Saturday, June 8, 2013

O Blessed Sabbath!

As we celebrate the Sabbath (still the Greek term for Saturday) each week, how should it draw our minds to Christ?

The Sabbath began as a day of rest, the day on which the Lord "rested" from His work of creation.  In memory of that, it became the Lord's Day, the day when the Jews were likewise called to rest from their work.  Though now Sunday, the Day of the Lord's Resurrection, has taken the place of the Sabbath as the Lord's Day, our day of holy rest, we know that Saturday was originally the day of rest.

Yet how much could God really rest on any day?  If there were not energy coming from God to us at all times, wouldn't we cease to be, we who are contingent beings?  And could God ever even need to rest?  He is omnipotent, after all.  We, though, weak as we are, need to rest, so God may have been giving us a model to follow, the model of holy rest.  The Sabbath was made for man, after all.

That does not solve the problem, though, of a God Who "rests" while working.  Is He lying to us when He says that He rests?  No: I think it means that the Sabbath is the day of God's hidden work, the Day of the Hidden God.  Jesus revealed this work to us during His healings on the Sabbath: He showed us that God does not rest.  How much more work must God do on the Sabbath than those few healings that Jesus performed!  The Sabbath is still a day of God's work, albeit one of hidden work.

Do we not see this on the Great and Holy Saturday?  On that day, our Lord Jesus Christ was in the tomb, seemingly doing no work.  Yet while His body lay in a tomb in Israel, His soul was freeing the souls in Sheol, in Hades.  He preached to those who died before Him, and He saved those who accepted His salvation.  Until we reach that eternal union with our Lord, we will never know how many souls He saved that day.  And yet it looks like He did no work: it looks like He rested, dead, in the tomb.  The hidden work of the first Sabbath prefigures that great hidden work of the Great and Holy Sabbath.

This great hidden work is remembered liturgically on the Sabbath: we remember the dead and ask the Lord to save them on the day He saved so many of the long-dead ones.  We also remember all of the saints, including all those unknown souls He saved that day.  Each week, in our liturgical commemorations that recollect the Paschal Week, and especially on those Sabbaths of the Dead, we remember the work of the Great and Holy Sabbath.  (Is this also the reason behind the Sabbatine privilege connected to the Scapular?)

The Sabbath reminds us of God's hidden work, all that He does that we do not see.  It reminds us, too, of all the unknown dead He saves and of all those unknown saints.  Such is the greatness of that Day of Hidden Work, the Day of the Dead, the Day of the Saints, the Sabbath.

O Blessed Sabbath, O late day
on which our Lord rescued the dead,
remind us of His hidden work
and save us when our lives do end.

No comments:

Post a Comment