The first commandment of the Church

To hear Mass on Sundays and Holy Days, and to rest from servile work

Fr Tomasz Pelszyk

This command connects and supplements the old versions of the first and second commandments (To observe the feast days appointed by the Church; to hear Mass reverently on these feast days). The assumption of this command is very simple. It is meant to emphasize the truth, which has been often forgotten: the Lord God has the right to our time and to ourselves. The Church, knowing human weaknesses, defines special days appointed for man's encounter with God and informs believers how to meet God. It is worth remembering that on Pentecost, 31 May 1998, the Holy Father John Paul II signed his apostolic letter 'Dies Domini', in which he justified the motives and ways to celebrate the Lord's Day, i.e. Sunday.

The role of 'Dies Domini'

One cannot describe in detail the papal document but we must quote some thoughts of the Holy Father, included in the titles of the particular parts of the Apostolic Letter. The first reflection is on Sunday as 'dies Domini' (the Lord's Day), that something is to be 'remembered': to awaken remembrance of the grand and fundamental work of God that is creation. Then he speaks about 'dies Christi' (the Day of Christ), which differentiates Christians from followers of other religions by pointing to their faith in the Risen Christ, who sends the Holy Spirit with his numerous gifts, Christ that makes 'new creation'. The third thought concerns 'dies Ecclesiae' (the Day of the Church). Christ is present in the Eucharistic gathering, accompanies the People in their pilgrimage, and gives nourishment through participating in the feast of the Word and Lord's Body. Then he speaks about 'dies Hominis' (the Day of Man). Sunday becomes the day of joy in Christ, day of rest and solidarity. The next term is 'dies Dierum' (the Day of Days - important than all other days). Sunday is the Primordial Feast, revealing the Meaning of Time, and stressing that Christ is the beginning and End (the Alpha and Omega of Time).

Other feast days

In addition to Sunday, the Church points to certain days, which commemorate the most important events of salvation. These are the holy days of obligation:
January 1, the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
January 6, the solemnity of Epiphany
The Feast of Corpus Christi, Thursday after Trinity Sunday,
August 15, the solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
November 1, the solemnity of All Saints
December 25, the solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
On these days Masses for 'parishioners' are celebrated. The above-mentioned solemnities oblige us to participate in Mass. The Church wants us to participate in the Eucharist in a full way, i.e. that we come to the Lord's Table - receive Holy Communion. Naturally, the faithful must care for their minds and hearts so that they are free from mortal sins and from adherence to common sins and vices (this issue is very wide and thus requires separate reflection). Concrete conclusions can be drawn from the simplified observation.

Full participation in Mass

This participation assumes several important attitudes. The first one is presence in the church. Only the sick or people who must care for the sick and children can stay at home. Mass is broadcast for them. Another element is being inside the church so that one can see the liturgical action and hear what the priest says. Standing outside of the church is nonsensical; especially when you can go inside and the church is not crowded.
Our involvement in the liturgical action is very important. Thus we show respect for the place and people, and most of all for Christ who is present in the Church, by our gestures (folded hands, kneeling, standing) and words (answering, singing loudly and silently depending on our musical talents). In other words, we need to concentrate on the liturgy and show our spirit of prayer as well as openness to God's presence and teaching.
These are only some remarks but they can help us examine our conscience: how I participate in Holy Mass.

Servile work

The last problem in the first commandment of the Church is 'to rest from servile work.' It seems that this problem is totally neglected by numerous Catholics.
The Church makes a simple reflection on the Bible, which shows God's intention. It is God that establishes a day of rest, at the same time encouraging people to meet him and other people. Other argument is logically based on the fact that busy and hard-pressed people must rest. However, the Church realises that some people rest peacefully while others must work. Therefore, there is 'servile work', i.e. doctor's work, bus drivers, energy controllers, farmers or those who keep continuity of production.
But some people violate this commandment by doing jobs for profits - always and at all costs. The same applies to jobs we can do some other time. The 'necessary' jobs that prevent people from attending Sunday Mass are special sins. The important thing is employers' responsibilities. Employers force employees to work on Sundays. The Church invariably desires to defend human dignity as God's child and consequently, the Church's concern is that a child should not forget his Father - God.

"Niedziela" 19/2007

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: