As I observed in this month’s parish newsletter, when my Episcopal 101 class at St. Thomas Church looks at the Church Year, we sometimes talk about how the 50 days of the Easter Season are one-seventh of the calendar.
Easter Season is to the whole year as Sunday is to each week. Just like we put on our “Sunday best” and celebrate the Eucharist on Sundays, the whole Easter Season is a high point in the church’s calendar.
I think it might be the same way with these late summer months of July and August. The next several weeks, about one-seventh of the calendar, are sort of like Saturday.
In the Jewish calendar, Saturday is the Sabbath day, the day of rest. Honoring the Sabbath, in the Biblical story, means taking time off from creating in order to relax and enjoy the fruits of creation. After six days of creation, God rested on the seventh day.
Have you noticed how in these summer months, things tend to slow down a bit? We may spend more time on the deck or patio grilling out, or we may cancel our evening meetings because people are traveling to see their families.
Slowing down is an important part of our human experience. God made it so from the very beginning.
We humans often have a hard time observing the Sabbath, though – at least I know I do!
Sometimes, we make rules about relaxation or we overschedule our rest time, which really means we’re still controlling, still working – and it sort of defeats the whole purpose.
“I’m going to the cookout for 60 minutes, then I’m going to the graduation party for 45 minutes, then we’re all going to enjoy miniature golf this afternoon, then we’re all going to Grandma’s house for dinner.”
What can you do in this “Saturday” of the year – the next few weeks – to be kind to yourself and to give yourself a chance to rest?
You probably still have to work, and you probably can’t really control that, but what can you do to “unschedule” the rest of your time?
A Collect for Saturdays
O God, who after the creation of the world rested from all your works and sanctified a day of rest for all your creatures: Grant that we, putting away all earthly anxieties, may be duly prepared for the service of your sanctuary, and that our rest here upon earth may be a preparation for the eternal rest promised to your people in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.(BCP 99)
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For some quick ideas about observing Sabbath time, check out the Sabbath Manifesto, whose “cell phone sleeping bag” is pictured above. The Sabbath Manifesto promotes ten principles for a weekly day of rest, starting with “Avoid Technology.”
One of the teachings of the Orthodox Church is the observance of the Sabbath *and* The Lord’s Day. Sunday is not the Christian Sabbath. Christ never abolished the Sabbath, for God created it and called it holy. During the Lenten season we “fast” from the Eucharist during the week, but we reclaim Saturday as a Eucharistic day. It always *is* a Eucharistic day, and many convents that do not have a regular priest will have their Eucharist on a Saturday and attend a local church on Sundays. The things prohibited by the Lenten fast are lessened on Saturdays AND Sundays during Lent, and the Divine Liturgy is celebrated on Saturdays, even if it is not regularly celebrated during the year. The special liturgies for Saturdays in Lent are devoted to the dead. We make increased prayers and supplications on behalf of the departed.
Reclaim the Sabbath! It was never taken away. Celebrate it and rest.
Lew, I believe the Book of Common Prayer, in its understated way, teaches the same thing. Easter Day is the Day of Resurrection — and it follows that every Sunday is an Easter, not a Sabbath. The collects in the Daily Office clearly mark Saturday as a day of rest.
Personally, from my wife’s Seventh-Day Adventist family I learned a new appreciation for the Sabbath as a day of rest, though I disagree with their also making it the day of worship.