Resurfacing Sabbath and Sunday

See the source imageYou may have noticed that the Laudato Si’ 237 discussion has awakened recently. I welcome comments and discussion here. I suspect the action there is driven by some aspect of the google. At the risk of making a rabbit hole here with something that won’t get recognized in the greater internet, here’s a peel-out thread for chatting up the merits or problems of Sunday.

First, the oldest Christian tradition is Sunday. It wasn’t a malicious attempt to undermine God or the command to keep holy the Sabbath. Our friend Mr Harris made some comments I’d like to address:

The Sabbath is not Jewish. It was instituted at Creation. It was created for all mankind. Mark 2:27.

Not quite. The creation stories of pagan traditions did not, as far as I know, include a day of rest after gods or God finished the creation of the world. The first place this appeared in human religion was in the Torah and observed by the people Israel starting with Moses.

If the Bible is read as history with a modern methodology, one can see the Lord’s Day of rest instituted sixty-nine chapters before the Decalogue. That’s not likely how the Pentateuch was assembled, but that’s indeed a topic for serious Bible study.

(Jesus) never said one word about Sunday, and the event of the Resurrection does not warrant a weekly Day of Worship over it.

He also never said anything about the Bible as we have it, especially the New Testament. Christians accept the movement of the Third Person in the Church and in its communities. If the earliest tradition of first- and second-century Christians was to celebrate on Sunday, I can accept this as “correct.”

Acts 15 setting (sic) nothing, as obviously they did not tell new converts there to worship God, or to avoid lying, stealing etc. Acts 15 was dealing with new converts, and referred to the Law of the Stranger in Leviticus, to deal with what should be asked for, at the beginning of their walk.

Strictly speaking, the command to observe a Sabbath isn’t an explicitly moral or ethical mandate. It is a matter of religious care–support for believers and a time set aside from a culture of intense work to honor God.

If a person thinks that first century Rome was like modern America, that is an aspect in need of study. Christianity had wealthy adherents, but they weren’t in the majority. Most Christians of the early centuries were slaves, servants, and working-class people. There was no day of rest at all for the 99%. The Jewish Sabbath could not be observed outside of a supportive theocracy. Most Christians had to work. Many had to slave for others. The best that could be expected was an act of worship in the corner of waking hours. Early believers determined that the first day of the week was the day.

In Acts 15, the apostles and elders in Jerusalem did not ask Gentile Christians to observe the seventh day. They limited the observance of Jewish law to four items. Yes, we can assume that ethics were a given: don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t kill. We know these were taken quite seriously by many early Christians–pacifists, desert mothers and fathers, and certainly martyrs. Keeping the prescriptions of a Jewish Sabbath were not in the picture. But Jesus urged his followers to do more than the minimum.

And further, there is often a confusion about how Jews keep a Sabbath. Worship and sacrifice were conducted in the Temple. The synagogue tradition was for teaching and prayer–that was the ordinary experience of most observant Jews, as it is exclusively today.

Anyway, there is no Justification whatsoever for Sunday Worship, for the Bible never commands it, there is no reference to a “new creation” of a “new day”, for it isn’t necessary.

Obviously, a vast majority of Christians disagree.

Like Mr Harris, I advise careful and attentive study. One has to look at the full picture of history. If one is unconvinced by Sunday worship, and one is curious about the resistance to moving things to Saturday, it might be helpful to return to the Christians who first advocated Sunday. They weren’t “incorrect.” They were following the Holy Spirit.

Many Christians have taken the aspiration to holiness even further. The early Christians in Acts prayed daily. Many Christians continue this. They gather for Mass or for a Word service on Sunday. They do the same on other days of the week–even on Saturdays. This approach is actually more in keeping with the Lord’s teaching in the Gospels. He wanted his followers to aspire to a sanctity that surpassed the religious establishment of his day.

Speaking for myself, I’m not commanded to pray daily, celebrate Mass on weekdays, ready the Bible daily, meditate or conduct intercessory prayer often. But I do so because others have advised it, and I have found fruit in it. In a way, the most serious Christians–people far more holy than I–have kept every day as the Lord’s day. That seems the best way of all.

About catholicsensibility

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