Sunday - Sunday and Sabbath

Sunday and Sabbath

See also: Sabbath in Christianity

Christians from very early times have had differences of opinion on the question of whether Sabbath should be observed on a Saturday or a Sunday. The issue does not arise for Jews or Seventh Day Adventist, for whom "Shabbat" or Sabbath is unquestionably on Saturday (Acts 13:13-14). Nor for Muslims whose day of assembly (jumu'ah) is on a Friday.

The first given evidence for a differentiation, between traditional Jewish "Shabbat" observance and the religious observance of the first day of the week, appears in Acts 20:7 where the disciples met and "broke bread" together. Some believe this was a participation in the ordinance of the sacrament. Seventh-day Sabbatarians say that the believers met on all days of the week to "break bread" together for the sake of meals and fellowship, such as in Acts 2:46, regarding the incident in Acts 20:7 as nothing outside of usual practice.

Col. 2:16 suggests that early Christians had been judged by others in their traditions of eating foods and in observance of particulars of Sabbath and festivals. Also, the Jews had defined "forty minus one" works to be abstained from on "Shabbat," and Jesus and his disciples had been accused of breaking some of these customs during his ministry.

The Apostle John also refers to the "Lord's Day" ("kuriake hemera") in Rev. 1:10. "Kuriake," meaning "Lord's," later became the Greek word for Sunday. However, in light of the texts Mark 2:28 and Luke 6:5 it is seen that Jesus himself (as the Son of Man) claimed to be the Lord of the Sabbath, and that day fell on the seventh day. Some early Christians observed Sabbath on Saturday, while others gathered for worship on Sunday. However, in AD 363 a seventh-day Sabbath was prohibited by Canon 29 of the Council of Laodicea.

The ancient Romans traditionally used the eight-day nundinal cycle, a market week, but in the time of Augustus, the seven-day week also came into use. The two weeks were used side-by-side until at least the Calendar of 354 and probably later, despite the official adoption of Sunday as a day of rest by Constantine in AD 321. Mithraism kept Sunday holy in honor of Mithras. On 7 March 321, Constantine I, Rome's first Christian Emperor (see Constantine I and Christianity), decreed that Sunday would be observed as the Roman day of rest:

On the venerable Day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed. In the country, however, persons engaged in agriculture may freely and lawfully continue their pursuits; because it often happens that another day is not so suitable for grain-sowing or vine-planting; lest by neglecting the proper moment for such operations the bounty of heaven should be lost.

Many Christians today consider Sunday a holy day and a day of rest and church-attendance. Denominations which observe Saturday as Sabbath are called "Sabbatarians", but the name "Sabbatarian" has also been claimed by Christians, especially Protestants, who believe Sunday must be observed with just the sort of rigorous abstinence from work associated with "Shabbat". For most Christians the custom and obligation of Sunday rest is not as strict. A minority of Christians do not regard the day they attend church as important, so long as they attend, as the apostles and disciples gathered on Sundays, on Saturdays, and whenever they could. There is considerable variation in the observance of Sabbath rituals and restrictions, but some cessation of normal weekday activities is customary.

In Orthodox Christian families and communities, working and requiring somebody else to work are prohibited, including buying goods or services, use of public transport, gardening or driving or washing a car. Allowed exceptions include religious services, electricity, and urgent medical matters. In Roman Catholicism, those who work in the medical field, those in law enforcement, and soldiers in a war zone are dispensed from the usual obligation to avoid work on Sunday.

The majority of Christians observe Sunday as the Lord's day. However, throughout the history of Christianity, some groups have continued or revived the observance of a Saturday Sabbath. More recently, Christians in the Seventh-day Adventist, Seventh Day Baptist, and Church of God (Seventh-Day) denominations, as well as many Messianic Jews have revived the practice of abstaining from work and gathering for worship on Saturdays.

Many languages lack separate words for "Saturday" and "Sabbath." Eastern Orthodox churches, as well as many Roman Catholics, distinguish between Sabbath (Saturday) and Sunday, which some Christians traditionally call the Lord's Day (Rev. 1:10). However, many Protestants and Roman Catholics do refer to Sunday as Sabbath, though this is by no means a universal practice among Protestants and Catholics. Quakers traditionally refer to Sunday as "First Day" eschewing the pagan origin of the English name, while referring to Saturday as the "Seventh day".

In Roman Catholic liturgy, Sunday begins on Saturday evening. The evening Mass on Saturday is liturgically a full Sunday Mass and fulfills the obligation of Sunday Mass attendance, and Vespers (evening prayer) on Saturday night is liturgically "first Vespers" of the Sunday. The same evening anticipation applies to other major solemnities and feasts, and is an echo of the Jewish practice of starting the new day at sunset ("Shabbat" starts on Friday night).

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, Sunday begins at the Little Entrance of Vespers (or All-Night Vigil) on Saturday evening and runs until "Vouchsafe, O Lord" (after the "prokeimenon") of Vespers on Sunday night. During this time, the dismissal at all services begin with the words, "May Christ our True God, who rose from the dead ...." Anyone who wishes to receive Holy Communion at Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning is required to attend Vespers the night before (see Eucharistic discipline). Among Orthodox Christians, Sunday is considered to be a "Little Pascha" (Easter), and because of the Paschal joy, the making of prostrations is forbidden, except in certain circumstances. The Russian word for Sunday is "Voskresenie," meaning "Resurrection day." The Greek word for Sunday is "Kyriake" (the "Lord's Day").

The Czech, Polish, Slovenian, Croatian, Serbian, Ukrainian and Belarusian words for Sunday ("neděle," "niedziela," "nedelja," "недеља", "неділя" and "нядзеля" respectively) can be translated as "without acts (no work)."

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