Did the Catholic Church change the day of worship from the Sabbath day, which is Saturday, to Sunday? For some religious organizations (Seventh-day Adventists, Seventh-Day Baptists, and certain others) they would tell you that a Christian should worship on Saturday instead of Sunday. Why is that? Well, they claim that, at some unnamed time after the apostolic age, the Catholic Church “changed” the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday. So, why do Catholics and most all Christians worship on Sunday?
The Sabbath, which according to Jewish law, is the last day of the week (Saturday). It is when God rested from all the work he had done in creation (Gen. 2:2-3). But, the Sabbath is no longer binding and that Christians are to worship on the Lord’s day, which is Sunday, instead. We can see from the early Church Fathers, that since the apostles abolished circumcision, so too the Sabbath must also be abolished. Here are a couple of quotes from the Church Fathers who understood this principle and gathered for worship on Sunday:
“But every Lord’s day . . . gather yourselves together and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. But let no one that is at variance with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned” (Didache 14 [A.D. 70])
The Letter of Barnabas:
“We keep the eighth day [Sunday] with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead” Ignatius of(Letter of Barnabas 15:6–8 [A.D. 74]).
Ignatius of Antioch:
“[T]hose who were brought up in the ancient order of things [i.e. Jews] have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s day, on which also our life has sprung up again by him and by his death” (Letter to the Magnesians 8 [A.D. 110]).
What the Catholic Church teaches:
Sunday is expressly distinguished from the sabbath which it follows chronologically every week; for Christians its ceremonial observance replaces that of the sabbath. In Christ’s Passover, Sunday fulfills the spiritual truth of the Jewish sabbath and announces man’s eternal rest in God. For worship under the Law prepared for the mystery of Christ, and what was done there prefigured some aspects of Christ (CCC #2175).
“By a tradition handed down from the apostles which took its origin from the very day of Christ’s Resurrection, the Church celebrates the Paschal mystery every seventh day, which day is appropriately called the Lord’s Day or Sunday.”36 The day of Christ’s Resurrection is both the first day of the week, the memorial of the first day of creation, and the “eighth day,” on which Christ after his “rest” on the great sabbath inaugurates the “day that the Lord has made,” the “day that knows no evening. The Lord’s Supper is its center, for there the whole community of the faithful encounters the risen Lord who invites them to his banquet (CCC #1166).
In Scripture, we can tell that Christians were meeting on the first day of the week (Sunday). Here are some of the scripture references to this fact:
“On the first day of the week when we gathered to break bread, Paul spoke to them because he was going to leave on the next day, and he kept on speaking until midnight (Acts 20:7).”
“On the first day of the week each of you should set aside and save whatever one can afford, so that collections will not be going on when I come (1 Cor. 16:2).”
“Let no one, then, pass judgment on you in matters of food and drink or with regard to a festival or new moon or Sabbath (Col. 2:16).”
A person might wonder why Catholics have what is called a Vigil Mass on Saturday evening, if Sunday is the day of Christian worship. Does it have something to do with the fact the sabbath began at sundown, so now the “new sabbath” should start at sundown? Well, the answer is no. The option of attending an anticipatory Mass on Saturday evening has nothing to do with the fact the sabbath began at sundown. It was a provision that was originally introduced for Catholics who had to miss Sunday Mass for a good reason (for example, because they had to work). The 1983 Code of Canon Law simply states: “The precept of participating in the Mass is satisfied by assistance at a Mass which is celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the holy day or on the evening of the preceding day” (can. 1248, 1).
Until next time, God bless.