DAILY CATHOLIC    WEDNESDAY     July 22, 1998     vol. 9, no. 142

THE VICAR OF CHRIST SPEAKS

To print out entire text of Today's issue, go to SECTION ONE and SECTION TWO
    INTRODUCTION
          The Apostolic Letter below Dies Domini was released Tuesday, July 8, 1998 by the Holy Father and deals with reasserting Sundays as God's day when we return to family interests and reserve this sacred day for rest and charity as God intended. The Pope cites Church history and earlier encyclicals in showing the course all Catholics near the end of the millennium must follow in returning a semblance of reverence and respect for God's Laws. He calls on all employers to be understanding fo the need to give back to God His day. Below is the sixth of multiple parts that will include the entire 104 page letter over the next several weeks.

APOSTOLIC LETTER DIES DOMINI OF THE HOLY FATHER JOHN PAUL II TO THE BISHOPS, CLERGY AND FAITHFUL OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ON KEEPING THE LORD'S DAY HOLY

    CHAPTER THREE: DIES ECCLESIAE The Eucharistic Assembly: Heart of Sunday part two

    The day of the Church

    35. Therefore, the dies Domini is also the dies Ecclesiae. This is why on the pastoral level the community aspect of the Sunday celebration should be particularly stressed. As I have noted elsewhere, among the many activities of a parish, "none is as vital or as community-forming as the Sunday celebration of the Lord's Day and his Eucharist".(46) Mindful of this, the Second Vatican Council recalled that efforts must be made to ensure that there is "within the parish, a lively sense of community, in the first place through the community celebration of Sunday Mass".(47) Subsequent liturgical directives made the same point, asking that on Sundays and holy days the Eucharistic celebrations held normally in other churches and chapels be coordinated with the celebration in the parish church, in order "to foster the sense of the Church community, which is nourished and expressed in a particular way by the community celebration on Sunday, whether around the Bishop, especially in the Cathedral, or in the parish assembly, in which the pastor represents the Bishop".(48)

    36. The Sunday assembly is the privileged place of unity: it is the setting for the celebration of the sacramentum unitatis which profoundly marks the Church as a people gathered "by" and "in" the unity of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.(49) For Christian families, the Sunday assembly is one of the most outstanding expressions of their identity and their "ministry" as "domestic churches",(50) when parents share with their children at the one Table of the word and of the Bread of Life. We do well to recall in this regard that it is first of all the parents who must teach their children to participate in Sunday Mass; they are assisted in this by catechists, who are to see to it that initiation into the Mass is made a part of the formation imparted to the children entrusted to their care, explaining the important reasons behind the obligatory nature of the precept. When circumstances suggest it, the celebration of Masses for Children, in keeping with the provisions of the liturgical norms,(51) can also help in this regard.

    At Sunday Masses in parishes, insofar as parishes are "Eucharistic communities",(52) it is normal to find different groups, movements, associations and even the smaller religious communities present in the parish. This allows everyone to experience in common what they share most deeply, beyond the particular spiritual paths which, by discernment of Church authority,(53) legitimately distinguish them. This is why on Sunday, the day of gathering, small group Masses are not to be encouraged: it is not only a question of ensuring that parish assemblies are not without the necessary ministry of priests, but also of ensuring that the life and unity of the Church community are fully safeguarded and promoted.(54) Authorization of possible and clearly restricted exceptions to this general guideline will depend upon the wise discernment of the Pastors of the particular Churches, in view of special needs in the area of formation and pastoral care, and keeping in mind the good of individuals or groups - especially the benefits which such exceptions may bring to the entire Christian community.

    A pilgrim people

    37. As the Church journeys through time, the reference to Christ's Resurrection and the weekly recurrence of this solemn memorial help to remind us of the pilgrim and eschatological character of the People of God. Sunday after Sunday the Church moves towards the final "Lord's Day", that Sunday which knows no end. The expectation of Christ's coming is inscribed in the very mystery of the Church(55) and is evidenced in every Eucharistic celebration. But, with its specific remembrance of the glory of the Risen Christ, the Lord's Day recalls with greater intensity the future glory of his "return". This makes Sunday the day on which the Church, showing forth more clearly her identity as "Bride", anticipates in some sense the eschatological reality of the heavenly Jerusalem. Gathering her children into the Eucharistic assembly and teaching them to wait for the "divine Bridegroom", she engages in a kind of "exercise of desire",(56) receiving a foretaste of the joy of the new heavens and new earth, when the holy city, the new Jerusalem, will come down from God, "prepared as a bride adorned for her husband" (Rev 21:2).

