DAILY CATHOLIC    WEDNESDAY     July 29, 1998     vol. 9, no. 147

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 twelfth 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 FOUR: DIES HOMINIS Sunday: Day of Joy, Rest and Solidarity part two

    The fulfillment of the Sabbath

    59. This aspect of the Christian Sunday shows in a special way how it is the fulfilment of the Old Testament Sabbath. On the Lord's Day, which - as we have already said - the Old Testament links to the work of creation (cf. Gn 2:1-3; Ex 20:8-11) and the Exodus (cf. Dt 5:12-15), the Christian is called to proclaim the new creation and the new covenant brought about in the Paschal Mystery of Christ. Far from being abolished, the celebration of creation becomes more profound within a Christocentric perspective, being seen in the light of the God's plan "to unite all things in [Christ], things in Heaven and things on earth" (Eph 1:10). The remembrance of the liberation of the Exodus also assumes its full meaning as it becomes a remembrance of the universal redemption accomplished by Christ in his Death and Resurrection. More than a "replacement" for the Sabbath, therefore, Sunday is its fulfilment, and in a certain sense its extension and full expression in the ordered unfolding of the history of salvation, which reaches its culmination in Christ.

    60. In this perspective, the biblical theology of the "Sabbath" can be recovered in full, without compromising the Christian character of Sunday. It is a theology which leads us ever anew and in unfailing awe to the mystery of the beginning, when the eternal Word of God, by a free decision of love, created the world from nothing. The work of creation was sealed by the blessing and consecration of the day on which God ceased "from all the work which He had done in creation" (Gn 2:3). This day of God's rest confers meaning upon time, which in the sequence of weeks assumes not only a chronological regularity but also, in a manner of speaking, a theological resonance. The constant return of the "shabbat" ensures that there is no risk of time being closed in upon itself, since, in welcoming God and his kairoi - the moments of his grace and his saving acts - time remains open to eternity.

    61. As the seventh day blessed and consecrated by God, the "shabbat" concludes the whole work of creation, and is therefore immediately linked to the work of the sixth day when God made man "in His image and likeness" (cf. Gn 1:26). This very close connection between the "day of God" and the "day of man" did not escape the Fathers in their meditation on the biblical creation story. Saint Ambrose says in this regard: "Thanks, then, to the Lord our God who accomplished a work in which he might find rest. He made the heavens, but I do not read that he found rest there; he made the stars, the moon, the sun, and neither do I read that he found rest in them. I read instead that he made man and that then he rested, finding in man one to whom he could offer the forgiveness of sins". (106) Thus there will be for ever a direct link between the "day of God" and the "day of man". When the divine commandment declares: "Remember the Sabbath day in order to keep it holy" (Ex 20:8), the rest decreed in order to honour the day dedicated to God is not at all a burden imposed upon man, but rather an aid to help him to recognize his life-giving and liberating dependence upon the Creator, and at the same time his calling to cooperate in the Creator's work and to receive his grace. In honouring God's "rest", man fully discovers himself, and thus the Lord's Day bears the profound imprint of God's blessing (cf. Gn 2:3), by virtue of which, we might say, it is endowed in a way similar to the animals and to man himself, with a kind of "fruitfulness" (cf. Gn 1:22, 28). This "fruitfulness" is apparent above all in filling and, in a certain sense, "multiplying" time itself, deepening in men and women the joy of living and the desire to foster and communicate life.

    62. It is the duty of Christians therefore to remember that, although the practices of the Jewish Sabbath are gone, surpassed as they are by the "fulfilment" which Sunday brings, the underlying reasons for keeping "the Lord's Day" holy - inscribed solemnly in the Ten Commandments - remain valid, though they need to be reinterpreted in the light of the theology and spirituality of Sunday: "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labour, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. Then you shall do no work, you, or your son, or your daughter, or your servant, or your maid, or your ox, or your ass, or any of your beasts, or the foreigner within your gates, that your servant and maid may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a servant in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God commanded that you keep the Sabbath day" (Dt 5:12-15). Here the Sabbath observance is closely linked with the liberation which God accomplished for his people.

    63. Christ came to accomplish a new "exodus", to restore freedom to the oppressed. He performed many healings on the Sabbath (cf. Mt 12:9-14 and parallels), certainly not to violate the Lord's Day, but to reveal its full meaning: "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" (Mk 2:27). Opposing the excessively legalistic interpretation of some of his contemporaries, and developing the true meaning of the biblical Sabbath, Jesus, as "Lord of the Sabbath" (Mk 2:28), restores to the Sabbath observance its liberating character, carefully safeguarding the rights of God and the rights of man. This is why Christians, called as they are to proclaim the liberation won by the blood of Christ, felt that they had the authority to transfer the meaning of the Sabbath to the day of the Resurrection. The Passover of Christ has in fact liberated man from a slavery more radical than any weighing upon an oppressed people - the slavery of sin, which alienates man from God, and alienates man from himself and from others, constantly sowing within history the seeds of evil and violence.

    TOMORROW: Part Thirteen of Dies Domini: Chapter Four, DIES HOMINIS Sunday: Day of Joy, Rest and Solidarity part three.

      FOOTNOTES:
      • (106) Hex. 6, 10, 76: CSEL 321, 261.


July 29, 1998       volume 9, no. 147
THE VICAR OF CHRIST SPEAKS

DAILY CATHOLIC

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