Dies Domini 12: Shabbat and Spouse

More on the theme of Shabbat, the Jewish tradition of Sabbath rooted in God taking the seventh day as a time of joyful rest and regard for creation.

The Sabbath is more than just Law, though it is rooted in the tradition of the Pentateuch:

12. In the Creator’s plan, there is both a distinction and a close link between the order of creation and the order of salvation. This is emphasized in the Old Testament, when it links the “shabbat” commandment not only with God’s mysterious “rest” after the days of creation (cf.Ex 20:8-11), but also with the salvation which he offers to Israel in the liberation from the slavery of Egypt (cf. Dt 5:12-15). The God who rests on the seventh day, rejoicing in his creation, is the same God who reveals his glory in liberating his children from Pharaoh’s oppression.

A liturgist I knew once declared that any story in the Bible, and indeed, any moment in any believer’s life could be found to be primarily a story of Creation or Liberation. Genesis or Exodus–and this is why the Easter Vigil is so important.

Leaving aside that declaration, one can certainly agree with the close relationship liturgically of these events. They defined the Jewish people, to be sure. And future traditions, prominently the prophetic strain, sought renewal of creation and liberation through their message to a faltering and at times, faithless people:

Adopting an image dear to the Prophets, one could say that in both cases God reveals himself as the bridegroom before the bride (cf. Hos 2:16-24; Jer 2:2; Is 54:4-8).

The notion of God as betrothing a people is a classic image from the prophet Hosea. How useful it is in a culture that ascribes a mutuality (if not equality) among spouses remains an open question. But we accept the love, can’t we?

As certain elements of the same Jewish tradition suggest,* to reach the heart of the “shabbat“, of God’s “rest”, we need to recognize in both the Old and the New Testament the nuptial intensity which marks the relationship between God and his people. Hosea, for instance, puts it thus in this marvellous passage: “I will make for you a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground; and I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land; and I will make you lie down in safety. And I will betroth you to me for ever; I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness; and you shall know the Lord” (2:18-20).

* For our Jewish brothers and sisters, a “nuptial” spirituality characterizes the Sabbath, as appears, for example, in texts of Genesis Rabbah such as X, 9 and XI, 8 (cf. J. Neusner,Genesis Rabbah, vol. I, Atlanta 1985, p. 107 and p. 117). The song Leka Dôdi is also nuptial in tone: “Your God will delight in you, as the Bridegroom delights in the Bride … In the midst of the faithful of your beloved people, come O Bride, O Shabbat Queen” (cf. Preghiera serale del sabato, issued by A. Toaff, Rome, 1968-69, p. 3).

The Vatican site has Dies Domini in its entirety.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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