This Week’s Ask Alice: A Question About Sunday – the Lord’s Day – and the Sabbath.



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Charles C. asks: Why is the Sabbath mentioned many times in the N.T. and Sunday only mentioned TWICE in over 30 years after Pentecost strengthened the disciples to evangelize? Paul: One time—commands work (gathering an offering to be collected at a later date) to the Corinthian church with a high commandment-keeping Jewish contingency (1 Cor. 16:1-3), See that church’s formation in Acts 18. Luke: One time (Acts 20:4-14)–talks of communion service on Saturday evening (all the disciples used Jewish reckoning, sunset being the new day), then tells of SEVEN commandment-keeping Jews boating all day Sunday with Luke, and Paul hiking throughout the daylight hours of Sunday to Assos.

Alice answers: The Bible does not furnish a complete account of every event that ever happened, throughout the long history of the Judeo-Christian faith tradition. Nor is the Bible a complete catechism, detailing every recommended belief and practice of the Christian faith.

The Bible is the Holy Spirit inspired, infallible Word of God … as faithfully compiled, written (in part), preserved, certified and translated, by the Catholic Church. It’s also important to remember that the Church was already 400 years old, and firmly established, by the time all of this was actually accomplished.

Attempting to determine specific historical details from the scant accounts appearing in the Bible alone … some 2000 years after the fact, without reliance on authentic Catholic tradition … is generally an exercise in futility, leading nowhere … or worse, into serious error.

The simple fact is, there was never a need to put into writing that which the church had always and everywhere, from the earliest days, publicly proclaimed and put into actual practice, since (before the Protestant Reformation) every Christian, in every place (even the illiterate) would certainly know such things by memory and through force of habit. Catholics, Orthodox Christians, and even most Protestants, still do.

Now, for the specifics:

The Catholic Church permits Saturday evening “Sunday” worship. Saturday evening worship generally and customarily fulfills the existing Sunday worship obligation.

There are eight New Testament references to “Sunday” … which officially replaces the Old Testament Saturday sabbath, as the Lord’s Day.

First and foremost, Sunday is the day of Jesus’ resurrection … and ever since, Sunday has been celebrated as the primary Feast Day of (virtually) all Christianity.

1: Jesus rose from the dead early on the first day of the week…

2: He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast out seven demons. (Mark 16:9)

3: That same day Jesus appeared to two of His disciples on the road to Emmaus. (Luke 24:33-35)

4: On the evening of that first day of the week, even though the disciples had locked the doors of the place where they were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood before them. (John 20:19)

5: A week later (Sunday) Jesus appeared to Thomas to dispel his doubts about His resurrection. (John 20:26)

6: Pentecost, the birthday of our Church, occurred on a Sunday.

7: While in Corinth, Paul takes up a collection for the relief of needy believers on a Sunday. (Acts 11:27-30)

8: During a Sunday meeting in Troas, Paul preached so long that a youth named Eutychus, who was sitting on a window sill went to sleep, then fell from the third story and died. Paul restored him to life and continued preaching. (Acts 20:3-14)

In two other New Testament sabbath passages we have St. Paul explaining that Christians are NOT required to observe the Jewish sabbath. One key example:

No one is free, therefore, to pass judgmenton you in terms of what you eat or drink or what you do on yearly or monthly feasts, or on the sabbath. (Colossians 2:16)

Paul often preaches in Jewish synagogues on the Sabbath. However, he does not preach in synagogues as a religious obligation, but rather because that is the place where he can reach the largest number of his Jewish brothers and sisters.

Under the Old Covenant, the Hebrews/Israelites/Jews were obligated under the Mosaic Law to keep the sabbath. Non-Jews were never required to do so.

Under the New Covenant, the awesome and virtually unrestricted power of binding and loosing … on earth and in heaven … was given only to the one, holy, apostolic and universal (Catholic) Church. In the words of Jesus Christ:

And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven. (Matthew 16:19)

Now, there would be “The People of God” – the members of the Catholic Church … and universal, Sunday, Eucharistic worship … according to the express command of our savior:

For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread, and giving thanks, broke and said: Take ye and eat: This is my body, which shall be delivered for you. This do for the commemoration of me. In like manner also the chalice, after he had supped, saying: This chalice is the new testament in my blood. This do ye, as often as you shall drink, for the commemoration of me. For as often as you shall eat this bread and drink the chalice, you shall proclaim the death of the Lord, until he come. Therefore, whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord.
(1st Corinthians 11:23-27)

Jesus Christ gave us an all new, Christian covenant, based on his grace … not on the old law … and on the work, worship, sacraments and devotions of his universal (Catholic) Church … not the old Jewish Temple Worship System, which itself would soon pass away.

After the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, neither Jews nor Gentiles were required to keep the old Saturday sabbath, since the purpose of the old law had been served, and the Old Covenant (in its entirety) had been fulfilled and respectfully set aside by Christ, in favor of the New, grace empowered and saving Covenant, which he instituted for us at the Last Supper, paid for on the cross with his own blood, and confirmed through his glorious resurrection:

For there is no distinction of the Jew and the Greek: for the same is Lord over all, rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Romans 10:12-13)

The Catholic Church … the only living “eye-witness” for Jesus Christ, and for all the events of the New Testament … explains in its official Catechism, the important differences between the sabbath of old, and Sunday, the Lord’s Day:

Sunday – fulfillment of the sabbath

2175 Sunday is expressly distinguished from the sabbath which it follows chronologically every week; for Christians its ceremonial observance replaces that of the sabbath. In Christ’s Passover, Sunday fulfills the spiritual truth of the Jewish sabbath and announces man’s eternal rest in God. For worship under the Law prepared for the mystery of Christ, and what was done there prefigured some aspects of Christ:

Those who lived according to the old order of things have come to a new hope, no longer keeping the sabbath, but the Lord’s Day, in which our life is blessed by him and by his death.

2176 The celebration of Sunday observes the moral commandment inscribed by nature in the human heart to render to God an outward, visible, public, and regular worship “as a sign of his universal beneficence to all.” Sunday worship fulfills the moral command of the Old Covenant, taking up its rhythm and spirit in the weekly celebration of the Creator and Redeemer of his people.

In Christ’s love,

Alice

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