Weekends are for Worship: Sunday in the Early Church

Flavius Justinus, the Philosopher and Martyr, was one of the early Christian apologists (second century).  He not only wrote and spoke in defense of Christianity, he ultimately laid down his life for his faith. In his appeal to the Roman Caesar, Titus, he described the Sunday worship of early Christians:

“And on the day called Sunday there is a meeting in one place of those who live in cities or the country, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read as long as time permits. When the reader has finished, the president in a discourse urges and invites [us] to the imitation of these noble things. Then we all stand up together and offer prayers. And, as said before, when we have finished the prayer, bread is brought, and wine and water, and the president similarly sends up prayers and thanksgivings to the best of his ability, and the congregation assents, saying the Amen; the distribution, and reception of the consecrated [elements] by each one, takes place and they are sent to the absent by the deacons. Those who prosper, and who so wish, contribute, each one as much as he chooses to. What is collected is deposited with the president, and he takes care of orphans and widows, and those who are in want on account of sickness or any other cause, and those who are in bonds, and the strangers who are sojourners among [us], and, briefly, he is the protector of all those in need. We all hold this common gathering on Sunday, since it is the first day, on which God transforming darkness and matter made the universe, and Jesus Christ our Saviour rose from the dead on the same day.”

Justin, the Martyr, First Apology, 67


Reading, exposition, and exhortation from Scripture, prayer, communion, generous care for one another . . . whenever I join in such common acts of worship I feel a sense of union and fellowship with believers throughout history who have engaged in the same acts for nearly two thousand years. The forms are as ancient as the church, but, when offered from a heart of worship, the spirit is as fresh as this Sunday.


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