The Fourth Commandment: Part – 8

June 12, 2015

 Doing mercy on the Sabbath

We ought not to understand the commandment of the Sabbath in a literal way as stated in (2 Cor. 3:6), “Who also hath made us able ministers of the New Testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.”Let us have some examples for this:

Suppose a physician keeps the Lord’s Day holy by not working on it, and one Sunday a person who is in danger and about to die called for his help, would he say: No, let him die and the Lord’s Day be not broken!! In this case, the physician has no mercy and God desires mercy and not sacrifice. It does not mean that a physician ought to open his consulting room every day without waiting for the clients, giving himself excuse that his work is to comfort people’s pains!! No. We mean only urgent cases. For example, a surgery which can be postponed for some days should not be performed on the Lord’s Day. But if it was so urgent that if it is not performed immediately the patient would die, doing it will not be breaking of the Lord’s Day.

The same applies if it is necessary for a patient to have some injection at a certain time or have a wound dressed on Sundays.

Another example: a house is on fire on a Sunday; would we say: This is the Lord’s Day, we leave it to burn today and put out the fire from the remaining part on Monday!! This is unreasonable. The same can be said in case of a person who is drowning or a case which needs urgent help or a merciful work that cannot be postponed.

Religious teaching and worship on the Lord’s Day

God has commanded that the Sabbath be allocated to worship, “… a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation." (Lev. 23:3). It means that spiritual meetings should be held on it. He said also, "From Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before Me" (Is. 66:23). He ordered also that burnt offerings and grain offerings be offered to Him on the Sabbath (Ezec. 46:4). The Holy Scriptures were also read on that day, "For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath." (Acts 15: 21).

Not only was the Sabbath a day for worship, but also for teaching. The Lord Christ taught on the Sabbath (Mark 6:2). His apostles did so as well. St. Paul the Apostle used to teach in the synagogues every Sabbath, "And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks." (Acts 18:4). And in Thessalonica, " … Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures," (Acts 17:1-2).

Therefore, the Holy Scriptures are read in the Church in the Liturgy every Sunday, and sermons are delivered to the people, and children are taught in the Sunday schools. The Lord’s day is not a day for laziness and sluggishness, but a day for worship, contemplations, spiritual meetings and readings and not just stopping worldly works; otherwise we would be negative on it.

The expression "Keep Holy" means "dedicating." Keeping the day holy, then, means dedicating it for the Lord, and so it is called the Lord’s Day because on it He rests as He rested on the Seventh day and our spirits rest in Him.

Be careful also not to think that the Lord’s Day means taking rest at home, listening to the radio, reading newspapers and magazines or entertaining yourself in places of amusement. Remember rather that the Lord requires you to make this day holy for Him.

To be continued …

Source: H.H. Pope Shenouda III, 1997.Contemplations on the Ten Commandments: The fourth Commandment, Volume I.