Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sunday or Sabbath?

A couple of years back, I tried to make each Sunday a chance to post on some topic of Faith, and with this posting I will be going back to that effort.

It's appropriate to start here on a summer Sunday with a two-part theme: 1) When should you go to Church in the first place?, and 2) Why do many drift away as summer comes?

Let's start with an effort to answer that first question. These days, many churches celebrate their weekly obligation services of the Mass on Saturday evening, then have a full compliment of Sunday morning services, and some even offer a Sunday evening service.

There are some religious organizations, including Seventh-Day Adventists, who claim that Christians must worship on Saturdays, not on Sundays, because Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath, and they believe that at some point through the years the Church arbitrarily changed things to Sundays.

The fact is that Sundays were the day of worship for Christian believers as far back as New Testament times. Many passages of scripture indicate this practice as more desirable, worshiping on 'The Lord's Day', as Sunday was known to them.

As just one of many examples, St. Ignatius of Antioch describes in a letter to the Magnesians written in 110 A.D. as follows:

"Those who were brought up in the ancient order of things [the Jews] have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s day, on which also our life has sprung up again by him and by his death." 
During the first three centuries, the practice and tradition of consecrating Sunday to the worship of God by the hearing of the Mass and by resting from work first took root, and has remained established ever since, with slight modifications over the years.

Of course, as all know, the obligation to retain a day to honor the Lord comes directly from God's very Commandments.

In the book of Exodus, we see the terms "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy...the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God...in six days the Lord made Heaven and earth...and rested the seventh day."

The tradition of the Church developed this as the 3rd Commandment, or "Remember to keep holy the Lord's day."

The Church itself began the tradition of a Saturday evening 'Vigil Mass' in order for those who simply could not, due to work or other constraints, make a genuine effort to attend Sunday services. These Saturday evening services are not intended for everyday convenience, or to 'get it out of the way'.

People should still be going to Church on Sundays, and setting that day aside as a day of rest as much as is possible. However, again the Vigil on Saturday evenings is there as an outlet for those who simply cannot make the Sunday services.

In any event, it is clear that we should all be setting aside a time during our busy week to worship the Lord together as a community, and that includes the summer time.

Many people become more spiritual and involved in the Church as Christmas approaches, and then vow to continue this into the new year. They seem to do well in the early months, and are re-inspired by the coming of Easter in the spring.

But as spring rolls into summer, and the joys of living outside and enjoying more recreational activities takes over, many drift away from regular attendance at Church. This is exactly the time to not drift away.

It is when we are most distracted, when we are lured by worldly things away from the Lord and his house, away from one another as a Church community, that we should fight back against this urge. Summer time is a great time indeed, but it is nothing more than an excuse to say that because the weather is nicer you cannot find one hour to give specifically to the Lord each week.

All year, through all seasons, attending Mass is a wonderfully refreshing chance to spend an hour in God's house with others directly worshiping Him, receiving Jesus' body and blood in the Eucharist, hearing the Word of God preached, and letting God know that He has a place of importance in our long list of activities in our busy lives.

It's summer time right now, and it's also Sunday. Get to Church today.

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