Why don’t we keep
the Sabbath on Saturday?
Below follows an edifying letter to one of our parishioners,
which we thought would be of profit to you all.
Greetings in Christ.
Thank you for your e-mail.
To answer your question, we do keep the Sabbath (Saturday) holy by not fasting on this day. Further, it is dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
However, you know that Christ came not to abolish, but to fulfill the Law. Our Saviour gave us a new Sabbath, and this day is Sunday. I would like to explain.
If you are familiar with the Church’s services, you know that on holy and great Friday, when we celebrate the Lamentations, the final Doxastichon from Matins explains that this Saturday is the true Sabbath (as opposed to the prefigurements of prior generations), “for on this day, the only-begotten rested from all His works.” Thus, when the Lord rested in the tomb, which is what the Sabbath of ages past prefigured, He fulfilled it. It was the Lord’s intent that through the Sabbath days, He might prepared His people to understand and receive Him. The Christians of that time certainly understood what was happening. They understood what the true meaning of their life-long Sabbath day observance was actually preparing them to participate in.
On the following day, when He rose from the dead, He showed us what the true Sabbath is. Having been buried with Christ through baptism, which of course entails complete immersion three times, we pray that we will be vouchsafed to also rise with Him. He rested from all His works on Great Saturday, and then gloriously raised up human nature on Sunday, redeeming us from the power of the devil, which is death.
Saint John of Damascus wrote that the commandments which Christians are expected to fulfill far outnumber the confines of the Law. The Hebrews were obliged to rest one day out of the week, that they might only think of God, but Saint Paul tells us that we are to pray without ceasing, not limiting our consciousness of the Lord to one day, or one time, but showing us that just as God never stops thinking of each one of us, so we should endeavor to be always with Him. . Do you see the difference? It is indeed profound. God gave this day to them so that they would not utterly forget Him. Without the Sabbath, that is exactly what they would have done, and indeed, they did do. But now the grace of the Holy Spirit has been poured out on the Church, calling all men into unity, as chant on Pentecost, calling us to truly love God with our whole being. The law was the school master which prepared us to receive the full revelation of the Gospel. The law acted from outside the man, don’t do this, don’t do that, but the divine grace of God acts within us, truly changing us, as we progress from glory to glory.
Your question is tied in deeply with the whole mystery of the Gospel, so that to explain it fully is perhaps beyond the capacity of one e-mail. I hope though that my efforts have led you closer to a fuller understanding of this topic. If you would like to discuss it further, please feel free to write me.
+ Archbishop Gregory
By Archbishop Gregory of Dormition Skete, Buena Vista, Colorado.
P.O. Box 3177
Buena Vista, CO 81211-3177
All rights reserved.