Question

Hello Father Angelo,

I have a question: for Christians, the first day of the week coincides with the Resurrection of Christ, theologically seen as the beginning of a new time… Is it right?

So, is it correct to consider Sunday as the first day?

I mean not only from a spiritual point of view, but also from an organizational one, that is, also in the calendars. It would seem logical to me that this is so…

Today I remembered you in the Holy Rosary, Father.

Good afternoon!

Praised be Jesus Christ!

Simone


Priest’s answer

Dear Simone,

1. yes, Sunday according to the liturgy of the Church is the first day of the week.

For the Jews, Saturday was the last day of the week.

Christ rose at dawn on the first day, which at the time was called “day of the sun”.

2. For the Christians of the first three centuries who lived in a climate of persecution, Saturday remained the day of rest.

However, Saturday was a holiday day throughout the Roman Empire and the following day was the first of the week and it was a working day.

3. For this reason, in order to celebrate the memorial of the Lord’s resurrection, Christians had to get up before sunrise and then go to work at the usual time.

This is testified by the governor of Bithynia, Pliny the Younger, who notes that “on a stated day they had been accustomed to meet before daybreak and to recite a hymn among themselves to Christ, as though he were a god” (Epist., 10, 96, 7).

Also Tertullian, a Christian writer of the second century, says that Christians met in gatherings before dawn and calls these meetings coetus antelucani, which literally means meetings before sunrise (Apologeticum, 2, 6).

4. Justin (philosopher of the first half of the second century and converted to Christianity) left us a broad description of how this meeting, which has the same outline as our current Mass, took place:

“And on the day called “of the Sun”, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the Prophets are read, as long as time permits.

Then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things.

Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying: “Amen”; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons.

And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need.

 Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles  and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration” (First Apology, LXVII, 3-7).

5. Soon, however, the Sunday liturgy completely replaced the Saturday worship (Sabbath).

In 313 with the edict of Milan the Christian religion was recognized by the state and a few years later, precisely in 321, this too under Constantine, Sunday also became the official day of rest.

6. As we have seen, Justin told us the two reasons why the worship was celebrated on the first day of the week: because it is the day on which God created the world and it is the day on which Jesus Christ, our Savior, resurrected from the dead.

7. This first day was soon called the Lord’s day (in Latin dominica dies), with a terminology that is also found in Rev 1:10.

And so little by little it was no longer called the day of the sun, but the day of the Lord.

This word has also remained in the Latin languages ​​(Italian, Spanish and French) where this day is called domenica, domingo, dimanche.

Anglophones and Germans have preserved the ancient diction and still call it day of the sun: Sunday and Sonntag.

8. Coinciding with the day of rest in our cultures, Sunday appears as the last day of the week and Monday as the first, the organizational day in every sense.

 In itself it is not so and you’re right to plan the week from an organizational standpoint on the day of the Lord.

Only in Portuguese Monday is still called segunda-feira .

I thank you for the prayer that I cordially return, I remind you to the Lord and I bless you.

Father Angelo


Translated by Chiara P.

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