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The first day of the week is called in Greek Kyriaké, i.e. “belonging to the Lord“, from the Greek words Kyrios =Lord.
The word Kyrios for the Christian –who apply it to the person of Jesus, is equivalent to a confession and a statement of faith in His divinity and His Resurrection: Jesus Christ is Lord, perfect Man and perfect God.
In the countries of Europe linguistically connected to Latin, the first day of the week is also called the day of the Lord, e.g. dimanche in French, domenica in Italia, Domingo in Spanish, from the Latin word Dominus=Lord.
In the Western and Northern regions of the Roman Empire the first day of the week kept its older name, that of Sunday=the day of the Sun, Sonntag in German, zondag in Dutch etc. That name was due to the Iranian religion of Mithra which held sway in the Roman Empire before Christianity was firmly established. Mithra was supposedly the god of the sun. We know, also, that on the day of the winter solstice, when the days begin to get short, (around December 21st) the Romans held the feast of Solus Invictus, the feast of the invincible Sun. In the second quarter of the 4th century the Church decided to fix the date of Christmas on that same day. In the course of time as Christianity prevailed in the then known world, the religion of Mithra was eventually effaced.
Sunday was, for the first time, made a public holiday on 7 March 321 AD. In July of that same year the holiday was extended to include the agricultural workers. The latter, however, were obliged to work in case of adverse weather conditions threatening the crops as their intervention was deemed necessary in order to save them.
We know, of course, that every Sunday the Church celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus, with Easter Sunday always at the beginning and at the centre of her commemoration.
The joyful character of Sunday was so important in the first Christian centuries that one reads in the “Teaching of the Apostles”, a book of the early 2nd century: “The Christian must be joyful on the Day of the Lord and not let sadness or unhappiness get hold of him, for then he sins”!
In addition, Sunday is never a day of fasting and, in the Orient, it is forbidden to the faithful to kneel on that day, as kneeling is considered an explicit sign of repentance which does not fit in with the joyous ambiance of the Resurrection!
The word liturgy comes from the Greek word λειτουργία (ληϊτός / λειτός + έργον, people + work), and its original meaning was the public work which the city-state in Ancient Greece assigned to certain prominent citizens for the benefit of all.
The Church very early adopted the term liturgy, in order to define her worship gatherings which were certainly organized by the leaders, i.e. the successors of the Apostles, for the benefit of all.
The liturgy is a dialogue of God with His People. It introduces all the baptized into the Mystery of the Trinitarian love and draws the faithful into this movement of love of the Unique God, Father Son and Holy Spirit.
At the liturgy all the baptized, not only the priest, play an active role. They accomplish it through their attention to God’s Word, their participation in the Prayer of the Church and the celebration of the Sacraments.
The basic structure of the liturgy is centered upon the Paschal Mystery which is the pivotal Mystery of Salvation.
The Church at every liturgical gathering celebrates the unique Mystery of the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Its main aim is not to teach, but primarily to offer the experience of Salvation, the experience of God’s love as it is made manifest in the work and person of Jesus Christ. The liturgy is the living and active presence of Christ in His Church through which he continues His Salvific work, namely our sanctification and union with Him; it is a light and a joy in our spiritual life!
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