February 28, 2009

The Lord's Day

The Lord's Day is the temporal expression of prayer. At least, this is what the beginning of Genesis Chapter 2 suggests. Chapter 1 of this first book of Scriptures describes how for six days the Lord created, separated, named and gave purpose to his handiwork. But on the Seventh Day, He rested - He blessed the Seventh Day, as the day on which instead of doing anything, He simply beheld what He had accomplished. And on this Day, rather than bless his works, He blesses the day itself, setting it apart from all the others, as a day of rest. In all the other days, it was not the day itself but the work that He accomplished which he blessed. By blessing the Seventh Day, He said it apart from the rest of the week - as if the time He took for his rest was more important than which He devoted to his work. Indeed, it is as if all his work were rushing to this apex, to this one moment, this day filled with what was before his work - his peaceful being at rest. In what does the rest of the Lord consist? In beholding what is very good, the goodness manifest in creation itself.

Sometime, I hope to discuss how Christians moved from observing the seventh day (Saturday) to observing Sunday. It has to do with the Resurrection of the Lord, the Descent of the Holy Spirit, and the observance of the Lord's Supper at the end of a Saturday night vigil. But now is not the time to explore this theme.

The first thing that the Lord's Day suggests is what prayer itself is. Prayer is entering into the rest of God. His rest consists in beholding what is good and blessing the time devoted to this contemplation. Likewise, prayer is beholding the goodness of God in everything that is. As we see this goodness, we gain a sense of who He is. What is more, by imitating his contemplation, we are also participating in his blessing. That is, we are making time holy, setting it apart for something beyond all the activity that can take place in time. Time is not meant merely for good works. It is also meant for something far beyond itself and its activity.

Elisabeth of the Trinity explains that time is eternity begun and still in progress. Time rushes into Eternity like a river rushing to the ocean. We experience the connection between Time and Eternity everytime we make time to behold the goodness of God. All prayer that is real prayer believes in this goodness, contemplates it, even when it is disguised by suffering, anxiety and privation. This is what Jesus did the night before He died. Knowing that the end was near, Jesus was not distracted from goodness of the Father. He appealed to that goodness for the sake of those he loved. Elisabeth refers to his great priestly prayer in the Gospel of John: that they also may be one in us.

The goodness of the Father characterizes the very essence of Christian prayer. His goodness is relational, an interpersonal encounter. All his work is ordered toward his resting goodness because He desires all things to find their rest, their ultimate end, in Him. Prayer then looks to this relational goodness - this love. It makes time for this encounter, it seeks this encounter, it begs for this encounter, it rests in this encounter. The essence of prayer and the purpose of the Lord's day co-inhere on this point. This encounter with the Lord is at the heart of the Lord's Day: it is what waits for us when we set time apart to discern his goodness in what is.

Now you probably think all this prosaic? We have evolved past taking time to see what is good? After all, everyone knows that modern science has totally disproved Genesis -right? Well, maybe that is true for chronological snobs who do not know the history of Western science. Those who exercise a little more intellectual sobriety might discover that Modern science's observations into relentless progress of things is completely derived from what the Scriptures already revealed about the visible world: http://insidecatholic.com/Joomla/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=5497&Itemid=100