Restoring Sunday to its proper dimension

Is Sunday really passé? No longer needed? A dreary end to the weekend? Stop! It’s worthwhile rediscovering its real dimension.

When debating whether to ban Sunday trading, Sunday as such was almost pronounced... dead. Supposedly, Sunday doesn’t agree with anyone, because we just no longer need it. It’s just an unpleasant add-on to the much-awaited, fabulous and slowly-fading weekend. Unpleasant, because tainted by a hangover, family squabbles, mental preparations for our horrible early morning rituals on Monday and new tasks that await us. That’s not the Christian path.

The description above may be exaggerated, yet you can’t help but admit there’s some truth to it: we have forgotten how to celebrate Sunday in recent decades. We have forgotten by whom it was established, what for and how it should be spent. That doesn’t mean it’s been lost for good, though. Restoring Sunday to its proper dimension will be for the benefit of the entire society and each one of us. One cannot decline such a gift.

Order reversed

Father Professor Marek Lis, a media and film expert, says that he’s been trying to rigorously observe Sunday for years. How? By shutting himself off from extra stimuli and meetings and, if possible, staying surrounded by his closest family. For it’s the Lord’s Day, meant for rest, calm and worship. But why is it getting increasingly difficult for us to observe Sunday this way? “I think it’s too sweeping to say ‘we no longer know how to celebrate.’ Of course, some crisis in celebrating Sunday is plain to see. Why?

The profane domain of commerce has started to embrace all that was previously available and admired in temples: the scent of incense, the music, one’s best attire...

Celebration can be considered under two aspects. The first refers to the very word: this time of celebration should make us turn towards a better and holier realm. The other relates to ourselves: those who celebrate pause to create some other, better space. In this aspect, man is never alone because celebrating is all about togetherness and sharing joy. Of course, it depends on how much we make it our own thing.”

The media expert points out that our problems with keeping Sunday holy didn’t emerge overnight. Back in 1999, John Paul II in his apostolic letter “On keeping the Lord’s day holy,” noted and diagnosed the problem that would escalate over time. “Our problems with cherishing the ability to celebrate Sunday in the Christian way result from consumerism encroaching on our lives. We delight in having all goods readily available at the shops. They have become a gateway to a colourful, sweet-smelling and promising reality. Shops have ceased to be places just for shopping and have become malls, where you can get your hair and nails done, eat out, and so on. Places where you can feel better. So we can talk about the pseudo sacralisation of places that really are pretty mundane and profane. The profane is beautiful and special in our eyes and so it has become holy and festive.”

Orders have reversed. The profane domain of commerce has started to embrace all that was previously available and admired in… temples. In church, you can smell the scent of incense, while shops spray aromas. They also play mood-creating music, as churches do. And shop assistants, who would once be dressed in plain aprons, now wear smart clothes. They are the intermediaries between our wallets and a reality we long for…,” says Father Lis.

And no wonder that such “better” reality forms attract thoughtless interest. Some have reduced their Sunday time to flat consumption, simple entertainment and spending, or killing, the time given to us. “But the other major issue about Sunday is we’re just unable to be together,” adds Father Lis. “For centuries, Sunday was a holy day which reminded us to be grateful to God for being able to spend time with the family. Nowadays it’s increasingly harder since we’re drifting apart and don’t see much of each other. Meanwhile, deep and true relations with the people around us are often replaced by... the smartphone. We’re in touch with the entire world but we find it difficult to sit down to a frank talk with wife or child,” observes Father Lis and adds teasingly: “So we don’t need to come in defence of Sunday but rather of what’s good in man and what’s been forgotten these days: love, relationships, longing to experience the sacred; if we succeed in sustaining them, we’ll naturally restore Sunday to its sense and significance.

Leisure time?

“Time in a consumer society doesn’t alternate between weekday and holiday, as in the Christian model of culture, but rather between work and leisure. That’s why the weekend is getting the better of Sunday: the time from Friday afternoon to Sunday night, which—unlike the every-day work routine—is a time of freedom, relaxation, or some extra beneficial activities,” argues Dr Maria Rogaczewska, a sociologist at the University of Warsaw. “Even the Sunday Mass is increasingly becoming a problem because it clashes with travelling, countryside trips, and other pleasant things,” she adds.

The Sunday of yesteryear—or the traditionally long morning Mass, followed by family meetings and long family meals—has been reduced to an hour of quick service, often late in the evening. Sunday has been secularised because the home and church spheres are kept strictly apart in the lives of most Poles. Religion stays within the church walls, while home, shop, workplace and playground are usually secular areas, distant from things sacred. “Only members of such movements as Home Church or the Neocatechumenal Way try to make family life a continued celebration of liturgy, but they represent a small minority (around 7 per cent) of Poland’s Catholics,” Rogaczewska says. She adds that for other believers the way to merge liturgy with life should lead through the encouragement to make the dominant leisure patterns more “spiritual.” What could this look like?

“If families like to spend time in public, why not open parish playgrounds throughout the day after Mass, for socialising and drinking coffee. It would be worthwhile to hold parish family fun days, sporting events, intergenerational dances,” Rogaczewska points out. “You could thus gradually convert the faithful to a deeper understanding of Sunday observance. But it’s really about reviving and deepening the relationship ties and enjoying one another’s company.

The initiatives mentioned by Rogaczewska are starting to emerge at numerous parishes. “Our community at St Anne’s in Warsaw meet once every month to celebrate Sunday together. First, there’s the Eucharist, then we spend time together – socialise, go out or do workshops. Then there’s the agape and... we talk, of course. It’s a good time for us, students,” says Monika Goszcz from the Student Community’s Celebration Diakonia within the Light-Life Movement. Young married couples from the parish of the Blessed Virgin Mary Queen of Angels in the Bemowo district have come up with an initiative nicely dubbed Families Celebrating Sunday. Once a month, after Mass, they have parish rooms all to themselves. Adults get together for coffee and cake, while children and teenagers have fun next door. Afterwards they all celebrate together.

Theatre after Mass?

Jadwiga Chołodniuk, the mother of several children and a canon lawyer, hardly needs convincing of the need to make Sunday meaningful again. Many years ago, she set up a Family Theatre with a group of friends. They rehearsed on Sundays, too, after Mass and communal breakfast.

“Being together is what’s most important about Sunday. And the theatre is perfectly suited for opening ourselves up to others, building understanding and good relationships. If, for example, the family just goes out to the cinema, that’s not an ideal solution because it’s largely passive. You have someone else entertaining you. At our theatre we are building ties: between spouses, parents, siblings, friends.”

Chołodniuk also says that perhaps we won’t be able to get back to what existed several dozen years ago, to the model of celebrating Sunday from the past half century, as the world has changed. Nevertheless, some new Christian models should be worked out of how to celebrate Sunday. “For that, you also need laws and solutions to make Sunday a holiday. Law has influence over our choices and actions. Families also deserve to have a congenial environment for leisure time. “If they don’t have such an alternative, they will opt for the shopping centre, TV or the smartphone. And again, Sundays will feel… lonely.


gosc niedzielny.jpg Source: Gość Niedzielny