The Sabbath Day
Sunday, the seventh day of the week is the sabbath, a day of solemn rest, that is set aside for the Lord. This goes all the way back to the dawn of creation when God made everything in six days and then rested on the seventh. The Sabbath day also marks the work of the Lord of acting on Israel’s behalf and freeing them from slavery in Egypt.
The Sabbath is a day of rest and refreshment. Jesus shows us in the Gospels that this does not necessarily mean refraining from all work, without exception. Instead, we must realize that the poor are to be refreshed as well. And so, the Sabbath is a day of doing good for others as well.
The Lord’s Day
As with many things, the New Covenant fulfills and elevates the Old Covenants. The Sabbath remains on Saturday, but Sunday is the fulfillment of the Sabbath. Sunday is the “eighth day” of the week and is symbolic of the new creation which was brought about by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus rose from the dead on the “first day of the week” and, therefore, consecrated a new moral commandment.
We are to keep holy the day of the Lord by celebrating Sunday in an “outward, visible, public, and regular worship ‘as a sign of universal beneficence to all (CCC 2176).’” Our Sunday worship is the fulfillment of the moral command of the Old Covenant to keep holy the Sabbath day.
The Sunday Eucharist
The Sunday celebration of the Eucharist, on the day set aside for the Lord, is the heart of the Church’s life. When we celebrate the Sunday Eucharist, we are marking the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In this way, every Sunday of the year is a mini-Easter.
The faithful gather together each Sunday and celebrate in the liturgical life what Christ has done, Who He is, what He has taught, and what He is doing through us today. Therefore, we go to church each Sunday, as well as holy days of obligation.
As St. John Chrysostom said,
“You cannot pray at home as at church, where there is a great multitude, where exclamations are cried out to God as from one great heart, and where there is something more: the union of minds, the accord of souls, the bond of charity, the prayers of the priests.”
The Sunday Obligation
Catholics are obligated and privileged to participate in the Holy Mass on Sundays and other holy days of obligation. The Eucharist is the beginning of our life of grace, and it is the apex of the mountain for which we yearn. Unless we are excused for a serious reason such as illness or the care of an infant or dispensed by our pastor, we fall into grave sin if we skip going to Mass on Sundays or holy days of obligation.
We are not saved by ourselves. We need our brothers and sisters in Christ, and they need you and me. We must be present in the Parish to pray as a Eucharistic assembly. Of course, there are many places in the world where there is a severe shortage of priests. In these cases, even, the people gather to break open the Word and pray together.
A Day of Grace and Rest from Work
God rested on the seventh day from the work of creation. Therefore, the Lord’s Day, the fulfillment of the Sabbath, must be marked by an enjoyment of “adequate rest and leisure to cultivate… familial, cultural, social, and religious lives (CCC 2184).”
As much as possible, we are to refrain from “engaging in work or activities that hinder the worship owed to God, the joy proper to the Lord’s Day, the performance of the works of mercy, and the appropriate relaxation of mind and body (CCC 2185).” We should not, however, neglect our duties to our family. As St. Augustine teaches, “The charity of truth seeks holy leisure – the necessity of charity accepts just work.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church also teaches that,
“In respecting religious liberty and the common good of all, Christians should seek recognition of Sundays and the Church’s holy days as legal holidays. They have to give everyone a public example of prayer, respect, and joy and defend their traditions as a precious contribution to the spiritual life of society.”CCC 2188
Even if our society does not recognize the Risen Lord, nonetheless, it is our joy and duty to witness to the joy of His Resurrection each Sunday.
Every Sunday is a mini-Easter and should be celebrated as such!