Christians have from the earliest times come together on Sunday to anticipate the second coming of the Lord, to encounter the risen Christ in the Eucharist, and to gratefully recall to mind the death and Resurrection of Jesus. One reads in Acts: "On the first day of the week, when we had met for the breaking of bread…" (20.7). St. Paul speaks of collections of money to be made on the first day of the week (1 Cor 16.2), and in Rv 1.10 mention is made of the Lord's day.
Theme. The Christian Sunday is essentially a weekly festival of the Resurrection of Christ. Probably the weekly Easter of Sunday came into general observance some time before there were annual Holy Week and Easter festivities. Sunday did not arise out of the Jewish Sabbath. In fact, the first Christians kept both Sabbath and Sunday. Rather, Sunday is a creation of Christian inspiration and is filled with uniquely Christan meaning.
First Day. Whereas the last day of the week was sacred to the Jews as the day on which creation was completed, the first day is sacred to the Christians as the day of the new creation begun in the Resurrection of the Lord. As Eusebius of Alexandria says, "It was on this day that the Lord began the first-fruits of the creation of the world, and on the same day He gave to the world the first-fruits of the Resurrection" (Sermo 16; Patrologia Graeca. ed. J. P. Migne [Paris 1857–66] 86:416). Sunday is not only a day of rest, it is also a day for celebrating Baptism and the Eucharist. Although Sunday is not a Christian Sabbath, nonetheless Sunday brings together and transcends the two great themes of the Jewish Sabbath—memorial of creation (Ex 20.8–11) and memorial and sign of the Old Testament covenant (Ex 31.13). For the Sunday assembly and Eucharist of the Church are a celebration of a renewed humanity in the New Adam and of the New Testament covenant made in the blood of Jesus.
Day of the Sun. The Fathers of the Church also exploited the symbolism based on the Greco-Roman (originally Egyptian) name for this day, namely, dies solis (day of the sun), from which the Anglo-Saxon name Sunday is derived. Justin Martyr constructs a parallel between the name and what God did on that day: "We come together on the day of the sun on which God, changing darkness and matter created the world, and on which Jesus Christ our Savior arose from the dead" (1 Apol. 67.7; J. Quasten, Monumenta eucharista et liturgica vetusissima [Bonn 1935–37] 20). In the same vein Eusebius of Caesarea remarks: "It was on this day that at the time of creation when God said, 'Let there be light,' there was light; and on this day also the Sun of Justice arose on our souls" (Comm. in psalmos 91; Patrologia Graeca 23:1172). St. Jerome acquiesced in this coincidence between revelation and pagan terminology: "If it is called the day of the sun by the pagans, we willingly accept this name, for on this day arose the Light of the world; on this day shone forth the Sun of Justice in whose rays is health" [In die dominica paschae; G. Morin, Anecdota Maredsolana (Maredsous 1897) 3.2:418].
Eighth Day. As early as the first half of the second century Christian writers began calling Sunday the "eighth day." Pseudo-Barnabas uses the expression to indicate the substitution of the New Testament for the Old. He portrays God as resting on the Jewish Sabbath from His work of creation, and then accomplishing the New Creation, the Church, on the eighth day: "The present Sabbaths are not acceptable to me, only the Sabbath which I have made, in which, after giving rest to all things, I will make the beginning of the eighth day, that is, the beginning of another world." Therefore, says Pseudo-Barnabas, "we … celebrate … the eighth day on which Jesus arose from the dead, was made manifest, and ascended into heaven" [Letter of Barnabas 15.8–9; The Fathers of the Church (New York 1947) 1:216].
The eschatological symbolism implicit in Pseudo-Barnabas is brought out by Origen: "The number eight, which contains the virtue of the Resurrection, is the figure of the future world" (Selecta in psalmos 118.164; Patrologia Graeca 12:1624). In like manner Ambrose gives the number eight the meaning of redemption: "The number eight is the fulfillment of our hope" (Expos. in evang. sec. Lucam 5.49; Patrologia Latina, ed. J. P. Migne [Paris 1878–90] 15:1735). "According to the Mosaic law a male child had to be circumcised on the eighth day after his birth, while in the New Testament Christ arose from the dead on the eighth day" (De Abraham 2.11; Patrologia Latina 14:494).
Hence by this term patristic writers teach that Sunday represents the definitive stage of creation, which began with the Resurrection. It is a day taken out of time to emphasize the fact that the events of the Redemption have already initiated for Christians the timeless life of heaven.
