Every Time and Place Holy to the Lord

The transition from worship under the old covenant to worship under the new is not characterized by a move from the formal to the spiritual, or from the cultus to the spiritual, or from the cultus to all of life. For it has always been necessary to love God wholly; it has always been necessary to recognize the sheer holiness and transcendent power and glory and goodness of God and to adore him for what He is.  So we insist that “all true worship is God centered.” The transition from worship under the old covenant to worship under the new is characterized by the covenantal stipulations and provisions of two respective covenants.

The way wholly loving God works out under the old covenant is in heartfelt obedience to the terms of that covenant and that includes the primary place given to the cultus with all its import and purpose in the stream of redemptive history; and the implications of this outworking include distinctions between the holy and the common, between holy space and common space, between holy time and common time, between holy food and common food.

The way wholly loving God works out under the new covenant is in heartfelt obedience to the terms of that covenant, and here the language of the cultus has been transmuted to all of life, with the implication, not so much of a desacralization of space and time and food, as with a sacralization of all space and all time and all food. [1 Corinthians 10:31]

—D. A. Carson, Worship by the Book, 40

On Sunday

The earliest documents mention that Christians meet statu die—on a fixed day—and nothing in the long history of Christianity could alter the importance of this fixed day.

If Christianity were a purely “spiritual” and eschatological faith there would have been no need for a “fixed day,” because mysticism has no interest in time. To save one’s soul one needs, indeed, no “calendar.” And if Christianity were but a new “religion,” it would have established its calendar, with the usual opposition between the “holy days” and the “profane days”—those to be “kept” and “observed” and those religiously insignificant. Both understandings did in fact appear later. But this was not at all the original meaning of the “fixed day.” It was not meant to be a “holy day” opposed to profane ones, a commemoration in time of a past event. Its true meaning was in the transformation of time, not of calendar.  For, on the one hand, Sunday remained one of the days (for more than three centuries it was not even a day of rest), the first of the week, fully belonging to this world.  Yet on the other hand, on that day, through the eucharistic ascension, the Day of the Lord was revealed and manifested in all its glory and transforming power as the end of this world, as the beginning of the world to come. And thus through that one day all days, all time were transformed into times of remembrance and expectation, remembrance of the ascension, (“we have seen the true light”) and expectation of its coming. All days, all hours were now referred to this end of all “natural” life, to the beginning of the new life. The week was no longer a sequence of “profane” days, with rest on the “sacred” day at their end. . . . Sunday . . . was not a “sacred” day to be “observed” apart from all other days and opposed to them. It did not interrupt time with a “timeless” mystical ecstasy. It was not a “break” in an otherwise meaningless sequence of days and nights. By remaining one of the ordinary days, and yet by revealing itself through the Eucharist as the eighth and first day, it gave all days their true meaning. It made the time of this world a time of the end, and it made it also the time of the beginning.

—Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World, 51-52

The Journey into Corporate Worship

The journey begins when Christians leave their homes and beds. They leave, indeed, their life in this present and concrete world, and whether they have to drive fifteen miles or walk a few blocks, a sacramental act is already taking place, an act which is the very condition of everything else that is to happen. For they are now on their way to constitute the Church, or to be more exact, to be transformed into the Church of God. They have been individuals, some white, some black, some poor, some rich, they have been the ‘natural’ world and a natural community. And now they have been called to “come together in one place,” to bring their lives, their very “world” with them and to be more than what they were: a new community with a new life.

—Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World, 27