The Sabbath in the Early Church

Apostolic Constitutions (Book II), Section 4,

XXXVI. Have before your eyes the fear of God, and always remember the ten commandments of God—to love the one and only Lord God with all your strength; to give no heed to idols, or any other beings, as being lifeless gods, or irrational beings or dæmons. Consider the manifold workmanship of God, which received its beginning through Christ. You shall observe the Sabbath, on account of Him who ceased from His work of creation, but ceased not from His work of providence: it is a rest for meditation of the law, not for idleness of the hands.

http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/07152.htm

Apostolic Constitutions (Book VII), Section 2,

“XXIII. But let not your fasts be with the hypocrites; for they fast on the second and fifth days of the week. But do you either fast the entire five days, or on the fourth day of the week, and on the day of the Preparation, because on the fourth day the condemnation went out against the Lord, Judas then promising to betray Him for money; and you must fast on the day of the Preparation, because on that day the Lord suffered the death of the cross under Pontius Pilate. But keep the Sabbath, and the Lord’s day festival; because the former is the memorial of the creation, and the latter of the resurrection. But there is one only Sabbath to be observed by you in the whole year, which is that of our Lord’s burial, on which men ought to keep a fast, but not a festival. For inasmuch as the Creator was then under the earth, the sorrow for Him is more forcible than the joy for the creation; for the Creator is more honourable by nature and dignity than His own creatures.

XXXVI. O Lord Almighty You have created the world by Christ, and hast appointed the Sabbath in memory thereof, because that on that day You have made us rest from our works, for the meditation upon Your laws. You have also appointed festivals for the rejoicing of our souls, that we might come into the remembrance of that wisdom which was created by You; how He submitted to be made of a woman on our account; He appeared in life, and demonstrated Himself in His baptism; how He that appeared is both God and man; He suffered for us by Your permission, and died, and rose again by Your power: on which account we solemnly assemble to celebrate the feast of the resurrection on the Lord’s day, and rejoice on account of Him who has conquered death, and has brought life and immortality to light. For by Him You have brought home the Gentiles to Yourself for a peculiar people, the true Israel beloved of God, and seeing God. For You O Lord, brought our fathers out of the land of Egypt, and delivered them out of the iron furnace, from clay and brick-making, and redeemed them out of the hands of Pharaoh, and of those under him, and led them through the sea as through dry land, and bore their manners in the wilderness, and bestowed on them all sorts of good things. You gave them the law or decalogue, which was pronounced by Your voice and written with Your hand. You enjoined the observation of the Sabbath, not affording them an occasion of idleness, but an opportunity of piety, for their knowledge of Your power, and the prohibition of evils; having limited them as within an holy circuit for the sake of doctrine, for the rejoicing upon the seventh period. On this account was there appointed one week, and seven weeks, and the seventh month, and the seventh year, and the revolution of these, the jubilee, which is the fiftieth year for remission, that men might have no occasion to pretend ignorance. On this account He permitted men every Sabbath to rest, that so no one might be willing to send one word out of his mouth in anger on the day of the Sabbath. For the Sabbath is the ceasing of the creation, the completion of the world, the inquiry after laws, and the grateful praise to God for the blessings He has bestowed upon men. All which the Lord’s day excels, and shows the Mediator Himself, the Provider, the Lawgiver, the Cause of the resurrection, the First-born of the whole creation, God the Word, and man, who was born of Mary alone, without a man, who lived holily, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and died, and rose again from the dead. So that the Lord’s day commands us to offer unto You, O Lord, thanksgiving for all. For this is the grace afforded by You, which on account of its greatness has obscured all other blessings.”