    The day of hope

    38. Viewed in this way, Sunday is not only the day of faith, but is also the day of Christian hope. To share in "the Lord's Supper" is to anticipate the eschatological feast of the "marriage of the Lamb" (Rev 19:9). Celebrating this memorial of Christ, risen and ascended into heaven, the Christian community waits "in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ".(57) Renewed and nourished by this intense weekly rhythm, Christian hope becomes the leaven and the light of human hope. This is why the Prayer of the Faithful responds not only to the needs of the particular Christian community but also to those of all humanity; and the Church, coming together for the Eucharistic celebration, shows to the world that she makes her own "the joys and hopes, the sorrows and anxieties of people today, especially of the poor and all those who suffer".(58) With the offering of the Sunday Eucharist, the Church crowns the witness which her children strive to offer every day of the week by proclaiming the Gospel and practising charity in the world of work and in all the many tasks of life; thus she shows forth more plainly her identity "as a sacrament, or sign and instrument of intimate union with God and of the unity of the entire human race".(59)

    TOMORROW: Part Seven of Dies Domini: Chapter Three, DIES ECCLESIAE The Eucharistic Assembly: Heart of Sunday part three.

      FOOTNOTES:
      • (38) Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 9.

      • (39) Cf. John Paul II, Letter Dominicae Cenae (24 February 1980), 4: AAS 72 (1980), 120; Encyclical Letter Dominum et Vivificantem (18 May 1986), 62-64: AAS 78 (1986), 889-894.

      • (40) Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Vicesimus Quintus Annus (4 December 1988), 9: AAS 81 (1989), 905-906.

      • (41) No. 2177.

      • (42) Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Vicesimus Quintus Annus (4 December 1988), 9: AAS 81 (1989), 905-906.

      • (43) Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, 41; cf. Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church Christus Dominus, 15.

      • (44) These are the words of the Embolism, formulated in this or similar ways in some of the Eucharistic Prayers of the different languages. They stress powerfully the "Paschal" character of Sunday.

      • (45) Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Certain Aspects of the Church as Communion Communionis Notio (28 May 1992), 11-14: AAS 85 (1993), 844-847.

      • (46) Speech to the Third Group of the Bishops of the United States of America (17 March 1998), 4: L'Osservatore Romano, 18 March 1998, 4.

      • (47) Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, 42.

      • (48) Sacred Congregation of Rites, Instruction on the Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery Eucharisticum Mysterium (25 May 1967), 26: AAS 59 (1967), 555.

      • (49) Cf. Saint Cyprian, De Orat. Dom. 23: PL 4, 553; De Cath. Eccl. Unitate, 7: CSEL 31, 215; Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 4; Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, 26.

      • (50) Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (22 November 1981), 57; 61: AAS 74 (1982), 151; 154.

      • (51) Cf. Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, Directory for Masses with Children (1 November 1973): AAS 66 (1974), 30-46.

      • (52) Cf. Sacred Congregation of Rites, Instruction on the Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery Eucharisticum Mysterium (25 May 1967), 26: AAS 59 (1967), 555-556; Sacred Congregation for Bishops, Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops Ecclesiae Imago (22 February 1973), 86c: Enchiridion Vaticanum 4, 2071.

      • (53) Cf. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici (30 December 1988), 30: AAS 81 (1989), 446-447.

      • (54) Cf. Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, Instruction Masses for Particular Groups (15 May 1969), 10: AAS 61 (1969), 810.

      • (55) Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 48-51.

      • (56) "Haec est vita nostra, ut desiderando exerceamur": Saint Augustine, In Prima Ioan. Tract. 4, 6: SC 75, 232.

      • (57) Roman Missal, Embolism after the Lord's Prayer.

      • (58) Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 1.

      • (59) Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 1; cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Dominum et Vivificantem (18 May 1986), 61-64: AAS 78 (1986), 888-894.


July 22, 1998       volume 9, no. 142
THE VICAR OF CHRIST SPEAKS

DAILY CATHOLIC

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