September 05, 2021
Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers and was established in 1887 by President Grover Cleveland. Labor Day is an annual national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country! In the late 1800s, at the height of the Industrial Revolution here in the United States, the average American worked 12-hour days and seven days a week just in order to merely survive. Despite restrictions in some states, children as young as 5 or 6 toiled in mills, factories and mines across the country, earning a fraction of their adult counterparts’ wages. When the workers pushed back, Chicago became the setting for the bloody Pullman strike of 1894, which catalyzed the establishment of an official Labor Day holiday in the U.S.
There is another Labor Day we Christians celebrate and it happens more frequently! We, the laborers for our Lord are given one day week as a day of rest. The commandment given to Moses says “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it”(Ex 20:8-11)
In the ancient Jewish and Orthodox liturgical times, the next day begins at sundown. For the Jews the day of rest is Saturday. For us Orthodox people the day of rest begins after Great Vespers Saturday evening and completes Sunday evening well after the reception of the Lord’s Supper. It is a celebration of the resurrection of Christ. In Genesis we read: “Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” (Gen 2:1-3)
The Sabbath day is an important day. The One, who formed us from the clay and breathed His breath of life into us, clearly knows what is beneficial for our health. This day needs to be a day of rest and a day that is holy or set apart for God. “Come to Me, all ye who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. [Mt. 11:28] People that struggle with keeping the Sabbath Day holy say they just can’t take care of everything during the week and these folks will continue to struggle with not having enough time. The devil has tricked them into being so busy with stuff, that in their busyness they cannot find God!
Without keeping this day holy you will eventually find yourself in the hospital when you are overcome with worldly stress and your little world is falling apart, or you will build a wall separating yourself from God, placing many obstacles in the way of your salvation and keeping you away from your church attendance. We must stay on the road to salvation and return to God weekly with penitence and humility and be renewed by the Body and Blood of Christ! If we think we do not need this day of rest then we are placing ourselves above God! “But if thou art willing to enter into life, keep the commandments.” [Mt. 19:17]
St. Paul reminds us in his letter to Corinth: “For we are God’s co-laborers; ye are God’s cultivation, ye are God’s building.” [1 Cor. 3:9] May you have a blessed labor day this week and a blessed restful Sabbath day each and every following week!
Fr. Gabriel Weller 9-2-18/ 9-5-2021 revisit
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