Dies Domini 1: Sunday Has Sacred History

What’s so special about Sunday? The modern West doesn’t seem to care. We work, play, and treat it much like any other day. With maybe still a bit more leisure than other days of the week. But the encroachment by those who prefer to see human beings produce, serve, and make profit is as sure as sunrise.

Pope John Paul II has some things to say about it. This series won’t quite be a liturgy series. As you might imagine from a philosopher like JP2, Dies Domini will explore various aspects across the human sciences as well as theology. Let’s jump in strong, and on a Sunday to boot:

1. The Lord’s Day — as Sunday was called from Apostolic times (Cf. Rev 1:10: “Kyriake heméra“; cf. also the Didaché 14, 1, Saint Ignatius of Antioch, To the Magnesians 9, 1-2; SC 10, 88-89) — has always been accorded special attention in the history of the Church because of its close connection with the very core of the Christian mystery. In fact, in the weekly reckoning of time Sunday recalls the day of Christ’s Resurrection. It is Easter which returns week by week, celebrating Christ’s victory over sin and death, the fulfillment in him of the first creation and the dawn of “the new creation” (cf. 2 Cor 5:17). It is the day which recalls in grateful adoration the world’s first day and looks forward in active hope to “the last day”, when Christ will come in glory (cf. Acts 1:11; 1 Th 4:13-17) and all things will be made new (cf. Rev 21:5).

And so Sunday, even deep in Lent, is a veritable Easter. John Paul II draws on the psalmody, the prime song of Easter Sunday to express what should be expressed:

Rightly, then, the Psalmist’s cry is applied to Sunday: “This is the day which the Lord has made: let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps 118:24). This invitation to joy, which the Easter liturgy makes its own, reflects the astonishment which came over the women who, having seen the crucifixion of Christ, found the tomb empty when they went there “very early on the first day after the Sabbath” (Mk 16:2).

Emmaus (Lk 24:13-35) was a Sunday event, and establishes the connection of the Eucharist to Sunday. (Would it otherwise have been observed on Thursday night? That would be different.)

It is an invitation to relive in some way the experience of the two disciples of Emmaus, who felt their hearts “burn within them” as the Risen One walked with them on the road, explaining the Scriptures and revealing himself in “the breaking of the bread” (cf. Lk 24:32,35). And it echoes the joy — at first uncertain and then overwhelming — which the Apostles experienced on the evening of that same day, when they were visited by the Risen Jesus and received the gift of his peace and of his Spirit (cf. Jn 20:19-23).

It is good to keep in mind those other Sunday events: the experience of faith and of the Risen Christ. And the connection with the promise of the Holy Spirit, as well as Jesus offering reconciliation to Peter, and giving the gift of peace to the disciples. The Holy Father spoke of “Apostles,” but the Scriptural witness of Saint John is that the disciples were gathered–the larger circle of Jesus’ followers. This was a number that almost certainly included women.

Let us be numbered among the disciples today, and keep in mind that tradition.

A reminder: Dies Domini on Vatican site in its entirety.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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