THERE has been some discussion among our local clergy on the question of the religious observance of Sun day. It has been mooted that attendance at a Mass on Saturday evening should be counted as fulfilling the obligation.
Certainly no great principle is involved. But even in Apostolic times the dies Solis (Sonntag), the first day of the week, was considered sacred to God and to he marked with the celebration of the Eucharist.
The early Christians seem to have been at pains to divest themselves of the ritual observances and prohibition which marked the Jewish Sabbath. And they took a long time to decide about the obligation to rest.
But there is nothing crystal clear about the obligation and its history. The Emperor Constantine issued an edict which made it punishable for lawyers and townsfolk to work on Sundays. The practice of agriculture, however, was permissible. Until the Middle Ages the holy day was measured from Saturday sunset to Sunday sunset. They then decided that a midnight to midnight span would be neater, but in parts of Europe the old measure of sacred time lasted up to the 17th century.
The great Tertullian (202) is, the first writer to mention the Sunday rest. He says: "We, however, in the day of the Lord's Resurrection, ought to guard not only against kneeling, but every posture and office of solicitude; deferring even our businesses lest we give any place to the Devil." Perhaps he IS out of date.
It was once considered a venial sin to miss Vespers on Sunday. St Caesarius of Arles, in the sixth century, taught that IL was wrong to leave Mass after the Epistle and Gospel had been read. And until the 13th century you had to hear Mass in your parish church, and no shopping around for a fiveminute preacher or the liturgy of your choice. Rome has now empowered bishops to decide whether a Saturday evening Mass would help the faithful keep the Sabbath. This latitudinarianism seems to have been started by fashionable Romans restless for their Sundays by the sea at Ostia.
There must be some to whom the evening Mass would be a boon for instance, nurses and caterers but it will really only help those for whom the day is the day the car peis washed, a round of golf played or beer consumed with slow gregarious ceremony against a background of horse brasses and plastic beams and progressively raised voices. What ever is decided will generally be considered to be either over-permissive or preposterously conservative. Nobody is going to win this one. It would have been better if the subject had never been raised.
I have only just got used to deciding between a morning or evening Mass on Sunday. To decide on Saturday as well is going to be a severe strain on my decision-making process,