Archive for November 25th, 2007

Monday – the Day of the Holy Angels

November 25, 2007

guardian-angel.jpg

Yesterday I set out to write a short piece on each day of the week. In the Orthodox calendar, each day of the week has its own particular dedication – an aspect of the life and ministry of Christ or of our life as Christians. Monday is remembered as the Day of the Angels. The hymns for this day will always reflect, in some manner, the ministry of angels.

The Scriptures are filled with the stories of angels – whether encounters with angels by men or women – or visions of angels (described in numbers that represent a near infinity) surrounding God or His throne.

The first sort of story I find of interest because it says we are not alone – that is – not alone among sentient creatures. We are not the only creature who can give voice to praise. We are told in Scripture that the angels are “ministering servants” – as far as we are concerned they are here to help.

I have collected (mentally) many stories of modern angelic encounters over the years and marvel at each one. Some are simply unusual but otherwise mundane – a stranger who acted on someone’s behalf and then seemed to have vanished. Others are stories of angels that could have been taken from Scripture – complete with wings! Among those is one related from the childhood of Mother Alexandra (the former Princess Ileana of Romania).

Of the visions recorded in Scripture – I find it interesting that there is no description of a heavenly vision of God or His throne (however obliquely God may be described) that does not include a numberless host of angels. God is not spoken of as the Alone – but as the Lord God of Sabbaoth (Hosts).

Thus I begin my Monday with a remembrance that I am not alone – my prayers and praises are part of a vast chorus that fills the universe and beyond. Nor do I dwell alone. I am watched and guarded by the good God who created me, and by His angels that surround me.

Troparion to St. Michael in the 4th tone

O Commander of the Heavenly Hosts,

We who are unworthy beseech you

That by your prayers you will encompass us

Beneath the wings of your immaterial glory

And protect us who fall down and cry:

Deliver us all from harm,

For you are the commander of the powers on high.

Sunday Morning – Resurrection

November 25, 2007

pascha-fresco.jpg

God willing, I offer a set of short meditations this week – on the days of the week. In Orthodoxy each day has its own “dedication,” something which marks the day and its hymnody, etc. Some of those days are more obvious than others.

Perhaps the most obvious day of all is Sunday – the Day of Resurrection. This is the day of the central gathering of the community for worship and to receive Christ’s Body and Blood. It has been so since the beginning despite some recent deviations by uninformed founders of “denominations.” “On the first day of the week,” is the common phrase to be found in the New Testament to describe this day – or St. John’s “On the Lord’s Day,” in his wonderful Revelation.

We gather not to make something happen, but because something kept happening on this day as we gathered. The disciples would find themselves behind locked doors on “that” day only to have the Risen Lord suddenly appear in their midst and say, “Peace be to all.”

Sunday is the great day because it is the Sabbath beyond all Sabbaths. The Orthodox have never argued against Saturday as the Seventh day (Sabbath=Seven in Hebrew). Indeed, to this day the Orthodox treat Saturdays as different than other days.

But Sunday is different in a unique way. The Fathers of the Church called this the “Eighth Day,” meaning the day that had broken the endless cycle of sevens – the Sabbath cycle that marked the life of ancient Israel. This was a day that fulfilled those days and then went beyond into something more – something truly fulfilled. The first Sabbath is described in Genesis as marked by the Lord’s “resting.” Having created the universe, “He rested from all His labors.” Thus God hallowed the Seventh Day.

This cryptic saying (surely you don’t think God got tired and needed to lay down) makes no sense until it is fulfilled in Christ. In the life of Christ we see the first Saturday explained, for, having completed His labor among men, Christ says on the Cross, “It is complete (finished),” and He “gave up the ghost,” i.e. He died. This is God’s rest. Having truly completed the work of creation God “fell asleep,” as the New Testament describes those who have died.

And in His sleep (death), a spear was thrust into His side. Blood and water flowed from that side, and thus the Church, His Bride, was born. Blood and Water, Eucharist and Baptism, are the means by which the Church is birthed and nourished. God’s Great Sabbath was this sleep on the Cross when Creation was truly finished.

And as He slept the sleep of Death, so He harrowed Hell, trampling down death by death, and bringing light to those who had sat in darkness. On Sunday morning He broke the bonds of the captives and smashed the limitations of death, and rose victorious. How, given all of that, do Christians not press forward and celebrate as the Day of Days, that Day which has completed the Sabbath? We do not wait on Saturdays any longer for something to come. It has come and we will never be the same. And now, week after week, we gather in His name, marking that Day of Resurrection, and receive His Body and Blood.

As I noted early, the Orthodox continue to have great reverence for Saturdays, the Sabbath. We are the only Church in Christendom that refrains from celebrations of the Eucharist on Monday through Friday during Great Lent. But we do not fast from such celebrations on either Saturdays or Sundays. These days are different.

But having kept the type, it is far more than incorrect to ignore its fulfillment.

This is Sunday, the Day of Resurrection. Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us, let us keep the feast.