In the Acts of the Apostles, we read of the celebration of the Eucharist on Sunday.”On the first day of the week, we met to break bread” (Acts 20:7),
But the early Christians did not participate in “the breaking of bread” as a matter of obligation.Their Sunday observances consisted more in keeping the day holy by avoiding sin than in taking part in a religious service or abstaining from physical work.A second-century writer, Justin Marty says:”If there is any perjuror or thief among you, let him mend his ways….in this way he will have kept a true and peaceful Sabbath of God.”
In 321 Emperor Constantine promulgated laws prohibiting public work on Sunday.From the Council of Laodicea (370) came the first Church law prescribing workshop and abstaining from physical work in order to keep the Lord’s day holy.The Council of Orleans also dealt with the same subject.
Since the mass is the highest act of homage to God, it naturally becomes the central act of worship on Sunday.Embodying the tradition of Sunday Mass, the old Code of Canon Law laid down as an obligation incumbent on the faithful that they should attend Mass and abstain from servile work on Sundays and feasts of obligation.
On this subject of the Sunday obligation Vatican II says:”By an apostolic tradition which took its origin from the very day of Christ’s resurrection, the Church celebrates the paschal mystery every eighth day: with good reason this, then, bears the name of the Lord’s day or the day of the Lord.For on this day Christ’s faithful should come together into one place so that, by hearing the word of God and taking part in the Eucharist, they may call to mind the passion, the resurrection and the glorification of the Lord Jesus”
The Revised Code of Canon law states:”On Sundays and other days of obligation, the faithful are obligated to assist at Mass.They are also to obtain from such work or business that would inhibit the worship to be given to God, the joy proper to the Lord’s day, or the due relaxation of mind and body” (Canon 1247).
One should attend Mass on Sunday not because of the law prescribing it, but because of the reason for which there is a law.The law points out to us a grave obligation, that of setting apart at least one day in the week, in keeping with the Old Testament tradition, to offer worship to God.
There are two main reasons for the Mass obligation on Sunday.
- The Mass being the renewal of the offering of the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary is the highest act of worship man can offer to God.It is the highest form of adoration, propitiation, and Thanksgiving .hence the Mass is the most appropriate means of offering worship to God on the Lord’s day.
- Moreover, a man by his very nature, that is, in the way God has made him, is dependent on fellow-men and, for his part, has obligations towards them.He should worship God, therefore, not only as an individual but also as a member of society, as a social being.this aspect of worship to is fulfilled when the faithful”come together into one place” to attend Mass.The Mass thus become a communal act of worship where one joins with other in offering worship.
The Sunday mass is, therefore, a grave obligation binding on all the faithful unless prevented by a legitimate reason, such as illness, a great distance from the church, and unavoidable official duties.
This excerpt is taken from the book: 50 Questions about Catholicism. Order your Copy now!!!