From John Ray's shorter notes

2 June, 2012

The Sabbath

"Six days thou shalt work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest" -- Exodus 34:21

My recent very unpleasant medical problems have made me ask what is the best way forward in my life. To answer that question I turned to the wisest book I know: The Bible. And I found the quotation above. Following Bible advice has always worked wonderfully for me so I now intend to follow that piece of advice too. I intend from now on the keep the Sabbath and will blog only six days of the week instead of seven.

But it will be the real Sabbath I will keep, not the pagan abomination of the Sun's day. It was precisely because the pagans had set aside the first say of the week as a day to worship the sun that the ancient Hebrews defiantly made the seventh day of the week their holy day and I will follow their example. I will no longer blog on Saturday but will do other things.

But I will not be surrounding what I do with rules. As Jesus said, the Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath. The Commandment above simply says to do no work and that does not exclude doing all sorts of other things.

One of the things I would like to do today is to learn the words of the Stabat Mater in full. It is the most famous Medieval Latin poem and has been set by many composers -- with the glorious rendition by Pergolesi being best known. I already sort of know the poem but would like to be able to recite the whole thing right through without interruption. To be able to do that will be pleasure, not work. Latin poetry is wonderful even in a work of Marian devotion.

Stabat mater dolorosa
Juxta crucem lacrimosa
Dum pendebat filius

Cuius animam gementem
contristatam et dolentem
Pertransivit gladius ... etc

The is a video from Italy here which offers a respectful version of the first part of the Pergolesi masterpiece. If it's a techno beat you like, you will hate it. This is a work of profound contemplation about the central event of the Christian faith. Even I as an atheist can feel the power of it.

Update from my first Sabbath:

Anne and I had a leisurely trip to Wynnum (by the sea) in the Humber for morning tea and I spent most of the afternoon studying the Stabat Mater. My old brain was not up to memorizing everything I wanted but I made some progress. I have had the devil of a job remembering:

O quam tristis et afflicta
fuit illa bendicta
Mater unigeniti

But I think I have now got it. I only want to learn the first 8 verses anyway. The Marian devotion in the later verses is a bit much for me

I also spent some time studying "Prufrock" by T.S. Eliot in the afternoon and read it to Anne after dinner. I think she could see why such a dismal piece of work was nonetheless important and famous. It does have some good lines in it (e.g. "I have measured out my life with coffee spoons") and it seems clear to me what it is all about -- though there are various versions of that. A stream of consciousness poem does lend itself to various interpretations.

Exegetical Update

I am delighted to report that one of my readers has updated me on the history of Sunday worship among the early Christians. It would seem that it was another one of Paul's innovations designed to attract non-Jewish adherents. As well as dismissing the need for circumcision, he also dismissed the need for worship to be on a particular day. Christ's statement that the Sabbath was made for man certainly gave him considerable authority for that.

We read:

On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight. Acts 20:7

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. Romans 14:56

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. Colossians 2:16

The fact that the resurrection was described as happening on a Sunday no doubt helped greatly towards sanctifying that day. Some interesting reports on second century Christian usage here (Scroll down).

So clearly Saturday worship is not a requirement for Christians but Sunday worship is still of pagan origins and I like the Jewish attitude of decisively rejecting anything that deflected attention from their unique God and his great wisdom.

Go to John Ray's Main academic menu
Go to Menu of longer writings
Go to John Ray's basic home page
Go to John Ray's pictorial Home Page
Go to Selected pictures from John Ray's blogs