The Catholic Faith in Slow Motion(no. 21)
The Lord's Day
The Sanctification of Time . . .
In our time, we are in the midst of some misery, then time crawls; there is too much time. And the problem of time is, of course, all tied up with the problem of death. The frantic race against time, has much to do with this race against death. In his Meditations on Liturgy, the monk Thomas Merton wrote of the anxiety of the “modern pagan,” the “child of technology,” who “lives not only below the level of grace but below the level of nature—below his own humanity. . . . In such a world, a man's life is no longer even a seasonal cycle. It is a linear flight into nothingness, a flight from reality and from God” (Meditations on Liturgy, p. 31).
The gospel of Jesus Christ banishes this demonic fear of time. By his resurrection from the dead, Christ has declared his lordship over time, banishing the demons that would make time our enemy. By faith in Christ, time is no longer the thief that steals away our happiness; it is the herald announcing the approach of a destination. In the rhythms of her liturgical calendar, by her sacramental time-keeping, the Church announces Christ's “taming” of time. Christian worship breathes with this sense of the transformation of time.
Sabbath Rest . . . Lord's Day . . .
“Remember the Sabbath Day, and keep it holy” (Ex. 20:8; Deut. 5:12). This third commandment of the Decalogue establishes the principle of biblical time-keeping. The commandment recalls that on the seventh “day” of creation, the Creator declared the creation good, and “rested” from his creating labors. Just so, God's creatures may join in God's Sabbath rest, knowing that we do not have work 24/7. God is Creator and we are not. We are commanded to rest as an act of faith in our Creator.
After Christ “rested” from the “labor” of our redemption, after his Sabbath rest in the grave, he was raised to Life Eternal, establishing the first day of all days. The Sabbath or seventh day was not forgotten; it was fulfilled, its meaning taken up into the new “Day of the Sun”— “when the disciples gathered together on the first day of the week to break bread” (Acts 20:7). From the first, Christians were urged “not to neglect the meeting together, as is the habit of some, but to encourage one another” (Heb.10:25).
“The Church which waits for her Lord and anticipates the revelation of his lordship over all the kingdoms of this world, will never abandon the sign of Sunday. . . . This day proclaims loudly to all the world, even the modern heathen world, that man through his own care and work can never build the kingdom of eternal glory” (A. De Querrain). This is why the law of the Church makes clear that Sunday “is to be observed as the foremost holy day of obligation in the universal Church” (can. 1246)
Holy Leisure . . .
As an ancient Christian sermon urges: “Come to Church early, approach the Lord, and confess your sins, repent in prayer. . . . Be present at the sacred and divine Liturgy, conclude in prayer and do not leave before the dismissal. . . . This day is given to you for prayer and rest. This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
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