http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/07157.htm

Tertullian, Against Marcion, Book IV, C12,

“Concerning the Sabbath also I have this to premise, that this question could not have arisen, if Christ did not publicly proclaim the Lord of the Sabbath. Nor could there be any discussion about His annulling the Sabbath, if He had a right to annul it. Moreover, He would have the right, if He belonged to the rival god; nor would it cause surprise to any one that He did what it was right for Him to do. Men’s astonishment therefore arose from their opinion that it was improper for Him to proclaim the Creator to be God and yet to impugn His Sabbath. Now, that we may decide these several points first, lest we should be renewing them at every turn to meet each argument of our adversary which rests on some novel institution of Christ, let this stand as a settled point, that discussion concerning the novel character of each institution ensued on this account, because as nothing was as yet advanced by Christ touching any new deity, so discussion thereon was inadmissible; nor could it be retorted, that from the very novelty of each several institution another deity was clearly enough demonstrated by Christ, inasmuch as it was plain that novelty was not in itself a characteristic to be wondered at in Christ, because it had been foretold by the Creator. And it would have been, of course, but right that a new god should first be expounded, and his discipline be introduced afterwards; because it would be the god that would impart authority to the discipline, and not the discipline to the god; except that (to be sure) it has happened that Marcion acquired his very perverse opinions not from a master, but his master from his opinion! All other points respecting the Sabbath I thus rule.If Christ interfered with the Sabbath, He simply acted after the Creator’s example; inasmuch as in the siege of the city of Jericho the carrying around the walls of the ark of the covenant for eight days running, and therefore on a Sabbath day, actually annulled the Sabbath, by the Creator’s command— according to the opinion of those who think this of Christ in this passage of St. Luke, in their ignorance that neither Christ nor the Creator violated the Sabbath, as we shall by and by show. And yet the Sabbath was actually then broken by Joshua, so that the present charge might be alleged also against Christ. But even if, as being not the Christ of the Jews, He displayed a hatred against the Jews’ most solemn day, He was only professedly following the Creator, as being His Christ, in this very hatred of the Sabbath; for He exclaims by the mouth of Isaiah: Your new moons and your Sabbaths my soul hates. Isaiah 1:14 Now, in whatever sense these words were spoken, we know that an abrupt defence must, in a subject of this sort, be used in answer to an abrupt challenge. I shall now transfer the discussion to the very matter in which the teaching of Christ seemed to annul the Sabbath. The disciples had been hungry; on that the Sabbath day they had plucked some ears and rubbed them in their hands; by thus preparing their food, they had violated the holy day. Christ excuses them, and became their accomplice in breaking the Sabbath. The Pharisees bring the charge against Him. Marcion sophistically interprets the stages of the controversy (if I may call in the aid of the truth of my Lord to ridicule his arts), both in the scriptural record and in Christ’s purpose. For from the Creator’s Scripture, and from the purpose of Christ, there is derived a colourable precedent — as from the example of David, when he went into the temple on the Sabbath, and provided food by boldly breaking up the show-bread. Even he remembered that this privilege (I mean the dispensation from fasting) was allowed to the Sabbath from the very beginning, when the Sabbath day itself was instituted. For although the Creator had forbidden that the manna should be gathered for two days, He yet permitted it on the one occasion only of the day before the Sabbath, in order that the yesterday’s provision of food might free from fasting the feast of the following Sabbath day. Good reason, therefore, had the Lord for pursuing the same principle in the annulling of the Sabbath (since that is the word which men will use); good reason, too, for expressing the Creator’s will, when He bestowed the privilege of not fasting on the Sabbath day. In short, He would have then and there put an end to the Sabbath, nay, to the Creator Himself, if He had commanded His disciples to fast on the Sabbath day, contrary to the intention of the Scripture and of the Creator’s will. But because He did not directly defend His disciples, but excuses them; because He interposes human want, as if deprecating censure; because He maintains the honour of the Sabbath as a day which is to be free from gloom rather than from work; because he puts David and his companions on a level with His own disciples in their fault and their extenuation; because He is pleased to endorse the Creator’s indulgence: because He is Himself good according to His example— is He therefore alien from the Creator? Then the Pharisees watch whether He would heal on the Sabbath day, Luke 6:7 that they might accuse Him— surely as a violator of the Sabbath, not as the propounder of a new god; for perhaps I might be content with insisting on all occasions on this one point, that another Christ is nowhere proclaimed. The