The Sabbath and the 8th day

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… by someone who wished to remain anonymous, circa 2003

The Sabbath command is the only one of the Ten Commandments which can be altered in any way, because only it is a part of the ceremonial law. This is taught by the Roman Catechism issued after the Council of Trent:

“The other commandments of the Decalogue are precepts of the natural law, obligatory at all times [and for all people] and unalterable. Hence, after the abrogation of the Law of Moses, all the Commandments contained in the two tables are observed by Christians, not indeed because their observance is commanded by Moses, but because they are in conformity with nature which dictates obedience to them

“This Commandment about the observance of the Sabbath, on the other hand, considered as to the time appointed for its fulfillment, is not fixed and unalterable, but susceptible of change and belongs not to the moral, but the ceremonial law. Neither is it a principle of the natural law; we are not instructed by nature to give external worship to God on that day, rather than on any other. And in fact the Sabbath was kept holy only from the time of the liberation of the people of Israel from the bondage of Pharaoh.

“The observance of the Sabbath was to be abrogated at the same time as the other Hebrew rites and ceremonies, that is, at the death of Christ. …Hence St. Paul, in his epistle to the Galatians, when reproving the observers of the Mosaic rites, says: “You observe days and months and times and years; I am afraid of you lest perhaps I have labored in vain amongst you’ (Gal 4:10). And he writes to the same effect to the Colossians (Col. 2:16).”

Of interest is the understanding of Sunday not just as the First day of the Week, but also as the Eighth. We find in the early Church that baptistries were often constructed in an octagonal shape to emphasize the rebirth of Creation which has entered into the fullness of the Kingdom (though yet “through a mirror, darkly”), anticipated in the Old Testament, and fulfilled in Christ:

The following is from The Bible and the Liturgy, written by Cdl. Jean Danielou, S.J.:

First, Cdl. Danielou quotes St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan who died in A.D. 397 – (speaking of the Church of St. Thecla in Milan) “‘It is fitting that the hall of Holy Baptism should be built according to this number, which is that in which the People obtained true salvation in the light of the Risen Christ.'”

“The number 8 was, for ancient Christianity, the symbol of the Resurrection, for it was on the day after the Sabbath, and so the eighth day, that Christ rose from the tomb. Furthermore, the seven days of the week are the image of the time of this world, and the eighth day of life everlasting [this understanding was also that of the Jews]. Sunday is the liturgical commemoration of this eighth day, and so at the same time a memorial of the Resurrection and a prophecy of the world to come. Into this eighth day, inaugurated by Christ, the Christian enters by his Baptism. We are in the presence of a very ancient baptismal symbolism, to which it may well be that St. Peter alludes in his first Epistle (3:20) – ‘In the body he was put to death, in the spirit he was raised to life, and, in the spirit, he went to preach to the spirits in prison. They refused to believe long ago, while God patiently waited to receive them, in Noah’s time when the ark was being built. In it only a few, that is eight souls, were saved through water. It is the baptism corresponding to this water which saves you now …)’, and which occurs frequently in ancient Christianity.”

The Greek for the Lord’s Day is kyriake hemera – the day on which the seer of the Apocalypse (Book of Revelation) came under the inspiration of the spirit (Rev.1:10). This is the earliest reference to the dedication of a day of the week to the Lord; scarcely any other day than the first day (or the 8th), the day after the Sabbath, can be meant by it. It was “the Lord’s Day” as the day on which He rose (Mt. 28:1; Mk 16:1; Lk 24:1; Jn 20:1). He writes of this experience happening on a specific day; i.e., the Lord’s Day, Sunday – when he, in exile, is permitted to see the Liturgy of the Church in Heaven on the day of the Church’s Liturgy on earth.

Contrast the Sabbath to “The Day of the Lord” in both OT and NT: the Day on which God would manifest Himself in His Power and Glory in cosmic convulsions, He would overturn all the enemies of Israel and establish His own people supreme. The New Testament follows this with Jesus speaking of ‘my day” in John 8:56, signifying the day of His manifestation as Judge. Also see Lk 17:24-30 “the Day of the Son of Man”, and in 2 Peter 3:12 “The day of God on which the heavens shall be destroyed and elements melted in flames to be replaced by a new heaven and a new earth, etc….the day which will come like a thief in the night (1 Th. 5:2,4; the Day which will manifest the works of each one, to be tried by fire (1 Co. 3:13).

That the earliest Christians met on Sunday was facilitated by the teachings of the early Gentile converts such as Ignatius of Antioch (late 1st Century bishop and friend of Polycarp; and the disciple of St. John the Apostle himself!). In his Letter to the Magnesians (9,10), St. Ignatius writes:

“If then those who have walked in ancient practices attained unto newness of hope, ******no longer observing sabbaths but fashioning their lives after the Lord’s day, on which our life also rose through Him and attained unto belief*****, and for this cause we endure patiently, if this be so, how shall we be able to live apart from Him?…It is monstrous to talk of Jesus Christ and to ****practice Judaism****. For Christianity did not believe in Judaism, but Judaism in Christianity, wherein every tongue believed and was gathered together unto God.”

This was written in 107 A.D. …less than a decade after the last Apostle’s death! …And Ignatius is writing to churches throughout Asia Minor – churches populated with people who also knew the Apostles!

Therefore, despite the Adventists’ claims, it is not at some later Council that created the Sunday Sabbath. Rather, it was there from the beginning.

And so, like the Trinity itself, it was only confirmed and re-enforced at the Councils. That is the purpose of Councils, to set out what is the Tradition and proper belief.

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