Keeping Holy the Lord's Day

There is not now space to treat of these ages...which shall be brought to a close, not by an evening, but by the Lord’s Day, as an eighth and eternal day, consecrated by the Resurrection of Christ and prefiguring the eternal repose not only of the spirit, but also of the body. There we shall rest and see, see and love, love and praise.

St. Augustine, City of God

Keeping Holy the Lord's Day
by Gabriel Meyer

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The following is an excerpt from the book Keeping Holy the Lord’s Day

It may seem a startling, if not extreme assertion with which to begin this little booklet on the Lord’s Day, but I’m going to make it anyway: Keeping the Lord’s Day is an essential starting point in the practical renewal and reinvigoration of Christian life, in the renewal of the Christian family and in the creation of genuine Christian community.

If anyone were to ask me: What can I do to start building a vibrant Christian life in my family? Keep holy the Lord’s Day would be my reply.

If anyone were to ask: Where does parish renewal begin? We all know that many things go into that endeavor, but, among them, I would say: Keep holy the Lord’s Day.

If a good Catholic were to complain to me that his or her life lacked joy, I would not hesitate to urge: Keep holy the Lord’s Day.

Many years ago, Pope Saint John Paul II urged lay communities not to keep the gifts they had been given to themselves but to share them with fellow Catholics. “Open yourselves with docility to the gifts of the Holy Spirit,” the Pope urged. “Do not forget that every gift [you have received] is given for the common good, that is, for the benefit of the whole Church.”

In the years following this remarkable meeting with the Pope, community leaders have tried to take his message to heart and to discern those elements in our life as a Catholic lay community that could be of most benefit to fellow Catholics at large, in parishes, convents, monasteries, and in other Catholic movements.

The custom of inaugurating the Lord’s Day goes back to the earliest days of City of the Lord and is one of the elements out of which our life developed – and not ours alone. Some form of the Lord’s Day celebration – and there are many variations – is part of the life of many communities that emerged from the Catholic charismatic renewal and in recent years has been adopted by students and student groups on many Catholic campuses around the country. It is not too much to say that the Lord’s Day is one of the aspects of the particular wisdom God has given us as a community. It is one of His gifts and which, with its focus on building out from the family, has deeply influenced the way we think about Christian culture.

The Lord’s Day is the original feast day, and it should be proposed to the piety of the faithful and taught to them in such a way that it may become in fact a day of joy and of freedom from work. This revival of the genuine observance of Sunday as the Lord’s Day stands as one of the principal items on Vatican II’s ongoing agenda for the spiritual and cultural renewal of Catholic life. The Church, in the vision of Vatican II, is calling for the renewal of the intrinsic culture of Catholics: to open up the way we live and spend our time to the redemptive work of Jesus; to see our lives here and now in the light of the Passion and Resurrection and to allow the Holy Spirit to refashion our whole mentality, patterns of life, use of time, cultural norms, even the character of our emotional and affective life in accordance with Christian truth and in the light of the “eternal perspective.”

No single element is more central to this effort, to this Catholic cultural recovery, than the restoration of the culture of Sunday as the Lord’s Day – a vision of weekly renewal, refreshment, rest and peace. The efforts required to make the Lord’s Day an effective part of Christian life were the same efforts required to build community, to create vital Christian relationships. The Lord’s Day is both the seed of community life, and the icon or image of what the end result should look like – not only a good life in the here and now but a taste of home, of the heavenly Jerusalem to come.

“And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning and crying nor pain any more, for the former things [the old order] has passed away.” Revelation 21:1-4

Building Christian relationships is never easy, and, furthermore, never fully accomplished. We will fall into bad habits and fail in love to the end of our days. But what the Lord’s Day culture of honor, gratitude, and celebration does is place joy at the heart of the process.

Foreword by Bishop Olmsted

To all who seek to be faithful to God.

As God commanded the Israelites when He gave His Commandments to Moses, “Remember to keep holy the Sabbath.” Both Jews and Christians have learned the wisdom of being faithful to this command in the context of the culture in which we live today.

While far too many Christians proclaim they are “too busy” to worship God each Sunday, there are other sincere people of faith who struggle to understand this Commandment beyond the simple obligation to attend Mass.

In his book Keeping Holy the Lord’s Day Gabriel Meyer provides a profound reflection on the meaning of this Commandment and how a person’s life and that of family and community will be enriched if people rediscover and recommit themselves to keeping the Lord’s Day holy. While Mr. Meyer presents this material in a manner that is especially suitable for reflection by Catholics. Any person of faith will benefit from reading this work and thinking about how the principles that are expressed can find suitable application in their lives.

Rather than being overcome by the pressures of our contemporary culture with its pressing demands, I commend this book to your reading and trust that you will find it both helpful and challenging as you seek to be faithful to God’s command to “keep holy the Sabbath.”

Thomas J. Olmsted
Bishop of Phoenix

GABRIEL MEYER is one of the founders of City of the Lord, Los Angeles, and helped pioneer the community's outreach in Jerusalem in the mid-1980s. He is also an award-winning foreign correspondent for the National Catholic Register, who has lived in and reported from the Middle East, the Balkans, and East Africa. He was especially noted for his coverage of the first Palestinian intifada and the Bosnian civil war. His reporter's diary on the Sudanese civil war, War and Faith in Sudan, won ForeWord Magazine's Book of the Year Award for essays in 2006. He has published poetry and two novels, most recently, the poetic cycle A Map of Shadows for Tebot Bach Press. He has also completed a large-scale “biography” of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem entitled The Testimony of Stones. He currently serves as Executive Director for the Southern California Ecumenical Council.