Sunday Mornings in the Roman Empire


Of all the fascinating things to study about the life and practices of the earliest Christians, it is their corporate worship that most interests me. The fact that they met for eucharist on Sunday morning is unique in many ways. Though a vast majority of the earliest Christians were converts from Judaism—which viewed the Sabbath (Saturday) as the special day of the week—Christians placed primary emphasis on Sunday, the day of the Resurrection. The Christian practice of Sunday worship was a distinct break from their previous tradition.

What is more—and what I see as uncomfortably thought-provoking for our worship today as Christians—is that Sundays in the ancient Roman empire were nothing like Sundays in modern Western culture. Sunday marked the beginning of the Roman work week. This is why the church met early in the morning. They woke up before the rest of civilization, gathered together for prayer, public readings from the Scriptures, and a celebration of the eucharist.

And then they went to work.