“In the beginning, God created heaven, and earth. And the earth was void and empty, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God moved over the waters. And God said: Be light made. And light was made. And God saw the light that it was good; and he divided the light from the darkness. And he called the light Day and the darkness Night; and there was evening and morning one day.”
Genesis 1:1-5 (Douay-Rheims Version)
Today is Sunday, and today is the first day of the week. This is the day when creation began. The first day of creation. Some may ask, “I thought God rested on the last day, and that is why we rest today!” The fact is that Saturday is the seventh day on which God rested, and it is still the Sabbath, technically. This is why no matter what week of the year it is, whether it be a fasting season or Pascha, every Saturday is a day where fasting is relaxed and when divine liturgy may be celebrated. However, Sunday also has another name: the 8th day of creation. It is on this day that Christ rose from the dead. By rising, He created new life for us.
Over time, we transferred all of the Sabbath resting requirements to Sunday, thus making every Sunday a day of feasting and a day of rest. So Sunday occupies a weird position. It is both the 1st day and the 8th day. If you consider it, that is very appropriate.
The Sunday liturgy is the climax and finale of our week. All of our prayers, all of our work, and anything we do that is good is offered to God on Sunday. I always picture myself as taking all my cares, worries, and troubles and laying them before the altar when I attend Saturday Vespers (since liturgically, the Sunday actually begins sundown on Saturday and ends sundown on Sunday). Through the course of the day, I trust God to take whatever I offer and transform them to what is good.
That transformation is what begins my week. There is no better way to both end and start the week by receiving the Holy Mysteries of the Body and Blood of our Lord and God and Savior, Jesus Christ. It is that Holy Communion that transforms me into someone who can go out into the world for the next few days to spread the Gospel by the way I live my life and to help in the avoidance of sin. And when the week ends, Holy Communion refreshes me, fatigued from a week of life. “Come to me, all you that labour, and are burdened, and I will refresh you” (Matthew 11:28 DRV).
However, the mistake we can fall into is thinking of Sunday Liturgy solely in terms of receiving communion and what we get out of going. Yes, we receive grace (which, by the way, isn’t something that can be quantified – it is immaterial) by going, and yes, we are refreshed. We go to worship God and to rejoice in His Holy Resurrection. It is where heaven and earth meet and we worship Him in His Holy Place.
“Let us give thanks to the Lord”
“It is proper and just”
Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom (Ruthenian Translation)
It is proper and just to praise Him. This one part of the Liturgy fully depicts why we are there. To give thanks to the Lord. Thanksgiving. Eucharist. We give thanks to Him by commemorating His life, death, resurrection, ascension, the sitting at the right hand of the Father, and His Second Coming in Glory. While the Second Coming has yet to occur, we commemorate it since the Divine Liturgy transcends space and time.
Why is communion, then, a part of this thanksgiving? It doesn’t seem to make sense that we give thanks in order to receive more from God. The fact is, receiving the Holy Mysteries is an act of thanksgiving. We are showing our gratitude by fulfilling His Commandments: “Do this in memory (anamesis) of me.”
“For as often as we eat this Bread and drink this Chalice, we proclaim Your death O Lord, and profess Your Resurrection.”
Divine Liturgy of St. Basil
By receiving the Holy Mysteries, not only are we united to Christ, we offer Him the greatest thanksgiving and act of worship we can offer – we unite ourselves to His sacrifice, and we submit to His commands.