Sunday, August 16, 2009

Saying of the Desert Christians: Abba Arsenius 2


It was also said of him (Abba Arsenius) that on Saturday evenings, preparing for the glory of Sunday, he would turn his back on the sun and stretch out his hands in prayer towards the heavens, till once again the sun shone on his face. Then he would sit down.

Some thoughts:

As it happens, I write this on a Sunday morning. Do we feel we have to prepare for Sunday? When I was younger and raised as a Roman Catholic, preparing for Sunday meant confession on Saturday and nothing to eat or drink on Sunday until after Eucharist. Then came Vatican 2 and we could go to Mass on Sat and that was deemed just as good as going to church on Sunday.

Up until sometime in the 70s, stores in the USA were not open on Sunday. Oh, yes, the convenience store was, but that was about it. Then store owners successfully talked various governmental bodies to allow stores to be open on Sundays during Advent. (I always thought that a very strange Advent observance). After that, I guess the public wanted the stores open. At least so we were told.

What's the result? Here in the USA, generally speaking, Sunday is pretty much indistinguishable from any other day of the week. Some of us may go to church. Studies on church attendance tell us fewer and fewer Americans go to church.

Here in San Diego, church attendance has dropped due to Little League. Thanks to the climate, Little League is a 12 month a year thing. I am told that there are so many leagues that in order to accommodate them all, games have to be played on Sunday as well as Saturday. Sunday in San Diego is also the day chosen for the various charity events that tie up many of our city streets and the freeway.

The Desert Christians observed Sunday quite differently. Helen Waddell in her book, _The Desert Christians_, describes Sunday in the desert of Egypt as the day they came together. The other 6 days they were separate. The Sabbath in the desert began at sunset on Saturday when the monks would pray together through the night and the next day have the agape meal. This would be when the questions were asked and what now know as the Sayings were uttered. They spent the day together, praising God, teaching one another, learning from one another, singing hymns. At sunset on Sunday they went back to their cells.

Their Sabbath sure is different from ours. What could we do to reclaim some idea of "Sabbath rest" for ourselves and families?


  • At 4:56 AM, Blogger Gus said…

    My first thought is kind of irreverent: "I bet that was tough to do, standing like that all night, especially at the winter solstice, when the night was lots longer." But this was something important enough to him that he did it anyway, regardless of the weather or the length of the night. Imagine someone having that much time now!

    Well, we do have that much time now. We may measure time a little differently than they did back then, but time itself hasn't changed any, not really: the sun rises, the sun sets. Days pass and become years, or sun-rounds, or seasons ("It was two hands of sun-rounds ago that the big fires came." "She will be three years old next week."). Hasn't it always been like this?

    Nowadays, we are so frantic about filling up every second as full of activities as we can that of course we're losing touch with God. And our priorities are different, too. Overtime causes our paychecks to be larger; going to church does not. Making the kids play soccer and take violin and and and and makes for better college applications. Spending time in prayer does not. We've allowed ourselves to become so addicted to tangible results that we can't enjoy anything anymore - especially something so seemingly nebulous as God.


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