Thursday, March 31, 2011

Dies Domini: Creation and Worship

Easter Sunday
Dies Domini, the Day of the Lord

       In July of 1998, Pope John Paul II issued an Apostolic Letter entitled Dies Domini (or, in English, "The Lord's Day").   In this letter, the Holy Father sought to renew the devotion to and increase the understanding of the Christian celebration of Sunday, the Day of the Lord.

     I have wanted to write on this Apostolic Letter for quite a while, but life goes by so quickly and I have so little time for thinking and even less for writing.   Now, perhaps in conjunction with our Old Testament study I might accomplish a little of my hope if I can occasionally slip in at least a few thoughts on this wonderful letter as they relate to our Bible study. 

Time and the Day of the Lord

    "In the beginning..." is not only the beginning of matter and space, but also the beginning of time.  And, as the Easter Vigil prayer reminds us, all time was not only created by God, but belongs to Him:

 Christ yesterday and today,
the Beginning and the End,
the Alpha and Omega.
His are the times and ages:
To Him be glory and dominion
Through all ages of eternity. Amen

     Christians can honor God with the way they spend their time, or they can fail to honor Him.  We can sanctify the time and use it to remind ourselves and others of the great events of salvation history, or we can just let it dribble on by filled with entertainment and distractions. Sunday, especially, is a day on which the Church asks us to consider how we will spend our time honoring God. 

Pope John Paul II
The Lord's Day--as Sunday was called from Apostolic times--has always been accorded special attention in the history of the Church because of its close connection with the very core of the Christian mystery.  In fact, in the weekly reckoning of time Sunday recalls the day of Christ's Resurrection.  It is Easter which returns week by week, celebrating Christ's victory over sin and death, the fulfilment in him of the first creation and the dawn of "the new creation" (2 Cor. 5:17)--Dies Domini, 1

Sunday is our "fundamental feastday" (Vatican II, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy),  "established not only to  mark the succession of time but to reveal time's deeper meaning." (Dies Domini, 2)

Pope John Paul II urges us on to "recover the deep doctrinal foundations underlying the Church's precept [to attend Mass on Sunday]" (DD, 6) so that we might fulfill move effectively and thoughtfully our duty to keep Sunday holy, "especially by sharing in the Eucharist and by relaxing in a spirit of Christian joy and fraternity..." (DD, 7).  

In this "mini-series", I hope we can explore together those deeper doctrinal foundations and ways in which we can celebrate Sunday more faithfully and devotedly in our homes and families.

Sunday:  The Glory of Creation

Creation of Light, Gustav Dore
 As we saw in the lesson on The Blessed Trinity in Creation, Christ, the eternally begotten Son of the Father, is both the origin of the entire universe and its final end, or destiny.  At the very beginning of creation, God had in mind Christ's saving mission and our ultimate union with Him in Christ as the purpose of His creating act. 

This Christocentric perspective, embracing the whole arc of time, filled God's well-pleased gaze when, ceasing from all his work, he "blessed the seventh day and made it holy" (Gen 2:3)...then was born the "Sabbath"--DD, 8

     Even from the very beginning, Creation itself is oriented to the worship of God.  And God Himself reveals this orientation by instituting the Sabbath rest, which calls His people to participate with Him in His divinely completed work.  

   When we think about God "resting" from His "work", we are not to think of God sort of hanging around and relaxing because, man, it was tough to create the whole universe! Took a lot of thought....

Indeed, we know from the Scriptures that God never rests in the sense of ceasing to work.  Our Lord even had to correct the Pharisees on this point:

The man  [whom Jesus healed] went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him.  And this was why the Jews persecuted Jesus, because he did this on the sabbath.  But Jesus answered them, "My Father is working still, and I am working."--Jn 5:15-17

When we talk about God "resting", we mean that all of His work is completed:

It speaks, as it were, of God's lingering before the "very good" work which his hand has wrought, in order to cast upon it a gaze full of joyous delight. This is a "contemplative" gaze which does not look to new accomplishments but enjoys the beauty of what has already been achieved.  It is a gaze which God casts upon all things, but in a special way upon man, the crown of creation--DD, 11 

And as He looks upon man, He sees also the salvation which will be won for us by Christ.  He sees that Christ will "make all things new," (Rev. 21:5)  that in a new, sanctified heaven and earth, God's Will will be done.

On Sunday, consider the great work of creation, and the even greater fulfillment of creation in the saving work of Jesus Christ.  Consider the sustaining power of God who enlivens continually both your soul and your body.  As we progress through our study of the Pentateuch and through these mini-lessons on Dies Domini, the beautiful picture of God, our Lover and Creator, our Redeemer and Savior, our Lord and King, will unfold through the stories of the Old Testament to be finally revealed completely in Christ Himself.

Ideas for sanctifying Sunday in the home: Sunday as a reflection of Creation and God's Rest

Go to Mass (this one is required, don't get so into the "rest" idea that you "rest" right through Mass!)
Take a nature walk.
Take a nap.
Snuggle up together and read a nature story.
Cook dinner outside.
Do an ecological project: feed the birds, pick up garbage, plant flowers
Decorate your Sunday dinner table with fresh picked wildflowers.
Turn off the TV and enjoy the your eyes and ears!
Thank God for His gifts by taking a special time for prayer together with your family.  This is a great day to start praying the Rosary, if you don't already enjoy this family devotion.

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