Lord's Day. The name dies dominica, appearing for the first time in Rv 1.10, was quickly taken up by Christians, and in time replaced dies solis as the legal name for the day. It is preserved to our own day in the romance languages as domenica, domingo, and dimanche.
The reason for the success of this term is that it aptly summarizes the Christian theology of Sunday. "The Lord's Day" refers to Christ the Lord (Kyrios), the Conqueror and Master. He became Lord and Master effectively through His Resurrection, which occurred on Sunday. "The Lord's Day," then, represents for Christians the marvelous intervention of God whereby He redeemed them in Christ, initiated His kingdom with them as Christ's Body, and prepared them for ultimate glory in heaven. Hence, it is the memorial of the Resurrection, the day for assembling the members of Christ's Body and making His redeeming presence actual, and the anticipation of the Parousia.
Celebration. Given the unique place of Sunday in the Christian dispensation, it bore from the very beginning a joyous character. All signs of penance and sorrow, such as kneeling and fasting (Tertullian, De corona militis 3; Patrologia Latina 2:79), were set aside. In fact, doing penance on Sunday was considered sinful (Didascalia Apostolorum 5.20.11; F. X. Funk, ed., Didascalia et constitutiones apostolorum [Paderborn 1905] 1:298).
Mass. The Eucharistic celebration is without doubt the chief characteristic of a Christian's observance of Sunday. No hard-and-fast rule existed in the early Church; attendance at Sunday Mass was simply taken for granted [Acts 20.7; Didache 14.1 (J. Quasten, Monumenta eucharista et liturgica vetusissima [Bonn 1935–37] 12); Justin, 1 Apol. 67.3 (ibid. 19)]. Only in the sixth century was there formulated an explicit law regarding the obligation to assist at Mass on Sunday; it came from the Council of Agde in 506 (Guiniven 23).
The Church is the assembly of the people of God. At Sunday Mass the Church becomes visible in her members gathered about the Lord's table to celebrate the Eucharist. This meal creates the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ as her members make present the Lord's redemptive action. Such an assembly gives the individual the sense of belonging to a family whose Father is God, whose elder brother is Christ, and whose joy is to live for each other. To absent oneself from the Sunday gathering without reason is to run the risk of weakening the tie with the body of Christians and of depriving oneself of the necessary spiritual nourishment.
Sunday Rest. The Sunday rest has an uneven history. Before the fourth-century decrees of legal toleration and later establishment of Christianity, Sunday was a workday; Christians worshiped in the night and early morning hours. The Church long maintained a healthy fear of idleness; the cessation of work on Sunday was introduced less to allow for rest than to clear the way for intense spiritual activity. This was clearly Origen's point of emphasis: "On Sunday none of the actions of the world should be done. If, then, you abstain from all the works of this world and keep yourself free for spiritual things, go to church, listen to the readings and divine homilies, meditate on heavenly things" (Homil. 23 in Numeros 4; Patrologia Graeca 12:749). Sunday rest from the labor that characterizes the other days of the week is a sign of freedom and redemption of a soul destined for God. Contemporary Catholic practice allows the use of Sunday for reasonable recreation, repose, charitable activity, and work that is truly necessary; primary emphasis, however, should be put on the worship of God.
Baptism. Traditionally, this Sacrament is a Sunday event. This practice is highly appropriate, since from very early times the custom of the Church was to baptize at Easter, and, even now, the baptismal water is blessed during the Easter Vigil. As we have seen, Sunday prolongs Easter through the year and is the weekly celebration of the Resurrection. Sunday is the proper day for administering this Sacrament, for the human race is buried to sin with Christ and rises with Him to newness of life in Baptism. The custom of the celebrant passing among the people before the principal Sunday Mass to sprinkle them with blessed water also provides a remembrance of Baptism and an echo of the Easter Vigil (see: asperges).
Vatican II. Vatican Council II's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy contains an expanded description of the significance of Sunday in the life of the faithful. The description focuses on the day itself and the action of the Church community. "By an apostolic tradition which took its origin from the very day of Christ's resurrection, the Church celebrates the paschal mystery every eighth day" (Sacrosanctum Concilium 106). Thus the Council Fathers articulated the memorial nature of the Sunday observance. The description continues: "For on this day Christ's faithful should come together into one place so that, by hearing the word of God and taking part in the Eucharist, they may call to mind the passion, the resurrection, and the glorification of the Lord Jesus" (ibid.). The document further notes that: "[the faithful] may thank God who 'has begotten us again, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, unto a living hope"' (ibid.). The consequence of such a memorial day with its community action makes the Lord's day the original feast day. The Council urges that this observance should be part of the piety of the faithful in order that Sunday would become in fact a day of joy and freedom from work. Drawing these thoughts into a specific norm, the document continues: "Other celebrations, unless they be of overriding importance, must not have precedence over this day, which is the foundation and nucleus of the whole liturgical year" (ibid.).
