sins ye retain, they are retained" (Jn. 20:22-23).

The Lord granted them this power and grace when He appeared to them on the very day of His resurrection, obviously a Sunday. Then, letting the intervening days of the week elapse, He appeared in the same manner and in the same house, on the eighth day, the Sunday we celebrate today, to inaugurate His festival and to bring the hesitant Thomas to faith. According to the Savior's beloved evangelist and disciple, "After eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas was with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you" (JN 20:26).

You will see that it was Sunday when the disciples assembled and the Lord came to them. On Sunday He approached them for the first time as they wer gathered together, and eight days later, when Sunday came round again, He appeared to their assembly. Christ's Church continually reflects these gatherings by holding its meetings mostly on Sundays, and we come among you and preach what pertains to salvation and lead you towards piety and a godly way of life.

St. Gregory Palamas continues in his homily on The Sabbath and the Lord's Day, to draw some of the consequences and effects upon the believers to their commitment to the Risen Christ on the Lord's Day. This commitment needs to be as thorough as possible for members of the Church:
Let no one out of laziness or continuous worldly occupations miss these holy Sunday gatherings, which God Himself handed down to us, lest he be justly abandoned by God and suffer like Thomas, who did not come at the right time. If you are detained and do not attend on one occasion, make up for it the next time, bringing yourself to Christ's Church. Otherwise you may remain uncured, suffering from unbelief in your soul because of deeds or words, and failing to approach Christ's surgery to receive, like the divine Thomas, holy healing. There exist not only thoughts and words of faith but also deeds and acts of faith - "Show me," it says, "your faith by your works" (cf. Jas. 2:18) - and if someone abandons these and is completely distanced from the Church of Christ and given over wholly to worthless pursuits, his faith is dead, or non-existent, and he himself has become dead through sin."

I shall tell you, in your charity, something which has just occurred to me. I noticed that Thomas lost his faith when he was absent, but when he was together with the believers his faith did not in any way fall short. So I have the idea that if only a sinner will flee the company of immoral men and associate with the just, he will never be found lacking in righteousness or the resultant salvation of his soul. It seems to me that the psalmist and prophet was hinting at this when he called blessed the man who avoided sitting with the scornful and being their companion (cf. Ps. 1:1). Another prophet writes, "Thou shalt not follow the multitude to do evil" (Ex. 23:2), and the author of Proverbs says, "Where sinners gather, the fire breaks out" (Ecclus. 16:6), "but he that walks with wise men shall be wise" (Prov. 13:20).



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