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

Towards and Out of Worship

Worship is central to all that we do. And for that reason, our whole life is both a procession toward worship and a procession out of worship. Life is a cycle of constant return to the source of our new life and to the empowerment for life that we receive from the Christ we meet and celebrate in worship.

—Robert E. Webber, Robert, Worship is a Verb: Eight Principles for Transforming Worship, 213

Fuel and Fire

The fuel of worship is a true vision of the greatness of God; the fire that makes the fuel burn white-hot is the quickening of the Holy Spirit; the furnace made alive and warm by the flame of truth is our renewed spirit; and resulting heat of our affections is powerful worship, pushing its way out in confessions, longings, acclamations, tears, songs, shouts, bowed heads, lifted hands and obedient lives.

—John Piper, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, 82

REFORMATION 500: Adoration and Action

One of the most significant accomplishments of the Protestant Reformation was overcoming the monastic understanding of the relations between the life of contemplation (vita contemplativa) and life of action (vita activa). Almost five centuries later, some important segments of Protestant Christianity (especially of the evangelical brand) are still caught in the false dichotomy between the sacred and the secular and are operating with a pre-reformation understanding of the relation between (what they term) spiritual worship and secular work. In the context of the reflection on the Christian understanding of worship, it is important therefore to recall Luther’s rediscovery of the Christian calling to active service of God in the world and to reflect on its biblical roots . . .

Christian worship consists both in obedient service to God and in the joyful praise of God. Both of these elements are brought together in Hebrews 13:15-16, a passage that comes close to giving a definition of Christian worship: “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise˜the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is please.” The sacrifice of praise and the sacrifice of good works are two fundamental aspects of the Christian way of being-in-the-world. They are at the same time the two constitutive elements of Christian worship: authentic Christian worship takes place in a rhythm of adoration and action.

—Miroslav Volf, “Reflections on a Christian Way of Being-in-the-World” in Worship: Adoration and Action, 203, 207