In this prepared speech, read to millions in Vatican Square and over
the airwaves around the globe, Pope John Paul II focused on the
importance of Sunday being kept by every Christian on the planet.
When you stop to think about it, Sunday is the most universally
accepted Catholic teaching in the world. Because of a crucial decision
made at the Council of Trent, it is the basis of Catholic authority; and
the Vatican is well-aware of the fact. When the pope delivered this
Easter sermon to an audience of millions, he could speak on any
subject-but he chose to emphasize the importance of all Christians
everywhere keeping Sunday holy. For this reason, we are reprinting
salient portions of this Easter sermon. Notice that he repeatedly
mentions that it is not the crucifixion (a Friday event) which provides
our salvation; but the resurrection (a Sunday event) provides our
salvation. You are about to read some of the arguments for Sunday
sacredness, which will be repeated to you when the National Sunday Law
is enacted. In our reprint, all capitalization, or its lack, is theirs.
Brackets are ours.
"The Lord's Day--as Sunday was called from Apostolic times--has
always been accorded special attention in the history of the Church
because of its close connection with the very core of the Christian
mystery. Sunday recalls the day of Christ's Resurrection. It is Easter
which returns week by week, celebrating Christ's victory over sin and
death, the fulfillment in him of the first creation and the dawn of 'the
new creation . .
"The fundamental importance of Sunday has been recognized through two
thousand years of history and was emphatically restated by the Second
"Every seven days, the Church celebrates the Easter mystery. This is
a tradition going back to the Apostles, taking its origin from the
actual day of Christ's Resurrection--a day that is appropriately
designated "the Lord's Day."
"The Second Vatican Council teaches that on Sunday 'Christian
believers should come together, in order to commemorate the suffering,
Resurrection and glory of the Lord Jesus, by hearing God's Word and
sharing the Eucharist, and to give thanks to God who has given them new
birth to a living hope through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the
dead' (cf. 1 Pt 1:3).
"Sunday is a day which is at the very heart of the Christian life.
The rediscovery of this day is a grace which we must implore. Time given
to Christ is never time lost, but is rather time gained, so that our
relationships and indeed our whole life may become more profoundly human
"The Lord's Day' is the day of this relationship [of praising and
meditating on God] par excellence when men and women raise their song to
God and become the voice of all creation. This is precisely why It is
also the day of rest. The interruption of the often oppressive rhythm of
work expresses the dependence of man and the cosmos upon God. Everything
belongs to God! The Lord's Day returns again and again to declare this
principle within the weekly reckoning of time.
"Although the Lord's Day is rooted in the very work of creation and
even more in the mystery of the Biblical 'rest' of God, it is
nonetheless to the Resurrection of Christ that we must look in order to
understand fully the Lord's Day. This is what the Christian Sunday does,
leading the faithful each week to ponder and live the event of Easter,
true source of the world's salvation. .
"The day of Pentecost. . when the promise made by Jesus to the
Apostles after the Resurrection was fulfilled by the outpouring of the
Holy Spirit--also fell on a Sunday..
"It was again Sunday when, 50 days after the Resurrection, the Spirit
descended in power . . Pentecost is not only the founding event of the
Church, but is also the mystery which forever gives life to the Church .
"Sunday is not only the remembrance of a past event, It is a
celebration of the living presence of the Risen Lord in the midst of his
own people . .
"It is important therefore that they come together to express fully
the very identity of the Church, the ekkiesia [Greek word for
"church"], the assembly called together by the Risen Lord . .
"This ecclesial dimension intrinsic to the Eucharist is realized in
every Eucharistic celebration. But it is expressed most especially on
the day when the whole community comes together to commemorate the
"Significantly, the Catechism of the Catholic Church
that 'the Sunday celebration of the Lord's Day and his Eucharist is at
the heart of the Church's life.' For Christian families, the Sunday
assembly is one of the most outstanding expressions of their identity .
"As in every Eucharistic celebration, the Risen Lord is encountered
in the Sunday assembly at the twofold table of the word and of the Bread
of Life . .
"In coming to know the Church, which every Sunday joyfully celebrates
the mystery from which she draws her life, may the men and women of the
Third Millennium come to know the Risen Christ."
-Pope John Paul II, Easter Sermon, Sunday morning,
April 11, 2004