The seven day week as a microcosm of the Church Calendar.
The Church Calendar, beginning with the first Sunday of Advent and concluding with the Feast of Christ the King, is an intentional re-living of the life of Christ year after year.
In Advent we anticipate his Incarnation that we celebrate throughout Christmas. In Epiphany we recognize the many ways he revealed his true nature throughout the Gospels. In Lent we enter with him into the period of fasting in the wilderness. Holy Week is a slow, purposeful walk through the final week of his life. Easter—the longest of the Holy Seasons!—is a feast celebrating the resurrection of our Lord.
To follow the Church Calendar is to re-live the life of Jesus every year of your life.
But there are some things worth doing not just every year, but every week.
For as long as the Church has been the Church, Christians have used the natural rhythm of the seven day week to be formed—week after week—increasingly into the image of Jesus.
The seven day week serves as a microcosm of the Church Year.
So what is the seven day rhythm of the Christian week?
The Didache is a first century text that describes many areas of life for at least one early Christian community. Here is what it says about fasting:
But let not your fasts be with the hypocrites, for they fast on the second and fifth day of the week. Rather, fast on Wednesday and the Preparation (Friday).
In this specific church manual, the reality that Christians were regularly fasting was understood. The Didache simply gives a prescription for when to do so: Wednesdays and Fridays.
It was on Wednesday that Judas planned the betrayal of Jesus, and it was on Friday that he was crucified.
Throughout the ages, certain days of the week have been given special treatment by Christians, and these days often come with a prescription of sorts.
Not every day of the week has a set purpose or practice. The same is true of the Church Year, too. There are Holy Seasons and Holy Days, but there are plenty of ordinary days throughout the year also.
After all, if every day is special … then no day is really special.
Habit to Adopt: Over the centuries, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays have held a special place in the lives of the faithful. This year, pick one of the days below to specially observe on a weekly basis.
Wednesdays: Fast. This can be a skipped meal, or fasting from a particular type of food, like meat, sugar, or coffee. Or you could avoid eating all day. As you fast, keep in mind that one benefit of fasting is that you are strengthening your moral “no” muscle, or what the ancients called Temperance. As you say “no” when it doesn’t really matter—skipping a meal, for example—you are increasing your ability to say “no” when it matters most.
Fridays: Fast, and remember the Cross. Similar to Wednesday, Christians have often fasted on Fridays. This is most culturally noticeable throughout the season of Lent, when the McDonald’s Filet-o-fish returns to prominence. A collect for Fridays is below, and would be a wonderful prayer to say throughout your Fridays.
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Saturdays: Rest, and prepare for Sunday Worship. This could take the form of a day-long rest—like fasting from a smartphone or screens—or it could be a simple act of preparation, like reading the lectionary texts for Sunday’s sermon or setting out clothes and making a simple breakfast ahead of time in order to make the “get ready for Church” routine a little less hectic. A collect for Saturdays is below, and would be a wonderful prayer to say as you prepare.
Almighty God, who after the creation of the world rested from all your works and sanctified a day of rest for all your creatures: Grant that we, putting away all earthly anxieties, may be duly prepared for the service of your sanctuary, and that our rest here upon earth may be a preparation for the eternal rest promised to your people in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Sunday: Celebrate the Resurrection, and launch into the week. While there are countless biblical topics covered in Sunday services and classes, the Sunday gathering of the faithful is chiefly a celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord. Similarly, it is our weekly celebration of the Resurrection that equips us for the week ahead. Two prayers help capture these things. The first is a general collect for Sundays, and the second is the Post Communion Prayer: the final words prayed by the congregation before the service ends. Whether your church says these prayers or not, consider doing so yourself as you seek to more fully celebrate Sunday.
God, you make us glad with the weekly remembrance of the glorious resurrection of your Son our Lord: Give us this day such blessing through our worship of you, that the week to come may be spent in your favor; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Eternal God, heavenly Father, you have graciously accepted us as living members of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, and you have fed us with spiritual food in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood. Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart; through Christ our Lord. Amen.