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The Church, Sabbath and Sunday

02 Nov 2015, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Doctrines

Some Christians have questioned Sunday’s observance as the holy day to rest instead of Saturday (Sabbath) as God commanded. Their concern is actually not out of place; they have excellent 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 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 a holy day?

Going through the scriptures, it is obvious that God hallowed the seventh day 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). His custom, the custom of God’s people, was his custom to observe the Sabbath as God had commanded. Today, the Church seems to have turned down this commandment to observe her own. Human tradition has taken the place of Devine commandment; you may say, yes, that is what it seems.

You may be feeling right now that I am against the Church, not at all. The Church did not actually turn down God’s commandment 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 exists in the Church.

There may be different story versions of Sunday’s emergence 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 incontestable authority of the Mother Church. However, that is 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 powerful. 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) that the Catholic Church celebrates every day and Sunday 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 Sunday’s observance 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, you are even helping to prove the Catholic Church’s apostolicity. You agree 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 was 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.

  • Ada Reply

    Wao! wonderful. Am so much blessed by this teaching

  • Umeh Malachy Obiorah Reply

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