REV. THOMAS SLATER, SJ.,
VOL I., FIFTH AND REVISED EDITION
LONDON: BURNS OATES & WASHBOURNE LTD.
PUBLISHERS TO THE HOLY SEE, 1925
CHAPTER II ON SERVILE WORK
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1. IN order that all, and especially the poor, may have the opportunity of fulfilling their religious duties, the Church has forbidden servile work to be done on Sunday. Servile work is the rougher and harder sort of manual labour which is done by common workmen and labourers, and which used to be done by slaves. It comprises ploughing, digging, building, sewing, and similar occupations. It is distinguished from liberal and from mixed work. Liberal work is done mainly by the intellect, and comprises writing, studying, painting, and so forth.
Mixed work comprises a class of occupations which are neither exclusively liberal nor servile, but which are done indifferently by all conditions of men. In this class are hunting, fishing, travelling, and similar occupations. Of these only servile work is forbidden on Sundays, and in determining what is servile work, and therefore forbidden, we must consider not only the nature of the work itself, but also the way in which it is done, the light in which it is commonly regarded, and other circumstances. Thus it is usually held that although the rougher work of the sculptor is servile and unlawful, the more delicate is liberal and may be done on a Sunday.
Similarly, fishing with rod and line is not unlawful, but going out to sea with a fishing-smack and plying the trade in the ordinary working- day way is forbidden. In the same way one who lives by photography should not ply his trade on a Sunday, but it would not be wrong for an amateur to do the same work on that day by way of recreation and amusement.
2. This part of the precept of keeping the Sunday holy also binds under pain of grave sin. If, however, the matter be light, the doing of a little servile work on a Sunday will be only a venial sin, and none at all if there be good reason for it. According to the common opinion, it would be necessary to work for well over two hours at something which is forbidden in order to commit a grave sin. Still longer time would be required for a mortal sin in doing servile work of a lighter kind, which had for it some sort of excuse on the ground that it helps on the cause of religion and charity. Making rosary beads or scapulars belongs to this category.
3. Public trading is also forbidden on Sundays, as well as judicial proceedings in the exercise of contentious juris- diction, and the solemn and public taking of oaths (Can. 1248). English municipal law goes farther than the law of the Church in its provisions for the due observance of the Lord's Day. Thus not only is Sunday a dies non for the sitting of courts or the meeting of public bodies, but contracts such as are within the ordinary calling of tradesmen, workmen, labourers, or other persons of the same sort, made and completed on Sunday, are void, and abstention from work and even from play is required by a series of statutes. 1
Although these provisions of the civil authority do not impose an obligation in conscience under pain of sin, yet indirectly they have caused the Sunday to be observed among us with greater strictness than is absolutely required by ecclesiastical law.
4. As we saw with regard to the hearing of Mass, so in this matter too, if the precept cannot be observed without serious inconvenience, it ceases to bind. And so, work in foundries or in agriculture which cannot be stopped without grave in- convenience and loss may be done on Sundays. Work, too, in the direct service of religion, or necessary works of charity connected with the care and nursing of the sick, or the burying of the dead, are not forbidden. Custom permits of the sweeping of the house and the cooking of meals, and certain other more or less necessary occupations on Sunday.
Finally, ecclesiastical authority can, for good reason, dispense in the observance of this law. Not only Bishops, but priests who have the cure of souls, have discretionary power to give dispensations in particular cases. 2
1 Encyclopedia of Laws, s.v. Sunday.
2 i West., d. 23, n. i; Can. 1245, sec. i.
ďWhy Did God Change the Sabbath?Ē
This short discussion on the Sabbath will not answer all of your questions about the Sabbath. It perhaps will help you as you study further on your own.
In the beginning when God rested, it was after His work. Godís seventh-day rest was on the first full day of manís life. From this we learn that man was to first rest in Godís work by trusting and obeying him, and then do his own work. BEFORE SIN, REST CAME FIRST, THEN WORK.
By sinning, man refused to rest in Godís work and tried to do his own work first apart from God. Man then lost his rest. But God graciously offered another rest. However, this rest was to be in the future when Jesus Christ came. This future rest was to be symbolized by the rest day being placed at the end of the week (in the future) on the seventh day. AFTER SIN, WORK CAME FIRST, THEN REST (six days of work, then a Sabbath rest on the seventh).
Though the foundation for the Sabbath was established at the Creation, the seventh day was only officially established by God at Mt. Sinai (Ex. 20:8-11) and was to point man to the eternal rest which only Jesus Christ could bring. At the same time, temporary ceremonial laws for the Sabbath day were given to Israel. The Old Testament Sabbath was to be kept holy by all believers through keeping these specific laws.
Therefore, when Jesus Christ came and died, things had to change. After Christ came, the true rest, which the seventh-day Sabbath symbolized, was no longer in the future. True rest was available now--in the present. With Christís new resurrection life, man must again rest first in (the Son of) Godís work, then do his own work. This was a new beginning and was to be pictured now by resting again on the first day of the week (as was the case before the Fall) and then working. The new was coming in; the old was passing away (2 Corinthians 5:17).
By doing His work on the cross on Friday and resting in the grave on Saturday, Jesus Christ kept the old Sabbath one more time before establishing a new Sabbath on first day based on his new resurrection life. Therefore, from the time of Christís death, the old Sabbath began quickly to fade away. The effect of sin was being reversed. The rest God promised for the future had now come in Jesus Christ. This new rest was to be pictured in a new Sabbath day. Therefore, Christ rose from the dead on the first day. He gathered now with His disciples on the first day. In the New Testament, believers began meeting on the first day. Now that Jesus Christ had come, man was again to rest on the first day and then work as it was in the beginning. AFTER CHRIST, REST WAS FIRST, THEN WORK (a Sabbath rest on the first day, then six days of work).
IN PRINCIPLE, Christ (the Lord of the Sabbath) established the New Testament Sabbath day at His resurrection. But IN PRACTICE, it would be ages before a civil government was influenced enough by Godís law in the Gospel to set down the first day of the week as an official day of rest. Thus, under difficult and oppressive circumstances, Christians could work on the Sabbath without breaking the law. The old ceremonial Sabbath laws against any kind of work were no longer to be strictly applied on the new Sabbath day.
For the above reasons, the Bible teaches that the first day of the week is the New Testament Sabbath day. It is still a holy day, but is kept holy somewhat differently now that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead and the Old Testament ceremonial laws were fulfilled by Christ and no longer bind man. The day is now commonly referred to as ďthe Lordís DayĒ because it is the one day in seven that is especially His day because on this day He rose from the dead and rested from His work. In His work, true Christians rest.
It is important to recognize that the Sabbath day for Christians is primarily a picture of the true and eternal Sabbath rest. This rest is found only in faithful, trusting obedience to Jesus Christ. Every Lordís Day prepares us for and points us to the fact that we are to be daily turning from our own evil works and relying upon the Lordís work in us by His Holy Spirit. In doing this we begin the eternal Sabbath in this life. Experiencing this rest first is necessary for us in our lives of work as Christians.
As we look back at the history of the Sabbath, we can see that the Father and the Son have both finished their primary work and rested. The Father rested after Creation and the Son after the cross. Yet the Holy Spirit is still at work today. When He finishes His work, the eternal Sabbath shall become complete for all believersóour first-of-the-week Sabbath day points to this complete rest. Only then shall we enter the perfect rest which we begin in this life in Jesus Christ. Praise the Lord.