V. Rev. Fr. Barouyr Shernezian
The Armenian Orthodox Church celebrates the Divine Liturgy every Sunday. The church could celebrate the Liturgy on any day of the week, but why on Sunday? I will shed some light on why we celebrate the Liturgy every Sunday.
In Genesis, we learn that God rested on and sanctified the seventh day. The seventh day symbolizes completion and fulfillment, and God set the day aside for us to be grateful and praise Him. Moreover, God commanded the Israelites to keep the Sabbath (Saturday) holy (Exodus 20:8). In that case, why do we observe Sunday, rather than Saturday, holy? How and when did the holy day switch from Saturday to Sunday?
The Armenian word for Sunday is Giragi/Kiraki. This derives from the Greek word Kiryaki (Κυριακή), which means “Lord’s day.” In ancient Greek culture, Sunday was considered the “Sun’s Day,” a day to worship the sun. Christianity brought a new meaning to Sunday. Our Lord Jesus Christ’s resurrection occurred in the morning of the first day of the week, the day after Saturday. On Sunday, the oil-bearer women visited the Lord’s grave and found it empty. His resurrection grants us a new, eternal, resurrected life. Death has no more sway in our lives because Christ gives us eternal life through His blood. His life-giving name is stamped on us, keeping death away. His resurrection opens a new sunrise for us, giving us new life if we just believe in Him. Our Lord shines sunlight into our lives. His suffering, crucifixion, and resurrection give us a new life of remission, holiness, and salvation. We are made anew, inheritors of His kingdom. Christ’s resurrection on Sunday transformed that day into one of sanctification. In other words, every Sunday is a new Easter for us, Christians.
When we go to church on Sunday, it resembles going to the Christ’s gravesite. We visit His gravesite and celebrate the Divine Liturgy on the stone, the Holy Altar, which anchors our lives. There we witness the sunrise of our lives, our Lord’s resurrection from death, light rising from the darkness. He rescued us from the darkness of death. In other words, we bring our sins and suffering to Him, die with Him on the Holy Cross, and we rise with Him, free of sin. Every Sunday, we leave the church as a new, resurrected person.
Members of the Jewish faith celebrate a similar religious ritual on Saturday evenings. On Saturday evening, they stop from all of their daily activities and turn off all of their lights. The father of the household says the Kiddush, blessing the cup of wine and the Challah (the bread). He lights the candles for the ritual. This ritual takes place in every Jewish household every Saturday.
We continue to bless the last day of our week, Sunday, using the same ritual but with an entirely new meaning. Our food is not simply bread and wine, but the true body and blood of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Moreover, we do not celebrate solely within our family but with our extended church family. Christ’s triumph over sin and death gives us a new reason to celebrate and bless the “resting day.” While we should enjoy God’s blessing, we can’t forget to thank Him for His blessings. We raise His body (bread) and blood (wine) as our Lord raises us from death and our sins. Glory to Him and to the Holy Eucharist forever!