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Question

Hello Father Angelo.

A few weeks ago I saw some documentaries made by the Seventh-day Adventists.

The documentary was exclusively about the Sabbath feast, so I had no problem watching it. I asked myself the following question: is there a theological as well as a historical reason for our decision to break the Sabbath feast?

I know that in the scriptures there is mention of Sunday celebrations (“Now a week later his disciples were again inside” John 20-26 or “I was caught up in spirit on the Lord’s day” Rev. 1-10),

However, in fact, there is nothing that suggests that Sunday should be celebrated instead of Saturday.

In a nutshell: why don’t we celebrate both days but only on Sunday?

Thanks for your availability.

God bless you.

Manuele


Answer from the priest

Dear Manuele,

1. We have three texts in the New Testament that refer to Sunday worship.

1 Cor 16: 1-2: “Now in regard to the collection for the holy ones, you also should do as I ordered the churches of Galatia.

On the first day of the week each of you should set aside and save whatever one can afford”.

It is true that no reference is made to the celebration of worship nor is it said that what has been put aside should be brought to the assembly.

But it is presumable that it was so, especially since St. Paul calls the collection “service to the holy ones’ ‘, “public service” (2 Cor 9,12).

Furthermore, in 1 Cor 11:20 St. Paul refers to gathering together for the Lord’s supper, especially that celebrated on Sunday, as can be seen in the second text that I am about to share.

2. The second text is taken from Acts 20:7-12: “On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead.

Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “He’s alive!” Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left” (Acts 20:7-12).

According to the Hebrew way of calculating the day, this celebration took place already on the first day after the Sabbath, which began with the sunset.

The expression we came together to break bread seems to refer to a common experience.

The annotation of the presence of many lamps is not purely choreography, but suggests that it was a celebration that refers to the triumph of light over darkness, to the triumph of life over death.

If you consider that Acts 2,42 states that the believers devoted themselves to the breaking of bread, everything suggests that this devotion took place above all on Sundays.

Furthermore, while in the narration of miracles it is generally not indicated which day they were performed because the day of the week had no relevance,

here instead it is said that Eutychus’s resurrection takes place on the first day of the week, on the memorial day of Christ’s resurrection.

This makes it clear that on the day of the resurrection they used to gather for the Eucharist.

3. The third text is Revelation 1.10 where John writes: “I was caught up in spirit on the Lord’s day 9 and heard behind me a voice as loud as a trumpet, which said…”. 

The Lord’s day is the most beautiful definition given to that first day after Saturday.

The Lord indicates God in his divine power.

Even the Roman emperors, precisely because they considered themselves gods, called themselves Lord, Kyrios.

In the Greek translation of the Old Testament known as the LXX (Septuagint), the name Lord (Kyrios) translates the words Jahwè Adonai or Eloim more than 6,000 times.

Now with many signs Christ has unequivocally manifested his divinity. But the greatest sign undoubtedly is his resurrection from the dead for a new, immortal, glorious and incorruptible life.

Here is the theological motivation that you are looking for.

4. From that same time (second half of the first century) we have an important writing, which is not part of the New Testament, although it was written in the same time, the Didache in which we read:

“And on the Lord’s own day gather yourselves together and break bread and give thanks, first confessing your transgressions” (13,1).

Certainly the day of the Lord is the day on which the Lord is risen, Easter Sunday, but it also indicates the memorial day of the Lord’s resurrection.

It is also interesting that in the Didache it is said to confess one’s sins. This refers to what Saint Paul says:

“A person should examine himself, 13 and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself” 

(1 Cor 11,28-29).

5. We find further testimony in Barnabas’ letter: “Wherefore also we keep the eighth day for rejoicing, in which also Jesus rose from the dead, and having been manifested ascended into the heavens” (Barnabas 15:9).

6. Therefore, if there is no explicit indication that asserts that Sunday worship should replace that of Saturday, but as a matter of fact this is what happened.

Now the Sacred Tradition, which is an essential stream of Divine Revelation, is also expressed through the facts and the habits of the primitive Church.

This practice is convincing above all because it is characteristic of all Christian communities, everywhere and always (quod ubique, quod ab omnibus, quod a semper creditum est: everywhere, always and by everyone is believed).

I wish you well, I remind you to the Lord and I bless you.

Father Angelo