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The Lord's Day

by Very Reverend Martin B. Hellriegel

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    Document Information

  • Description:
    Pope Pius XII spoke on sanctifying Sunday, making it the day of the Lord. Msgr. Hellriegel further parses the Pope's words. Of particular interest is the use of "Ordinary" and "Extraordinary".
  • Larger Work:
    Towards a Christian Sunday: An Apostolic Program
  • Publisher & Date:
    Grailville, Loveland, Ohio, 1949

Perhaps Romano Guardini was not so wrong when some 20 years ago, he said: "We are living in an age of signs and words, but understand no longer their meaning." What passes through our soul when we say "Lord's Day"? Are we aware of all that this word implies? Its meaning, its purpose, its holiness? For it is the "day which the Lord has made": His day: the first day of the week set aside for His glory and our sanctification. "Remember, thou keep holy the Lord's Day!" Not so long ago our Holy Father addressed 200,000 Catholic Action men of Italy assembled in St. Peter's square. In his speech he pointed out five fields of activity. One of these is "The sanctifying of Sunday." "Sunday," the Pontiff said, "must become again the day of the Lord, the day of adoration, of prayer, of rest, of recollection and reflection, of happy reunion in the intimate circle of the family." For not a few Sunday has become the day of sin.

Present Condition of Sunday

“Make sure that in your own lives gross materialism, and excess of profane pleasure, and the crudest moral corruption in publications and shows do not monopolize Sunday. The results of the struggle between belief and unbelief will depend to a great extent on the use that each of the opposing fronts will make of Sunday.” In the course of his address, the Pope exclaimed: "The time for reflection and planning is past. Now is the time for action. Are you ready? The opposing fronts in the religious and moral fields are becoming over more clearly defined. The time of the test is at hand!" "The time of the test is at hand! Are you ready?" Are we? The Pope's question is directed also to us. It must concern us as much as it concerns the Catholic Action men of Italy. What attitude does the majority of Christians today take towards the Lord's Day? Is it an exaggeration to state that at least 55% do not observe the Lord's Day as the Church desires us to keep it? And as our forebears during the past eighteen, nineteen, centuries did observe it. Do the hearts of the majority swing towards the divine magnet of the altar, or do they swing towards the worldly magnet of Main Street? Of course, the altar is infinitely more powerful than Main Street but — I am afraid — that Main Street exerts a far greater influence on a very large percentage of Christ's flock than the altar. What must be done to make their hearts swing from Main Street back to the altar where they belong? “Brethren, let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2,5). "The result of the struggle between belief and unbelief will depend to a great extent on the use that each of the opposing fronts will make of the Sunday." (Pius XII)

Restoration of the Sunday

To what front do we belong? Have we not renounced Satan, his pomps and his works? Have we not been anointed with the chrism of Christ? Are we not Christians, that is, other Christs? Must we Christians not be concerned with our glorious Christ, and Christ's holy day, Sunday? Three things are indispensable if "Sunday is to become again the day of the Lord" (Pius XII):

1. The sanctification of Saturday night.
2. The restoration of Sunday high Mass with active participation.
3. The return of Sunday Vespers.

"He who soweth sparingly, shall reap also sparingly; and he who soweth in blessings, shall reap also of blessing" (2 Cor. 9,6). No seed can sprout and yield fruit unless it be planted in good and well-tilled soil. Nor can the eucharistic seed bring forth fruit unless we bring to God's temple, on God's day, a good and well-tilled heart. But the Saturday evening 'tilling’ in preparation for the Sunday's eucharistic planting is almost a forgotten art. Unfortunately the Sunday highmass — and 'highmass' is the 'ordinary, ideal form' of celebrating the Holy Eucharist — is disappearing more and more. What a pity! The great parish solemnity, in which God's family, with Christ the elder Brother, is to render to the majesty of God the Father all honor and glory, by holy word and sacred song in Christian fellowship, is disappearing! The 'low' Mass on the 'high' day of the Lord! By the way, the first Mass in the Cenacle was a highmass. "Do this in commemoration of me!" The low Mass will ever remain the Extraordinary and less ideal form of celebrating the Holy Eucharist. "Let my prayer be directed as incense in thy sight; the lifting up of my hands, as evening sacrifice" (Ps. III,2), Thirty years ago we still had this Sunday afternoon or 'evening sacrifice.' What has happened? Today we are accustomed to hear: "Benediction after the last Mass." And that ends the Lord's Day. The "excess of profane pleasure" (Pius XII) can now continue....twelve o'clock Sunday noon. "Panes et circenses!" The Pope continues:

"We must not assume a defensive attitude, we must undertake a vigorous crusade for the Church that rivals the zeal of the early Christians. We need 'religious culture' — deep and solid knowledge of the Catholic faith, of its truths, mysteries and divine force. An alarming 'aenemia of religious life' among all classes must be attributed primarily to an ignorance of spiritual matters at times almost complete. This ignorance must be extirpated (Note: Let us stop here, and meditate five minutes on those five words of the Pope!). Such a task rests primarily with the clergy. But it rests also with the laity to help the Church in this work. They must nourish themselves in the complete teaching of the Church, in the Holy Scriptures, in the sacred Liturgy, in the approved practices of devotion, and in all sound religious literature. They must spread widely the truth of the faith in even the remotest corners" (Pius XII).

The voice of Pius is the voice of Christ. We must not only be hearers of this voice but doors also. Therefore, if the "Sunday must become again the day of the Lord" (Pius XII) we, that is clergy and laity, must do all in our power to turn to the moans to this end. The sanctification of Saturday night, the restoration of the Sunday highmass and the return of Vespers (or at least Compline) are indispensable means, not human means, but the Church's means, The Holy Father makes use of the word "again." Evidently this "again" means that at present the Sunday is NOT — as far as we are concerned — the "day of the Lord." We say it once more: it will not become for the Christian world "the day of the Lord" until we begin to sanctify the eve of the Lord's Day with the "evening sacrifice" to our God. "The time of reflection and planning is past. Now is the time for action. Are you ready?" Pius XII awaits our answer.

Selections from "The Lord's Day", printed in The Living Parish Reprinted in Towards a Christian Sunday: An Apostolic Program printed by Grailville, Loveland, Ohio, 1949.

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