Sunday has long been regarded as the day we gather as family and as community to celebrate the Eucharist.

The origin of celebrating the Eucharist on Sunday dates to apostolic times even though the early Christians, who were converted Jews, continued to observe the Sabbath on Saturday and even celebrated Mass on that day. During those early times, the Mass was celebrated within the frame of a meal (an agape), held on Saturday night after sunset.

Early in the second century, in some Christian communities, the Mass itself was separated from the meal and celebrated in the early morning hours of Sunday, which became the new Christian day of worship. The Mass was celebrated before dawn and traditionally consisted of a sermon, prayers, singing of Psalms and teachings from holy Scriptures.

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During the fourth century all Christian communities had replaced the Saturday night meal with the Sunday morning celebration. In 313, after the church had obtained freedom under Constantine, the time of the Sunday morning celebration was pushed back from early morning to 9 a.m., an hour the Romans traditionally designated for important business.

The first mention in Scripture regarding celebrating Mass on Sunday, or the “Lord’s Day,” comes in St. Paul’s Epistle to the Corinthians, written in the year 57. St. Paul refers to “first day of the week” as most appropriate for the celebration, and two years later in the acts of the Apostles repeats the “first day of the week” reference.

Although most Catholics today have an abundance of churches and times from which to select to attend Mass, the early Christians were forced to make great sacrifices to receive the Eucharist, even to the point of risking their lives.

Sunday was referred to as the “Day of the Lord” by early Christians. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Sunday symbolizes the new creation ushered in by God’s resurrection. The Catechism goes on to say Sunday is “the Lord’s Day” and is considered the first of all feasts.

Because the Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice, the faithful are obliged to “participate in the Mass.”

Sundays are also designated by the Catechism as a day of grace and rest from work. Many might remember the days of the old Louisiana “blue laws” when alcohol and other items, including some hardware items, could not be sold on Sundays.

One thing that has not changed, however, is our obligation and what should be our desire to attend Mass on Sunday to hear God’s word and receive the body and blood of Christ.