The revised Roman Calendar (1969) translated these guiding thoughts of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy into practical norms. The calendar's table of liturgical days according to their order of precedence ranks the Sundays of the year sixth (Calend Rom 4). The following specific norms are presented.
(1) "Because of its special importance, the celebration of Sunday is replaced only by solemnities or feasts of the Lord. The Sundays of Advent, Lent and the Easter season, however, take precedence over all solemnities and feasts of the Lord" (ibid. 5).
(2) "By its nature, Sunday excludes the permanent assignment of another celebration" (ibid. 6). Nevertheless, the document continues to note two categories of exceptions.
"Nevertheless (a) Sunday within the octave of Christmas is the feast of the Holy Family; (b) Sunday following January 6 is the feast of the Baptism of the Lord; (c) Sunday after Pentecost is the solemnity of the Holy Trinity; (d) the last Sunday of the liturgical year is the solemnity of Christ the King (ibid. 6). In those areas where the solemnities of Epiphany, Ascension, and Corpus Christi are not observed as holydays of obligation, they are assigned to a Sunday" (ibid. 7).
(3) Sundays of the year do yield their place to feasts of the Lord which are found in the general calendar, proper solemnities, solemnities of the Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary and saints listed in the general calendar (ibid.59).
(4) "For the pastoral advantage of the people, it is permissible to observe on the Sundays of the year those celebrations which occur during the week and which are popular with the faithful, provided they take precedence over these Sundays in the table of liturgical days" (ibid 58).
The revised calendar contains three directives for the development of particular (local) calendars. Among these there is an insistence that "the temporal cycle … in which the mystery of the redemption is unfolded during the liturgical year must be preserved intact and maintain proper preeminence over particular celebrations" (ibid.50). The framers of the revised general calendar indicate strongly that the particular calendars are not to be enlarged disproportionally. Hence saints are to have only one feast in the liturgical calendar.
The expanded description of Sunday found in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy and the practical norms of the revised calendar move in the direction of recognizing Sunday as "the original feast day" (ibid. 4; Sacrosanctum Concilium 106). This is very consistent with current liturgical spirituality which is centered on the person of Jesus in his passion, resurrection, and glorification, i.e. on the paschal mystery.
Bibliography: j. a. jungmann, The Meaning of Sunday (Notre Dame, Ind. 1961). n. m. denisboulet, The Christian Calendar, tr. p. hepburne-scott (New York 1960). a. g. martimort, L'Église en prière (Tournai 1961) 673–685. t. j. talley, The Origins of the Liturgical Year (Collegeville, 1991); a. j. martimort, ed. The Church at Prayer IV: The Liturgy and Time (Collegeville 1986); a. adam, The Liturgical Year: Its History and Its Meaning After the Reform of the Liturgy (New York 1981).
[w. j. sherzer/
p. r. cooney/eds.]
For centuries Sunday has had a distinct set of boundaries and meanings for children growing up in Catholic and Protestant households and nations. As styles of religious practice changed over time, so did proscriptions for Sunday observances. Broadly speaking, before the Protestant Reformation there was little difference between Sundays and other days, but afterward both Catholics and Protestants engaged in a reformation of the calendar that resulted in a regular rhythm of six days work and one day's rest (Sunday). Children's activities did not escape from this new emphasis on Sunday as a day strictly reserved for religious observance and instruction, thus giving rise to the oft-heard youthful lament about the tedium of Sundays.
Throughout the eighteenth century children were expected to observe Sunday in the same manner as adults, that is, to refrain from all but religious thoughts and actions; but in the early nineteenth century, shifting attitudes toward religion, family relations, and child rearing resulted in the development of new understandings about the Sundays of children. These new attitudes emphasized the belief that children had different religious and recreational needs than adults. In the United States, the resulting schematic applied most directly to the children of the middle classes, however many children of factory workers, African Americans, and of other marginalized Americans experienced Sundays that were distinct from the other days of the week, whether in attending services or gathering with family and friends or donning an outfit reserved for Sundays and special occasions.