Pharisees, however, were in utter error concerning the law of the Sabbath, not observing that its terms were conditional, when it enjoined rest from labour, making certain distinctions of labour. For when it says of the Sabbath day, In it you shall not do any work of yours, Exodus 20:16 by the word yours it restricts the prohibition to human work— which every one performs in his own employment or business— and not to divine work. Now the work of healing or preserving is not proper to man, but to God. So again, in the law it says, You shall not do any manner of work in it, Exodus 12:16 except what is to be done for any soul, that is to say, in the matter of delivering the soul; because what is God’s work may be done by human agency for the salvation of the soul. By God, however, would that be done which the man Christ was to do, for He was likewise God. Wishing, therefore, to initiate them into this meaning of the law by the restoration of the withered hand, He requires, Is it lawful on the Sabbath-days to do good, or not? To save life, or to destroy it? Luke 6:9 In order that He might, while allowing that amount of work which He was about to perform for a soul, remind them what works the law of the Sabbath forbade— even human works; and what it enjoined— even divine works, which might be done for the benefit of any soul, He was called Lord of the Sabbath, Luke 6:5 because He maintained the Sabbath as His own institution. Now, even if He had annulled the Sabbath, He would have had the right to do so,as being its Lord, (and) still more as He who instituted it.But He did not utterly destroy it, although its Lord, in order that it might henceforth be plain that the Sabbath was not broken by the Creator, even at the time when the ark was carried around Jericho. For that was really God’s work, which He commanded Himself, and which He had ordered for the sake of the lives of His servants when exposed to the perils of war. Now, although He has in a certain place expressed an aversion of Sabbaths, by calling them your Sabbaths, Isaiah 1:13-14 reckoning them as men’s Sabbaths, not His own, because they were celebrated without the fear of God by a people full of iniquities, and loving God with the lip, not the heart, Isaiah 29:13 He has yet put His own Sabbaths (those, that is, which were kept according to His prescription) in a different position; for by the same prophet, in a later passage, He declared them to be true, and delightful, and inviolable. Thus Christ did not at all rescind the Sabbath: He kept the law thereof, and both in the former case did a work which was beneficial to the life of His disciples, for He indulged them with the relief of food when they were hungry, and in the present instance cured the withered hand; in each case intimating by facts, I came not to destroy, the law, but to fulfil it, Matthew 5:17 although Marcion has gagged His mouth by this word. For even in the case before us He fulfilled the law, while interpreting its condition; moreover, He exhibits in a clear light the different kinds of work, while doing what the law excepts from the sacredness of the Sabbath and while imparting to the Sabbath day itself, which from the beginning had been consecrated by the benediction of the Father, an additional sanctity by His own beneficent action. For He furnished to this day divine safeguards, — a course which His adversary would have pursued for some other days, to avoid honouring the Creator’s Sabbath, and restoring to the Sabbath the works which were proper for it. Since, in like manner, the prophet Elisha on this day restored to life the dead son of the Shunammite woman, you see, O Pharisee, and you too, O Marcion, how that it was proper employment for the Creator’s Sabbaths of old to do good, to save life, not to destroy it; how that Christ introduced nothing new, which was not after the example, the gentleness, the mercy, and the prediction also of the Creator. For in this very example He fulfils the prophetic announcement of a specific healing: The weak hands are strengthened, as were also the feeble knees Isaiah 35:3 in the sick of the palsy.”

http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/03124.htm

Socrates Scholasticus, Church History (Book V), Chapter 22. The Author’s Views respecting the Celebration of Easter, Baptism, Fasting, Marriage, the Eucharist, and Other Ecclesiastical Rites:

“For although almost all churches throughout the world celebrate the sacred mysteries on the sabbath of every week, yet the Christians of Alexandria and at Rome, on account of some ancient tradition, have ceased to do this.”

http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/26015.htm

Sozomen, Ecclesiastical History (Book VII), Chapter 19. A List Worthy of Study, Given by the Historian, of Customs among Different Nations and Churches.

“The people of Constantinople, and almost everywhere, assemble together on the Sabbath, as well as on the first day of the week, which custom is never observed at Rome or at Alexandria. There are several cities and villages in Egypt where, contrary to the usage established elsewhere, the people meet together on Sabbath evenings, and, although they have dined previously, partake of the mysteries. The same prayers and psalms are not recited nor the same lections read on the same occasions in all churches.”

http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/26027.htm

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