When Sunday Was Kept From Sunset to Sunset

When Sunday Was Kept From Sunset to Sunset

For those interested in the history of the Sabbath-Sunday controversy, here is an item from the article "Vespers," by Desmond A. Schmal, S. J., which appeared in The Catholic Mind (Jesuit) of December, 1946.

By ROBERT L. ODOM, Editor "Our Times," Nashville, Tennessee

For those interested in the history of the Sabbath-Sunday controversy, here is an item from the article "Vespers," by Desmond A. Schmal, S. J., which appeared in The Cath­olic Mind (Jesuit) of December, 1946. The article is a reprint from another Roman Cath­olic periodical, The Ark, published in Stam­ford, Connecticut, in May, 1946. The writer says:

"Today vespers forms a part of the daily office chanted by monks and canons and recited privately by priests throughout the world, but originally it was the first public function of Sundays and feast days, because according to an ancient Jewish and Roman custom, which the early church adopted, the civil day began at sunset."—Page 737.

The writer states that this vesper service was also known at one time as the lucernarium, in which lamps were lighted, and adds:

"Some think that vespers was consciously substi­tuted by the early Christians for the evening sacrifice of the Jews, who at the beginning of the Sabbath lit a special light in the temple; and this custom was also adopted by the church at the vespers of Saturday evening which began her celebration of the [Sunday] Lord's day."—Page 737.

Thus Roman Catholics admit, even in 1946, that originally Sunday was observed from sunset to sunset in the Roman church. Although abundant historical material on this matter of the beginning and the ending of the day is given in the third chapter of my recent book, The Lord's Day on a Round World, here are a few additional items that have come to hand since that volume was penned.

In the year 791 a synod held in Aquileia, Italy, ordered by canon 13 'that the observation of Sunday should begin at vespers on Satur­day." Rabanus Maurus, archbishop of Mainz, Germany; from 847 to 856, wrote on this sub­ject. A well-known Roman Catholic authority says:

"Rabanus was probably the most learned man of his time and age. In scriptural and patristic knowledge he had no equal, and was thoroughly conversant with canon law and liturgy. His literary activity extended over the entire field of sacred and profane learning as then understood." 2

Wrote the archbishop concerning Sunday:

"Hence the holy doctors of the church decreed that all the glory of the Jewish Sabbath should be trans­ferred to it, that what they [the Jews] kept in figure we should observe in truth. . . . Let us, therefore, observe the [Sunday] Lord's day, brethren, and keep it holy as it is anciently commanded concerning the Sabbath, the lawgiver saying: 'From even unto even ye shall celebrate your Sabbaths,' Leviticus 23. Let us see that our rest be not in vain, but from the eve­ning of the Sabbath until the evening of the Lord's day abstaining from rural labor and from all busi­ness, let us attend at divine worship only. . . . Come each one, therefore, whenever it is possible, to the vesper and night service, and in the church assembly pray to God on account of his sins." 8

The synod of Elne, held in Roussillon, France, in 1027, decreed that "none should at­tack his enemy from the ninth hour [three o'clock in the afternoon] of the Sabbath until the first hour of Monday, that everybody may show due honor to the [ Sunday] Lord's day."'

This cessation of hostilities on Sundays, called thereafter the Treve de Dieu (Truce of God), appears to have been first decreed by this council.

A synod held in Rouen, France, in 1072 de­creed in canon 8 that holy orders should be conferred on Saturday night or on Sunday morning without breaking the Saturday fast.' The canon is based on the decree that Leo I, bishop of Rome (440-461), had issued on the subject.

About 1202 or 1203 a council held in Perth, Scotland, under the leadership of Cardinal John Salerno, the legate of Innocent III, ordered that Sunday be observed from the ninth hour of Saturday until Monday morning.


1 Edward A. Landon, A Manual of Councils of the Holy Catholic Church, new and revised edition, vol. (Edinburgh: John Grant, 1909), p. 40,

2 The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 12, p. 617, col. t, art. "Rabanus (Hrabanus, Rhabanus), Maurus Mag­nentius" (New York City: R. Appleton Co., 191 1).

3 Rabanus Maurus, Homily 41, "In Dominicis Diebus." in J. P. Migne's Patrologia Latina, vol. Ito, vols. 76-77.

4 G. D. lsliansi, Sacrorum Conciliorum Nowa et Amplissima Collectio, vol. 19 (Paris : 1901), col. 483.

5 Ibid., vol. 20, col. 37.

6 Ibid., vol. 22, Cols. 743-746.

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By ROBERT L. ODOM, Editor "Our Times," Nashville, Tennessee

March 1947

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