The Church, Sabbath and Sunday

Some Christians have questioned the observance of Sunday as the holy day to rest instead of Saturday (Sabbath) as God commanded. Their concern is actually not out of place, they have very good reasons to ask.Go to Mass Truly, God gave the command to keep the Sabbath holy, And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done. So, God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in creation, (Gen. 2:2-3). This seventh day of the week is Saturday; so, why do Christians observe Sunday and not Saturday as holy day?

Going through the scriptures, it is obvious that the seventh day was hallowed by God and that Jesus himself “worshiped” on Sabbath day. And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the Sabbath day. (Lk. 4:16). It was his custom, the custom of God’s people to observe the Sabbath as God had commanded. Today, the Church seem to have turned down this commandment to observe her own. Human tradition has taken the place of Devin commandment you may say; yes, that is what it seem.

You may be feeling right now that I am against the Church; not at all. The Church did not actually turned down the commandment of God but holds on to it with all her strength. You may be among those asking why Sunday in place of the Sabbath (Saturday), but remember that Jesus is greater than the Sabbath, he is the Lord of the Sabbath (Mk. 2:28).He did not come to change the custom of his people but to purify it, to fulfill it (Mt. 5:17). In other words, the “Spirit” of the Sabbath still exist in the Church.

There may be different story versions of the emergence of Sunday as the day of rest in place of Saturday. I have heard some say that the Catholic Church just changed it. Wow! Sounds good, it explains the uncontestable authority of the mother Church. That is however not my interest for now, but to expose one of the major reasons some people gave for the Change.

We know that in the Roman empire, the worship of the Sun was very strong. It had its own religion, temples and priesthood. The first day of the week was their special day of worship, hence the name “Sun-day”. But when Constantine became the first Christian Emperor, he “legalized ” Christianity and allowed it to take the place of Sun-worship which was very comfortable with Christians. That is not to say that Constantine changed the Sabbath to Sunday; far from it. Before the legal acceptance of Christianity, the early Church was already worshipping on the first day of the week (Sunday, the Lord’s day) and this is scriptural for those who believe that it must be scriptural for them to accept it.

The tradition of breaking bread (Holy Mass) which the Catholic Church celebrates every day and especially on Sundays is an apostolic tradition. In Acts 20:7, it is recorded that the apostles were already meeting to break bread on the first day of the week (Sunday). On the first day of the week,sunday when we were gathered to break bread, Paul talked with them,… You may want to argue here that this part of the scripture does not prove anything regarding the observance of Sunday as a special day, because just as the Catholic Church offers the Holy Mass every day, so also the apostles did. If you believe that gathering was just like that of any other day, then you are even helping to prove the apostolicity of the Catholic Church. You are in agreement with the Church that what we do today is apostolic.

The first day of the week (Sunday) as a special day is made clearer in 1Cor. 16:2. Here, St. Paul says: On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that contributions need not be made when I come. For St. Paul to talk about making contributions every first day of the week goes a long way to show that the apostles and the early Christians were already meeting every first day of the week.

God rested on the Sabbath after the work of creation. That creation was destroyed by sin and had to be recreated through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The resurrection was on Sunday, the appearances were on Sundays, everything about Jesus Christ after the resurrection were on Sundays. So, for the early Christians, the first day of the week became “the day of the Lord.” The Catholic Church therefore teaches that By a tradition handed down from the apostles which took its origin from the very day of Christ’s Resurrection, the Church celebrates the Paschal mystery every seventh day, which day is appropriately called the Lord’s Day or Sunday. CCC 1166.

Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA

Joel Okojie is an ordained Catholic Priest in the Order of St. Augustine. He has been a Priest for over a decade. He served as pastor in two different parishes, he was one time Novice Master and a member of the Provincial Council of the province of St. Augustine of Nigeria, and he is currently on a mission in response to the needs of the Church in Canada.

2 comments on “The Church, Sabbath and Sunday
  1. Ada says:

    Wao! wonderful. Am so much blessed by this teaching

  2. Umeh Malachy Obiorah says:

    Good one from our p.p.i think I am learning something here.more wisdom!!

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