Reclaiming my Sabbath

The Sabbath (Part 2)

By Cynthia Brewer

I have only a slight memory of stores being closed on Sundays. By the time I was a child the money-thirsty market had already begun encroaching on the “day of rest”. But is this a story of what came first, the chicken or the egg? Did the markets force this consumerism on us, or were we clamoring for more – more stores and more days and later hours to shop … FOR MORE STUFF?

Well, “in the beginning” it was not like this.

Those who attend daily Mass will appreciate this reflection on the Israelites’ trek through the desert since the Book of Exodus is being read at the daily Mass at this time.

As mentioned in the previous Sabbath post, the story of creation and God’s Day of Rest on the Seventh Day is told in Genesis 2:3.

The Jews were not taught to “Keep the Sabbath Holy” as part of a covenant with God until the Decalogue (10 Commandments) was given to Moses on Mt. Sinai (c. 1250 B.C.)[1], which is told in Exodus, the second book of the Torah.

Although according to the “timeline” in the books of the Torah the Jews had not yet been given the commandment to imitate God through rest on the Sabbath, God was beginning to introduce it to them by the instructions on how to collect manna in the desert.

God instructed the people to gather manna each day except the seventh. On the sixth day they were to gather twice as much manna and prepare it for the sixth and seventh days’ food.

“On the sixth day they gathered twice as much food … . When all the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses, he told them, ‘That is what the LORD has prescribed. Tomorrow is a day of rest, a holy Sabbath of the LORD. Whatever you want to bake, bake; whatever you want to boil, boil; but whatever is left put away and keep until the morning. … Eat it today (the seventh day), for today is the Sabbath of the LORD. Today you will not find any in the field. Six days you will gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, it will not be there’” (Ex.  16:25).[2]

The Genesis account of the seventh day set as a holy day can be seen in this manna collection experience. It did not officially unfold as a commandment until God’s revelation of the Decalogue, announced in Exodus 20. But observing the Sabbath did become a commandment from God over 3,200 of years ago. How are we doing at our observation of it?

If I don’t like the way consumerism is taking over “my world”, at least I can make a personal effort to reclaim Sunday as my Sabbath by refusing to shop on Sundays; or if one is Jewish, refuse to shop on Saturdays. My husband and I prefer to shop at the supermarket on Sunday to get the freshest food for the coming work week, so we compromise and try to go after 4 or 5 p.m., the time the Church usually sets for the Vigil Masses.

In the First Testament, known as the Old Testament, the new day began with the evening twilight or the setting of the sun. That is why a Catholic fulfills her Sunday obligation even if she attends the Saturday Vigil Mass. So shopping Sunday after sunset is actually shopping on Monday according to the Bible.

It’s a small step to honoring the Sabbath, but it’s in the right direction.

[1] Ibid., 456.

[2] New Catholic Encyclopedia, 455.