|The Lord’s Day - Aug 5|
|2012 - Viewpoint|
|Friday, 03 August 2012 11:59|
By Msgr Michael de Verteuil
Gathering for prayer has always been part of being Christian. When the Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples one of the effects in their lives was that they would go “as a body together to pray......... and would meet in their homes for the breaking of bread” (Acts 2:42). You can't live a full Christian life without gathering with other Christians to pray – and the privileged way of communal prayer is the celebration of the Eucharist, and the privileged day for doing this is the Day of the Lord, Sunday.
The first day of the week was the day of Jesus' resurrection and was the day chosen by the Lord for his appearances after his resurrection: e.g. on Resurrection Sunday to the disciples in the Upper Room (Jn 20:11-18; see also Jn.20:19-29); to the disciples on the way to Emmaus (Lk:24:13-35); the day on which the Holy Spirit came down on the disciples. The Book of Revelation (1: 10) speaks of the Lord's Day.
An early work (the Didache, written somewhere between the years 80 and 120, (around the same time as the Book of Revelation) speaks of Christians gathering to celebrate the Eucharist on “the Lord's day of the Lord”; St Ignatius of Antioch writing to the Church of the Magnesians (the year 110) says, “If they who walked in ancient customs came to a new hope, no longer living for the Sabbath but for the Lord's Day...”
St Justin (150 AD) writes, “On the day called Sunday all who live in the cities or in the country gather together to one place”. And so it has been through the centuries as the Church has sought to fulfill the command of the Lord, “Do this in memory of me”.
It is interesting to read Justin's account of what the Christians did at their Sunday gathering: '”....they gather together in one place and the memoirs of the Apostles or the writings of the Prophets are read , as long as time permits; then when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs and exhorts to imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and as we said before , when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgiving according to his ability and the people assent saying ‘Amen’; and there is a distribution to each and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, ...” Did you recognise here what we continue to do 2000 years later --- the reading from Scripture, the homily, the prayers of the faithful, the preparation of the gifts (the offertory), the Eucharistic Prayer, communion?
The Jewish Sabbath, as a day dedicated to God, the forerunner if you like, of the Lord's Day, looked to the past to celebrate the great acts of God --- creation and the liberation from Egypt (Deut 5:12-15). The Christians too looked at the great acts of God but they found new and more glorious reason to praise and thank God for the New Creation brought about in Jesus' life, death, resurrection and sending of the Holy Spirit, and in the greater and final liberation, not from a human enemy like the pharaoh but from death and evil.
The Lord's Day we call it but all time is God's, not just a day; Sunday however is the day of more explicit prayer in which the relationship with God is lived in a more intense way. Sunday is the heart of the week, and the heart of this day is the celebration of the Eucharist.
Sunday cannot be seen apart from the Resurrection (remember the appearances of the Risen Christ were on the first day of the week). Therefore to celebrate the day, and particularly the Sunday Eucharist, we need to reflect on what the Resurrection means. When we do reflect on the victory the Lord has won for us, the joy and the hope the Resurrection brings us should mark our celebration. We should approach the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist with great thanksgiving and joy and praise. For example, St Augustine (4th century) tells us that in the early Church there was to be no kneeling on Sundays: “Our prayers are said standing as a sign of the Resurrection”. There was to be no fasting for the Sunday was not a day of repentance or mourning but a day of joy.
The Sunday, the gathering, the Eucharist have gone together from the beginning of the Christian Church--- it is when we celebrate together the Sunday Eucharist that we manifest the Church for what she is, a people called by the Lord and set apart to worship. There are those who say that they do not need to go to church on Sunday, that they can pray at home. While it is good to pray at home it is not enough. It is when we gather on the Sunday, the Day of the Lord, that each one of us shows our identity as someone called to be part of God's people, part of the Body of Christ. Not to be part of this worshipping people is to be missing part of our identity, part of the fullness of who we are.
The Letter to the Hebrews admonishes us, “Do not absent yourself from the assembly of the community as some do, but encourage one another..”. (Heb. 10:25). And it goes without saying that the one who does not take part in the celebration, who absents himself/ herself, does not share in the Body and Blood of the Lord, the food of eternal life, the communion with him (John 6: 48-58; 1Cor 10:16), the gift beyond measure that the Lord offers us.
Jesus had his personal prayer life -- we read that he would go off by himself to pray --- but would also join in the weekly community prayer, going to the synagogue every Sabbath “as was his custom”.
The heart of the Sunday is the celebration of the Eucharist but the whole day is the Lord's. We often refer to it as a day of rest but that doesn't mean doing nothing; it is rather a day of relaxation, a break needed by the human being, a day in which there is room for activity which will renew the human spirit, e.g. as Blessed John Paul II offered: family gatherings, providing food for the needy, inviting someone who lives by himself/ herself to a meal, visiting the sick, renewing awareness that all is the work of God as we focus on spiritual values.
“Do not absent yourself from the assembly of the community”. There may be various reasons why people do stay away: hurt by someone in the community, boredom, Sunday is the only day to sleep late, not wanting to be with “those hypocrites” in the church, “Jesus is my personal Saviour – I don't need church”, laziness. Hold these excuses up to the light of what God has done and what we have to give God thanks for, compare them to the great gift of the Body and Blood of Jesus we are being offered, and our excuses pale and fall into nothingness. See our identity as God's people, “a people set apart to sing the praises of God”, and let us celebrate the Lord's Day and the Eucharist as the heart of this day.
Pope John Paul's document on the importance of Sunday, “The Day of the Lord”, on which some of the above is based is available on a number of Internet sites, e.g. www.cin.org/jp2/diesdomi.html________________________________________________________________________________________ **DISCLAIMER**: User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment writer and are not representative of Camsel/Catholic News or its staff. Camsel/Catholic News accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments. Please help us keep our site clean from inappropriate comments by using the flag option. Camsel/Catholic News reserves the right to remove, to edit or to censor any comments. Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will be removed. Before posting, please refer to the Comments Policy under Resources