Sunday, February 13, 2005

is sunday the christian version of the sabbath?

as today is sunday, it might be nice to say something about what sunday means--in particular what it means in relation to the jewish sabbath.

contrary to what is sometimes believed, sunday is not the christian version of the "sabbath." according to adrien nocent, o.s.b.: "Sunday is in no way a Saturday transposed to Sunday. The theological orientation of Sunday is entirely different from that of the Sabbath. When Sunday is compared with the Sabbath at this period [of the early Church] it is solely for reasons of anti-Jewish polemic or to attack the Judeo-Christians."

for christians, the "sabbath rest" is not so much a day, as it is a Person. it is in Christ that we have our rest...and through Christ's life, death, and resurrection the sabbath obligation is fulfilled. so when we gather on sunday to celebrate the eucharist we do so to celebrate the paschal mystery--the mystery of the saving work that Christ has won for all through His death and rising, which occured on sunday. and we are called to engage in works of charity and justice on behalf of our community on that day. it might interest you to know also that it wasn't until the year 351, on the order of the emperor constantine, that the notion of a sunday rest emerges.

in the words of pope john paul II from his apostolic letter dies domini: "What God accomplished in creation...has found its fullest expression in Christ's death and resurrection, though its definitive fulfillment will not come until the Parousia, when Christ returns in glory." that is the meaning of sunday for us! it is to celebrate the work of Christ--the work which fulfilled and completed all of creation. and we anticipate the definitive completion of creation when Christ returns again and unites all things with God.

so, rather than a christian version of the sabbath, sunday is the sign of the sabbath's fulfillment, a day for looking back to Christ's saving work, and for looking forward to creation's ultimate completion.

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