By FATHER KENNETH DOYLE
Q. Is it true that the church changed the day of the Sabbath? I have always felt that the Sabbath occurred on Saturday, but I have learned that the early church decided to celebrate the breaking of bread on Sunday because that was the day of Christ's resurrection. (Nigeria)
A. Technically, it is not true that the Christian church changed the Sabbath day. The Sabbath is still on Saturday (or, more properly, from sundown on Friday), marking the fact that God rested from creation on the seventh day.
In the very earliest days of Christianity, believers -- who were mainly Jewish -- observed the seventh-day Sabbath with prayer and rest; but very quickly (as Col 2:16 shows) Christians began to see this as no more obligatory than Jewish rules on food and drink. The followers of Jesus gathered instead to break the bread of the Eucharist on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7) -- the day on which Jesus, completing a New Covenant, had made sacred by rising from the dead.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains the relationship between Sunday and the Sabbath: "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" (No. 2175).
The catechism's following section goes on to say that "the celebration of Sunday observes the moral commandment inscribed by nature in the human heart to render to God an outward, visible, public and regular worship" (No. 2176).
Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org and 30 Columbia Circle Dr., Albany, New York 12203.