The Sabbath Commandment and Sunday

The Sabbath Commandment and Sunday

ARE Sunday-keeping Christians correct in declaring that the blessings and responsibilities of the Sabbath were transferred to Sunday? If so, when was such a transfer made, and for what reason? To the Catholic the question is whether or not the Sabbath commandment can be applied to Sunday mass. . .

-an executive editor of Ministry at the time this article was written

ARE Sunday-keeping Christians correct in declaring that the blessings and responsibilities of the Sabbath were transferred to Sunday? If so, when was such a transfer made, and for what reason? To the Catholic the question is whether or not the Sabbath commandment can be applied to Sunday mass.

Christopher Kiesling, O.P., professor of sacramental theology at the Aquinas Institute, Dubuque, Iowa, and the author of numerous books, discusses why Sunday, rather than Friday, was chosen as the day for the mass, in an article appearing in the September, 1972, issue of the St. Anthony Messenger (Cincinnati, Ohio). Included in the article are the following paragraphs relating to the above questions.

"To the Sunday-Always: Those upholding Sunday Mass often have recourse to the commandment: Keep holy the Sabbath. But recourse to this commandment is of dubious validity.

"In its strict sense, the commandment means to keep holy Saturday, the day on which Jews, past and present, honor God. The first Christians tried to obey that commandment in its strict sense and also to honor God on Sunday. But within the lifetime of the apostles, they decided that the laws of God for the Jewish people like circumcision, restrictions against certain food, ritual purifications and observance of the Sabbath were no longer binding on the followers of Christ. They continued to respect the Sabbath commandment, however, because it was one of the Ten Commandments; but they gave it a new interpretation. . . .

"After Sunday became a holiday in the fourth century, men and women tended often to abuse the free time which they had on that day. To counteract moral abuses on Sunday, preachers began to apply the Sabbath commandment to Sunday. But this application be came significant only around the sixth century. Recourse to the Sabbath commandment to support Sunday Mass, therefore, is a relatively late practice. More importantly, such recourse is not in accord with the interpretation of the commandment so close to the origins of Christian life."

Indeed. The Sabbath is still the Sabbath. If another day were to have been chosen as a substitute, would it not have been just as logical to have chosen Friday, since the cross stands at the center of our hope?


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-an executive editor of Ministry at the time this article was written

August 1974

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