36. KEEP THE SATURDAY. The day of the Lord

The day of the Lord

1. The celebration of the Saturday, called “the girlfriend of Israel”, contributes to maintain the identity of the believer people through the centuries. They say that Israel is not the one who has kept the Saturday, but it has been the Saturday the one that has maintained Israel. It could also be said: It is not the community that keeps the Saturday, but it is the Saturday that keeps the community. Nevertheless, what does it happen with the commandment in the Decalogue?, what is it that changes with the Gospel?, is all shortened to listen a whole mass every Sunday?, has the Saturday been made for the man and not the man for the Saturday?

2. The practice of the Saturday (from the hebrew, Shabbat, to stop, to cease, to rest) appears in the oldest stratus of Moses´ law. It is said in the Decalogue: “Remember the Shabbat day and keep it holy. For six days you will labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Shabbat for Yahweh your God. (Ex 20, 8). In the Bible, Saturday is tied to the sacred rhythm of the week, that is closed with one day of rest, of joy (Is 20, 8), of meeting (Os 2, 13). It is a day of labour rest in God´s imitation who rested of his work (Gn 2, 2), signal of alliance between God and his people (Ex 31, 13), exodus´ memorial: “Recall that you were slave in he country of Egypt and that the Lord freed you” (Dt 5, 15)

3. To keep or to sanctify this day the “holy meeting” is celebrated “wherever you are living” (Lv 23, 3). In the temple of Jerusalem there is “sacrifices offering” (Nm 28, 9), “presence’s  bread renovation” (Lv 24, 8). Out of Jerusalem a meeting takes place in the synagogue, dedicated to the common prayer and to the Bible commented reading.

4. At home, the rites are basically these: the mother lights two candles on the table. Surrounded by the small children, she requests God´s blessing, help to educate his children, liberation of any evil. She, besides, blesses God, who sanctifies her people with the commandments and she orders to light the lights of the Saturday. The father makes the prayer of sanctification of the day (qiddús), which includes three blessings: the first and the third are an action of thanksgiving to God for the fruit of the grape and for the bread of the earth; the second one, for the gift of the Saturday, recalling its meaning: the creation and the exit from Egypt. The celebration ends with the separation (habbalá): four prayers in which God is blessed for the fruit of the grape, for the aromatic herbs, for the light of the fire and for taking away the sacred from the profane.

5. Genesis narration (1, 1-2, 4) helps the believer people to place itself in the space and in the time. It is written (about the century V b. C.) by priests exiled in Babylon, who want to maintain Israel’s identity alive . The narration presents the creation in the liturgical frame of one week that finishes with the Saturday’s rest. The whole creation appears arranged: the lower beings appear ordained to the superior ones, all of them ordained to the man and the man ordained to God. The world has not divinized world elements like centre and origin. For instance, the sun and the moon: these serve to measure the time, but God is the centre of the time and the world’s origin.  

6. The man has with God a relationship of autonomy and of dependence. His autonomy is maximum: “Fill the earth and submit it” (1, 28). It is said in Psalm 8: “You submitted everything under his feet”. The world reveals God´s glory, it manifests his word. From that autonomy the believer people freely accepts a dependency, a bonds, an alliance: the Saturday, God´s law. The world reveals God´s glory, it is his work, his word. It s said in Psalm 19:”Heavens sing God´s glory, the sky announces the work of his hands” Wherever it could be, in the temple, in the synagogue, at home, the believer acknowledges God´s presence in the centre of human history.

7. In the predication of the prophets, God denounces the hypocrisy of a worship that forgets the justice and the poor: “See the fast that pleases me: breaking the fetters of injustice… Fast by sharing your food with the hungry, bring to your house the homeless, clothe the one you see naked and do not turn away from your own kin.” (Is 58,  6 – 7; 1 – 13). The Lord unmasks the pious farce that consists in fasting and looking for the own interest, to strike the chest and to oppress the brother. Nevertheless, “if you stop profaning the Sabbath  and doing as you please on the holy day, if you call the Sabbath a day of delight and keep sacred Yahweh’s holy day, if you honour it by not going your own way, not doing as you please and not talking about your business, then you will find happiness in Yahweh.

8. The legislation of the Saturday complicated itself more and more with innumerable prohibitions: to light a fire (Ex 35, 3), to pick up firewood (Nm 15, 32), to prepare the food (Ex 16, 23), to help an animal or a man in danger, to carry weights, to walk more than 1.250 meters, ect. Jesus keeps the Saturday (Lk 4, 16), but he strongly criticizes the legalism of the Pharisees. The fraternal love is before the material observance of  the rest

9. It happened that Jesus walked through the wheat fields on a Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and began to pick some heads of wheat and crush them to eat the grain. When the Pharisees noticed this, they said to Jesus, “Look at your disciples; they are doing what is prohibited on the Sabbath!”  Jesus answered, “Have you not read what David did when he and his men were hungry? He went into the house of God, and they ate the bread offered to God, although neither he nor his men had the right to eat it, but only the priests. If you really knew the meaning of the words: It is mercy I want, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the innocent. Because the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” (Mt 12, 1 - 8; see Dt 23, 26; Mt 9, 9 – 13; 1 Sm 21, 1 ss) Besides “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mk 2, 27)

10. To heal on Saturday is one of the accusations that they make to Jesus (Jn 5, 16). But, doing the good on Saturday, does not he imitate his father who, even when he had entered in his rest, he continues acting? “My father works up to now, and I also work” (5, 17). To heal the sick is a signal of the Gospel (Mt 10, 8). The Lord passes by healing (Acts 10, 38).

