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Sunday, 19 October 2014

Sunday Reflections Three

When I first moved to England in 1985, and went to parties of academics, my world then, people would start a conversation not with the American phrase, "Oh, and what do you do?", but with "Ah, and who are your people?"

In those days, the English identified a person by their "people". At first, I thought this odd and even rude, as asking about one's job is more objective and less intrusive.

Then, I began to realize that we are identified by our "people".

An ancient text explains who we are as a people, as Catholics. I cannot find the source today, maybe a reader can help, but the paraphrase is this, "We are the Sabbath people, and without the Sabbath we do not exist as a people."

The Catholic Encyclopedia reminds us that Sunday quickly become the day of Catholic worship.

The practice of meeting together on the first day of the week for the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrificeis indicated in Acts 20:71 Corinthians 16:2; in Apocalypse 1:10, it is called the Lord's day. In the Didache (14)the injunction is given: "On the Lord's Day come together and break bread. And give thanks (offer the Eucharist), after confessing your sins that your sacrifice may be pure". St. Ignatius (Ep. ad Magnes. ix) speaks of Christiansas "no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord's Day, on which also Our Life rose again". In the Epistle of Barnabas (xv) we read: "Wherefore, also, we keep the eight day (i.e. the first of the week) with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead".
St. Justin is the first Christian writer to call the day Sunday (I Apol., lxvii) in the celebrated passage in which he describes the worship offered by the early Christians on that day to God. The fact that they met together andoffered public worship on Sunday necessitated a certain rest from work on that day. However, Tertullian (202) is the first writer who expressly mentions the Sunday rest: "We, however (just as tradition has taught us), on the day of the Lord's Resurrection ought to guard not only against kneeling, but every posture and office of solicitude, deferring even our businesses lest we give any place to the devil" ("De orat.", xxiii; cf. "Ad nation.", I, xiii; "Apolog.", xvi).

This day gives us an identity. We should be clear and careful not to lose our Sunday People identity.