Bright Saturday and Feast of Holy Father John the Righteous
YOU WILL UNDERSTAND how much better Sunday is than other feast days from what follows. Every other festival comes round once a year, but the Lord’s Day comes round four times every month, and this frequent recurrence makes the whole year a year of true remission for us, a year acceptable to the Lord (cf. Is. 61.2). It was in order to teach us to celebrate it in practice at the end of each week that the Lord first appeared to the disciples inside the house while Thomas was absent (John 20:19-24). He proved He was alive and gave them peace. By His breathing upon them He renewed the divine breath given in the beginning (Gen. 2.7), and endowed them with the grace of the Holy Spirit, imbuing them with divine power to bind and loose sins. He made them sharers in the exercise of His heavenly lordship, saying to them, “receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whosoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosoever sins ye retain, they are retained” (John 20.22-23).
The Lord granted them this power and grace when He appeared to them on the very day of His resurrection, obviously a Sunday. Then, letting the intervening days of the week elapse, He appeared in the same manner and in the same house, on the eighth day, the Sunday we celebrate today, to inaugurate His festival and to bring the hesitant Thomas to faith. According to the Saviour’s beloved evangelist and disciple, “After eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you” (John 20.26).
You will see that it was Sunday when the disciples assembled and the Lord came to them. On Sunday He approached them for the first time as they were gathered together, and eight days later, when Sunday came round again, He appeared to their assembly. Christ’s Church continually reflects these gatherings by holding its meetings mostly on Sundays, and we come among you and preach what pertains to salvation and lead you towards piety and a godly way of life.
Let no one out of laziness or continuous worldly occupations miss these holy Sunday gatherings, which God Himself handed down to us, lest he be justly abandoned by God and suffer like Thomas, who did not come at the right time. If you are detained and do not attend on one occasion, make up for it the next time, bringing yourself to Christ’s Church. Otherwise you may remain uncured, suffering from unbelief in your soul because of deeds or words, and failing to approach Christ’s surgery to receive, like the divine Thomas, holy healing. There exist not only thoughts and words of faith but also deeds and acts of faith—“Shew me”, it says, “thy faith by thy works” (cf. Jas. 2.18)—and if someone abandons these and is completely distanced from the Church of Christ and given over wholly to worthless pursuits, his faith is dead, or non-existent, and he himself has become dead through sin.
—St Gregory Palamas, “Explaining the Mystery of the Sabbath and of the Lord’s Day”