Monday, August 17, 2009

On the first day of the week ...

I know I'm an old pedant, not the young revolutionary of 30 years ago, and rapidly becoming a Victor Meldrew ... but that doesn't mean I'm wrong.

At Mass on Sunday I told the congregation that I will be on holiday 'next week' and that therefore there will be no weekday masses on those days. Now that is a very clear statement. Not 'this coming week' but 'next week'. Yet after mass several parishioners were asking how come times of mass and intentions were noted on the bulletin, when I'd said there would be no masses while I am away ... Confusion. For me as much as them. I'd obviously 'announced it wrong' as one person said to me.

But no. I'd announced it right. Sunday is the first day of the week. You don't have to be a religious believer to know that, though for Christians this is especially true. God rested from his creation on the seventh day, the sabbath, Saturday. He began his creation (old and new) on the first day of the week - Sunday. Yet the modern, secular world, whose work life is built around the weekend, consistently sees Monday as the first day of the week. Calendars and diaries very often continue this error - in fact how often do you see a printed diary which begins the week on a Sunday? Rarely, I guess. And I don't think Christians have tried very hard to counter these errors. No doubt Protestants have been not been uncomfortable with the idea that the Sabbath and Sunday both conclude the week. And we Catholics cannot really escape blame, as I guess our Saturday masses (me very guilty here) encourage the idea of Sunday as part of the Weekend. (In fact I think we routinely talk not of our Sunday Masses, but our Weekend masses - yes, I'm guilty of this too).

So I wonder how long it will be before translations of Scripture go along with these changes and are published saying "It was very early on Sunday and still dark ..." (John 20:1)?


Jim said...

The rotas at work always began with Sunday, and because of that so did payrolls. It wasn't until three months ago that they all changed to Monday starting the week. I don't know why it was this way originally, and I doubt it was because it was more 'Christian'.

Although the way I see it, even if you've said things correctly, it's still always your fault for not explaining yourself completely. I see it this way at work and in dealing with members of the public, sometimes things need 'dumbed down', and said as clearly as possible to make sure you both agree on what you mean. I just think 'next' and 'upcoming' are too vague!

Fr Peter said...


1. It's interesting that they've changed the rotas so recently. Of course the idea that Sunday is the first day is not strictly 'Christian' - it's just the way it always was. I guess someone at work took a look at the rotas - which have always been this way - and thought "that's odd".

2. Mm. A fair point I suppose. Always allow for fools ... if it can be understood it will be. Point taken (but this doesn't mean I was wrong).

Victor S E Moubarak said...

This post reminds me of a story which I remember very distinctly from my youth.

The reading in church was from 2 Peter 3:8 where he says: “There is no difference in the Lord’s sight between one day and a thousand years; to Him the two are the same”.

I remember thinking as a child: it must be difficult to have an appointment with God. Imagine God saying to Moses to go to Mount Sinai “tomorrow”; and Moses asking “Is that in 24 hours or in a thousand years time? Because I’d be dead by then!”

I hope God forgave the impertinent mind of young child.