WHY SUNDAY AND NOT SATURDAY?

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The gathering of the early Christians to break bread on the first day of the week.

It is certain that the Holy Catholic Church does not worship on Saturday, which according to the Seventh Day Adventists (SDA) is the last day of the week (Sabbath), when God rested from all the work He had done in creation (cf. Genesis 2:2-3). Instead, the Church worships on the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week (Sunday, the eighth day); the day when God said “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3); the day when Christ rose from the dead; and the day when the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles (Day of Pentecost). The Church infallibly teaches, therefore, that she “celebrates the day of Christ’s Resurrection on the ‘eighth day,’ Sunday, which is rightly called the Lord’s Day” (CCC 2191).

However, as the Adventists contested, God commanded: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you,” (Exodus 20:8-10, NASB). They then insisted that Christians should remain to observe the Sabbath law as Jesus Christ Himself went to the synagogue on the Sabbath to teach (cf. Matthew 12:9John 18:20) as did St. Paul (cf. Acts 17:218:4). Yet, should it be?

First of all, the term Sabbath is an Old English word, which was derived from the Latin sabbatum, taken from the Hebrew šabbāṯ meaning “to rest.”

Thus, upon the completion of creation, God rested on the seventh day and, through Moses, commanded the people of Israel to keep it holy. Indeed, the Old Testament system of Law required keeping the Sabbath as part of the overall moral, legal, and sacrificial system by which the Jewish people satisfied God’s requirements for behavior, government, and forgiveness of sins.

But with Jesus’ atonement, Christians are no longer required to keep the Law. In Galatians 2:16, it reads: “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (see also Galatians 3:11, Romans 3:28). Well, what is this law that the Christians can no longer be justified with? Notice in Acts 13:39, it highlights: “Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.” Certainly, it is the law of Moses — the Old Testament ordinances set for the justification of the people of Israel. Why is that so? The Scripture explains: “For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second” (Hebrews 8:7); because, “In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away” (Hebrews 8:13). See?! Should Christians still keep the Jewish Sabbath? Let Christ testify.

Jesus’ observance of the Sabbath does not constitute strong evidence for its continuation in the new covenant. His observance of the Sabbath makes excellent sense, for he lived under the Old Testament law. He was “born under the law” as St. Paul says (cf. Galathians 4:4). The Lord even proclaims as the Son of Man that He is the “lord even of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28). In fact, working on the Sabbath, of course, is what the Old Testament prohibits, but Jesus did differently. In fact, Matthew 12:1-8, Mark 2:23-28 and Luke 6:1-5 are the passages that Jesus was confronted by the Pharisees for He was believed by them to be breaking the Sabbath commandment. But, did Christ break the Jewish Sabbath? He did not because “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27); and the Christians are no longer bound to it.

It is clear in St. Paul’s letters that the Sabbath is not binding upon believers. In Colossians 2:16-17, St. Paul identifies the Sabbath as a shadow along with requirements regarding foods, festivals, and the new moon, as it reads: “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” The Jewish Sabbath was abolished at the cross where Christ “canceled the written code, with its regulations” (Colossians 2:14).

This idea is repeated more than once by St. Paul: “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord” (Romans 14:5–6a); and he added: “But now that you know God — or rather are known by God — how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years” (Galatians 4:9–10).

On the other hand, on what day did the early church meet for worship? The Sacred Scripture never mentions any Sabbath (Saturday) gatherings by believers for worship. However, there are clear passages that mention the first day of the week (Sunday). For instance, Acts 20:7 states that “on the first day of the week we came together to break bread.” In 1 Corinthians 16:2, St. Paul urged the Corinthian believers “on the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income.” Since St. Paul designated this offering as “service” in 2 Corinthians 9:12, this collection must have been linked with the Sunday liturgy of the particular Christian community.

Furthermore, in Revelation 1:10-11, it reads: “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet, saying, ‘Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.'” NOTE that The New Bible Dictionary suggests that the term, “The Lord’s Day” in Revelation 1:10 is the first extant occurrence in Christian literature of τῇ κυριακῇ ἡμέρᾳ, “ta kuriaka hamera” — a formal designation of the church’s worship day. Thus, the Holy Catholic Church continues to call Sunday as the Lord’s Day since the earliest eras of Christianity while proclaiming: “This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).

Finally, it is to necessary to remember that the Sabbath is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. In Him, one may find rest. He said: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Is there any more rest that is beyond from uniting with the Lord in the Holy Eucharist?

The true sabbath is Jesus Christ. Rest in Him in the Holy Eucharist.

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