11. For his resurrection, Jesus joins God´s rest. All of us are called to join such rest: “It is then clear that a Sabbath rest stays for God´s people” (Hb 4, 9). It shall be, then, the definitive Saturday, in which men will rest of their works, to the image of God.

12. At the beginning, the disciples continue keeping the Sabbath (Mt 28, 1; Mk 15, 42; 16, 1; Jn 19, 42). The meeting of the Saturday serves to announce the Gospel in a Jewish environment (Acts 13, 14; 16, 13; 17, 2; 18, 4). But then the first day of the week, the resurrection day, becomes the day of worship of the Church, the day of the “fraction of the bread”, the “day of the Lord” (Acts 20, 7; Ap 1, 10), the day of the meeting of the community. The meeting takes place at the beginning of that day, it is to say, in the night from the Saturday to the Sunday , according to the Jewish way of counting. This day presents some dimensions that the Jewish used to relate with the Saturday, like the common prayer or the commented reading of the Bible, but there are others: “They were faithful to the teaching of the apostles, the common life of sharing, the breaking of bread and the prayers.” There are also the signals and wonders, the sharing, the incorporation to the community (Acts 2, 42 – 47), the role of binding and unbinding (Mt 18, 18), to forgive or to retain (Jn 20 – 23)

13. The first day of the week (Lk 24, 1.13), the disciples of Emaús acknowledge Jesus when he breaks the bread (24, 35). The fraction of the bread is the oldest name of the Eucharist. The expression designs not only the fact of breaking the bread, but the whole meal. Christ´s real presence in the Eucharist  transforms the meeting of the community in the Lord’s supper: “On the first day of the week we were together for the breaking of the bread, and Paul, who intended to leave the following day, spoke at length. The discourse went on until midnight,  with many lamps burning in the upstairs room where we were gathered… he broke the bread and ate. After that he kept on talking with them for a long time until daybreak and then he left.” (Acts 20, 7 – 11; see 2, 42. 46). We have here a celebration presided by Paul.

14. Paul writes to the Corinthians about the good order in the assemblies (1 Co, 11, 17 – 34). There is a disorder that must be avoided. “ First as I have heard, when you gather together, there are divisions among you… There may have to be different groups among you, so that it becomes clear who among you are genuine…  each one eats at once his own food and while one is hungry, the other is getting drunk. Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or perhaps you despise the Church of God and desire to humiliate those who have nothing?” Paul has received a tradition that comes from the Lord: the Lord Jesus, on the night that he was delivered up, took bread and, after giving thanks, broke it, saying, “This is my body which is broken for you; do this in memory of me.” In the same manner, taking the cup after the supper, he said, “This cup is the new Covenant in my blood. When ever you drink it, do it in memory of me.” So, then, whenever you eat of this bread and drink from this cup, you are proclaiming the death of the Lord until he comes.  Therefore, if anyone eats of the bread or drinks from the cup of the Lord unworthily, he sins against the body and blood of the Lord. Let each one, then, examine himself before eating of the bread and drinking from the cup. Other wise, he eats and drinks his own condemnation in not recognizing the Body. This is the reason why so many among you are sick and weak and several have died.

15. The commandment of the Decalogue that establishes to keep the day of the Lord, is explained by the Catechism as follows: “The faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist the holy days of obligation, unless they are excused by a serious reason (for instance, illness, the care of small children) or they are dispensed by their own shepherd (CIC can. 1245), Those who deliberately miss this grave obligation commit a grave sin” (n 2181). But, is this what Jesus says to the rich youngster?, what is missing? (Lk 18, 20)

16. It is necessary to come back to the experience of the first communities. To recover the sense of the Saturday, to live the day of the Lord, with the novelty that entails the Gospel. You not only shall keep the Saturday (Dt 5, 12 – 15), but you shall be fed by the bread of life (Jn 6, 35 – 51) that feeds the community. This is not done by royal decree, but it is carry out by a living community. Then, what Psalm 122 says is fully accomplished: “I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!”… There the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, the assembly of Israel,  to give thanks to the Lord’s name”.

* Dialogue: What does it mean to keep the Saturday? Which is its true sense? How do we celebrate the Eucharist?

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