Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
by Father Michael Savelesky, for the Inland Register
(From the April 19, 2012 edition of the Inland Register)
Now that the Church has moved into the marvelous Easter Season, contemplating in prayer and lasting joy the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead, we have the luxury of exploring what might seem to be a pedantic question: Exactly which day of the week was it on which Jesus rose from the dead? We of the Catholic fold – and many other mainline Christian denominations – would lay claim to the day we now call “Sunday.” Hence, this particular day is to be the day of Sabbath rest. For a few denominations, the Sabbath must be celebrated on Saturday, the Biblical seventh day of the week. Each and every Saturday of the year. Who is correct? Those who favor Saturday or those who champion Sunday?
The testimony of the early Christian community is that Jesus rose on the “first day of the week.” In those days, what we nowadays label “Sunday” was indeed the first day of the work week. People got up early and (complaining, of course) started another week of bringing in the bacon. Children probably packed their lunches and headed off to their equivalent of school. In our minds, I guess, that settles it. The answer is, “Sunday” – and centuries of Christian tradition have since changed Sunday into a day of rest, instead of a day of work (well, more or less).
Is it possible that both sides of the argument are off-track? Is it possible that Jesus rose from the dead on the day between Saturday and Sunday? What, an eighth day of the week?! Yes, indeed! The Resurrection is in God’s time. And it’s useless to fight over the day of the week on which it happened. In the Resurrection of Christ from the dead, God has raised humankind to a whole new and full dimension of existence. The Church proclaims that we have become a new creation in Christ Jesus. We may still be in the world, but we are not of it. The full reality of our lives cannot be found in what we do with the days of our week. We measure time differently – even though human limitations on planet Earth keep us anchored in a cycle of seven-day weeks.
A Christian lives in union with Jesus Christ in a new mode of telling time. Through the waters of baptism we have entered into living in the eighth day of new creation. That’s why early Christian baptismal fonts often were constructed in the shape of an octagon. And that’s why the fonts in many contemporary churches are constructed in that same shape.
What matters in the Christian life is not the settlement of the argument over which day of the week should be celebrated as the Sabbath. What matters is whether or not we are living the new life that God has made possible in the Resurrection of Christ. The eighth day is God’s new work. As the Easter responsorial psalm joyously announces, “This is the day the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it!”
The Easter Feast anchors our Christian spirituality. Without understanding the significance of Easter and the eighth day into which Jesus invites us, Lent just past (again) becomes a matter of having spent 40 days of liturgical and penitential activity in a near-worldly time before we come to the celebration of Easter. Without a wholesome understanding of the awesome significance of being a new creation in Christ, Lent is left to be merely a time to exercise our spiritual muscles by denying ourselves such items as candy, television, movies, video games and cigarettes – all those things we’d probably be better off without anyway.
More than a people honed by our Lenten practices, we are an Easter people blessed with the promise of full and everlasting life. For us Christians, every day makes a difference because every day is an occasion of rebirth in Christ. Every day entails living it as the eighth day of resurrected life. Easter gives us focus as we walk to the cadence of God’s time, as we are led more richly into the new creation made possible in Christ.
(Father Savelesky is the diocese's Director of Deacon Formation and pastor of Assumption Parish in Spokane.)
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