Gathering on the First Day of the Week


Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where they were gathered together.  (Acts 20:7-8)


Roman Catholic biblical scholar Jean Danielou comments on the development of Sunday as the Christian day of worship:

Tertullian bears witness also to the fact that the custom of calling this day dies solis had then spread in the Roman world. As we know, this expression is still that for the Lord’s Day in many countries—Sunday, Sonntag—and, in the writings addressed to pagans, this is the expression used by the Fathers. Thus, Justin writes in his apologia: ‘On the day that is called the day of the Sun, all of us, in the cities and in the country, come together in the same place. The Acts of the Apostles and the writings of the prophets are read. When the reader has finished, he who presides gives a discourse. Then we all rise and we pray together aloud. Then they bring bread, with wine and water. He who presides sends up to heaven prayers and thanksgivings, and all the people answer: Amen‘ (LXVII,5). We have here one of the most ancient witnesses to the synaxis on the Lord’s Day. But even if, in the second century, the custom of calling this day dies solis had spread, it had not yet been taken up in the official life.” (THE BIBLE AND THE LITURGY, p 254).

See also my post: The First Day of the Week.


[There is a detail in the above quote from Acts which intrigues me. It is verse 8, the reference to “the many lamps” in the room in which they were meeting on an upper floor of the building. The detail adds nothing to the narrative, except perhaps to give us the sense that it is night and dark. But since the Scriptures are often sparse on descriptive specifics, it is interesting to ponder why St Luke included that detail in his narrative. For Orthodox accustomed to attending services in dark churches with candle/lampada light, it is easy to imagine that the flickering lights may have mesmerized the young man who then fell asleep while St Paul talked late into the night.


Maybe those who find themselves dozing off during long services in darkened churches while listening to the clergy drone on and on, can take comfort that even those listening to St Paul had their minds wander as they drifted off to sleep (not to mention preachers taking comfort that Paul too preached people into unconsciousness). There is of course risk in falling to sleep during a sermon, as in the Acts account in which the sleeper fell out a window to his death. Of course, Paul was there to revive him not wanting to have been responsible for boring someone to death. As a former preacher and college lecturer (who by personality is introverted and not a charismatic speaker – i.e., who is boring), I put my share of people into a state of somnolence during sermons or lectures, but unlike Paul didn’t bore any literally to death. Of course, I didn’t have Paul’s gift to revive the dead either, but they all seemed to awaken to life quite refreshed when I finished.  There really is more than one purpose for giving sermons!  One never knows what help it may be to the listeners – inspiration, teaching and formation but also much needed sleep.]