Wednesday, January 17, 2007

"Keep holy the Sabbath"

This Friday (1/19): Adoration, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. Young adults are invited to join us for Adoration, and then meet in the Gathering Space. We'll go out for dinner afterwards.
Anon wrote, "Jesus never talked about all this obligation stuff. He said that the Sabbath was for man and not man for the Sabbath." Thanks, Anon, and you're right that Jesus probably never used the word obligation. But, are you suggesting that Christ was abolishing the Jewish law, and Third Commandment, to "keep holy the Sabbath"? This is what the Pharisees accused him of. "Jesus never fails to respect the holiness of this day" (CCC, #2173). In the passage to which you refer (Mk 2:27-28), "Christ declares the sabbath for doing good rather than harm, for saving life rather than killing" (#2173). The question raised in Mk 2:27-28 is specifically about doing works on the Sabbath, and not about gathering at the Temple (or Church, now). Doing the latter was never in question.

In his apostolic letter Dies Domini (1998), Pope John Paul II wrote about "the day of the Lord". Here are some excerpts; to view the full text, please click on the title of this post:

"'Sunday is the day of the Resurrection, it is the day of Christians, it is our day' (St Jerome). For Christians, Sunday is 'the fundamental feastday', established not only to mark the succession of time but to reveal time's deeper meaning. The fundamental importance of Sunday has been recognized through two thousand years of history and was emphatically restated by the Second Vatican Council: 'Every seven days, the Church celebrates the Easter mystery. This is a tradition going back to the Apostles, taking its origin from the actual day of Christ's Resurrection — a day thus appropriately designated "the Lord's Day".'...

All human life, and therefore all human time, must become praise of the Creator and thanksgiving to him. But man's relationship with God also demands times of explicit prayer, in which the relationship becomes an intense dialogue, involving every dimension of the person. "The Lord's Day" is the day of this relationship par excellence when men and women raise their song to God and become the voice of all creation. This is precisely why it is also the day of rest. Speaking vividly as it does of "renewal" and "detachment", the interruption of the often oppressive rhythm of work expresses the dependence of man and the cosmos upon God. Everything belongs to God!

The connection between Sabbath rest and the theme of "remembering" God's wonders is found also in the Book of Deuteronomy (5:12-15), where the precept is grounded less in the work of creation than in the work of liberation accomplished by God in the Exodus: "You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with mighty hand and outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day" (Dt 5:15). Because the Third Commandment depends upon the remembrance of God's saving works and because Christians saw the definitive time inaugurated by Christ as a new beginning, they made the first day after the Sabbath a festive day, for that was the day on which the Lord rose from the dead...

Since the Eucharist is the very heart of Sunday, it is clear why, from the earliest centuries, the Pastors of the Church have not ceased to remind the faithful of the need to take part in the liturgical assembly. 'Leave everything on the Lord's Day', urges the third century text known as the Didascalia, 'and run diligently to your assembly, because it is your praise of God. Otherwise, what excuse will they make to God, those who do not come together on the Lord's Day to hear the word of life and feed on the divine nourishment which lasts forever?'.

In his first Apology addressed to the Emperor Antoninus and the Senate, Saint Justin proudly described the Christian practice of the Sunday assembly, which gathered in one place Christians from both the city and the countryside. When, during the persecution of Diocletian, their assemblies were banned with the greatest severity, many were courageous enough to defy the imperial decree and accepted death rather than miss the Sunday Eucharist...

Sharing in the Eucharist is the heart of Sunday, but the duty to keep Sunday holy cannot be reduced to this. In fact, the Lord's Day is lived well if it is marked from beginning to end by grateful and active remembrance of God's saving work. This commits each of Christ's disciples to shape the other moments of the day — those outside the liturgical context: family life, social relationships, moments of relaxation — in such a way that the peace and joy of the Risen Lord will emerge in the ordinary events of life...

This aspect of the Christian Sunday shows in a special way how it is the fulfilment of the Old Testament Sabbath. On the Lord's Day, which — as we have already said — the Old Testament links to the work of creation (cf. Gn 2:1-3; Ex 20:8-11) and the Exodus (cf. Dt 5:12-15), the Christian is called to proclaim the new creation and the new covenant brought about in the Paschal Mystery of Christ..."

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