Q. “I’m not sure how to structure this question, but a Seventh Day Adventist once told me that Mass was originally intended for Saturday, as per Jewish custom, and that Sunday Mass was made up by us Catholics. I really didn’t know what to say to that. What is the history of this? Thanks!”
A. This is an interesting question. For starters, a quick comment on the Sunday Mass being “made up by us Catholics.” Such a statement implies that there was something else before Mass or Catholics. Although it is not uncommon for some to imagine that Christianity was born after the Protestant Reformation, Sunday Mass WAS Christianity – exclusively – for many, many centuries. More importantly, though, what is the significance of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass being offered on Sunday? There are several approaches that could account for this, and I would like to consider one.
The Jewish Sabbath came at the end of their week, which translates into our contemporary calendar as Saturday. This meant that Sunday was the first day of the week. Jesus’ Resurrection was definitely a real event, but not in the same way as some other historical event where we could say “such and such happened on this date at this time.” The Resurrection was so powerful that it could not be contained by time. In fact, it influenced every moment of time, past, present and future. As such, early Christians spoke of the Resurrection happening on “the eighth day” – a day outside of the seven-day week. Eight days from the first day of the week lands back on a Sunday.
Therefore, as a sign of the New Covenant, the earliest Christians, who saw their celebration of the Eucharist as a celebration of Christ’s death and Resurrection, commemorated it happening on Sunday instead of the Saturday Sabbath. This custom is one of the most ancient in Christianity. Seventh Day Adventism rose up, fractured and split into multiple followings in the 18th century – slightly removed from Christian antiquity…