In terms of religion, the most important and lasting development in the United States was the Sunday school. At first devoted to teaching the children of the urban poor to read and write, by the 1820s Sunday schools assumed a position as one of the central Protestant institutions devoted to inculcating religious literacy in children. Rising in large part out of the ferment of the Second Great Awakening, a nationwide religious revival that gave primacy to the centrality of personal conversion, the Sunday school movement at first aimed to foment religious awakening in the nation's youth. Soon, however, it settled into a complacent form of mostly nondenominational religious education, one that continues to inform American religious experience into the twenty-first century. Despite the recognition that children had special religious needs, it was still expected that they sit attentively through services (an expectation that only diminished in the second half of the twentieth century). Parents continued to take part in their children's religious-oriented education, overseeing family prayer and bible study at home. During the 1820s and 1830s, they were encouraged to let their children play on Sunday (which was in great contrast to their own childhood Sundays), but to sanctify this play with religiously oriented reading, games, and toys. By mid-century, Bible picture puzzles, inexpensive Bible books, Sunday reading, Christian-oriented games and toys (such as the Noah's Ark) were available through mail-order houses. Observant households witnessed children putting their everyday books and toys away Saturday night in preparation for a Sunday of special experiences, books, and playthings. As such, the theory went, children would learn to love Sunday, and consequently become committed Christians.
During the decades after the Civil War the emphasis on religious education and play dilated into a widespread acceptance of certain kinds of Sunday recreation, especially family-oriented recreation. As more and more men engaged in paid labor outside of the home, Sunday became "Daddy's Day with Baby" (as went the refrain of one popular song). As such, many began to emphasize family togetherness and recreation, often at the expense of religious observances. After midcentury, the Sunday dinner became a fixture in many households, while excursions of many varieties, including the uncomplicated Sunday drive, provided much desired and needed change for adults and children alike. Entrepreneurs met the demand for Sunday entertainment, especially that which was child-centered. Picnic grounds, beach resorts, and amusement parks all catered to the special needs of children with merry-go-rounds, pony rides, and such. Trolleys, railroads, steamships, and other forms of mass transportation did vigorous business on Sundays, often due to the patronage of large family groups. Publishers of the Sunday newspaper, whose widespread introduction in the 1880s elicited scorn and condemnation, also recognized the special needs of children, first with children's sections, and then, beginning in the 1900s, with the comics insert. In the twentieth century radio and television producers fashioned special shows for children's Sunday afternoons, such as The Wide World of Disney and Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. The church, the family, and the market, then, have recognized Sunday as an unique space of time in the lives of children, and have sought in various ways to cater to their needs.
See also: Birthday; Halloween; Parades; Vacations; Zoos.
McCrossen, Alexis. 2000. Holy Day, Holiday: The American Sunday. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
McDannell, Colleen. 1986. The Christian Home in Victorian America, 1840–1900. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Taves, Ann. 1986. The Household of Faith. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.
Sunday school a class held on Sundays to teach children about Christianity; such schools are now intended only for religious instruction, but originally also taught some secular subjects.
Sunday's child a child born on Sunday, traditionally greatly blessed or favoured; the belief is the culmination of the traditional rhyme Monday's child is fair of face.
See also Care Sunday at care, Egg Sunday at egg, a month of Sundays, Stir-up Sunday at stir.
Sun·day / ˈsənˌdā/ • n. the day of the week before Monday and following Saturday, observed by Christians as a day of rest and religious worship and (together with Saturday) forming part of the weekend: they left town on Sunday many people work on Sundays | [as adj.] Sunday evening. • adv. on Sunday: the concert will be held Sunday. ∎ (Sundays) on Sundays; each Sunday: the program is repeated Sundays at 9 p.m.
Sunday ★★ 1996
Basically a two-character study of mistaken identity among lonely, middleaged people. On a winter's Sunday morning in Queens, depressed Oliver (Suchet) is greeted by failing British actress Madeleine (Harrow), who mistakes him for a director she once met. She invites him to lunch and Oliver, who's actually a homeless former accountant, struggles to maintain the charade. The unstable Madeleine's bitter when she discovers his deception but is also unwillingly to let the connection between them die. 93m/C VHS, DVD . David Suchet, Lisa Harrow, Larry Pine, Jared Harris, Joe Grifasi; D: Jonathan Nossiter; W: Jonathan Nossiter, James Lasdun; C: Michael Barrow, John Foster; M: Jonathan Nossiter. Sundance ‘97: Screenplay, Grand Jury Prize.