Sometimes I feel we have lost track of Sunday. Sunday just doesn’t rate. Despite Dies Domini, and all sorts of good theological reasons for honoring Sunday together as a Christian community, on the whole I think Catholics don’t have much of a sense that this day is different — that it is the high point of the week as Easter is the high point of the year. Mass on any day of the week will do, for many people, and they will say this outright. Give them Sunday Mass on Tuesday and they will consider it an even trade.
This feeling of the loss or diminishment of Sunday comes over me especially at times when I hear comments about the shortage of priests to celebrate Sunday Mass. No priest, no Mass. Church is closed. Period. When there is no priest to celebrate the Eucharist, is it still important for the community to gather to pray and to keep the Lord’s day as the center and high point of the week? I would think so…
But then the other side of the issue comes quickly to the fore. Does keeping the Lord’s Day with prayer and gathering but without Eucharist actually undermine the Catholic ethos? Will those communities that are without priests learn that they can get along without Eucharist, and simply adjust to what is — for them — the new normal? Is it better to give up Sunday gatherings altogether than to substitute a word service or a communion service?
And if we go in for Sunday gatherings without Eucharist, isn’t a TV Mass or a cyber-liturgy just as good? In some people’s minds, watching someone else celebrate Eucharist is actually seen as a better way to keep Sunday than to bodily participate in a lay-led Word service in one’s parish church — because it’s Eucharist, after all.
You can guess what my opinion is, but the point is there is no consensus. We are just drifting on some of these questions relating to Sunday. The questions will be answered one way or another, by force of circumstance, as the priest shortage in the United States (and in other places) continues to grow. But it would be good to reflect on them intentionally.
My contention is that if we lose Sunday, we lose much more than we realize. The organization of time is part of the architecture of the Christian imagination. Without Sunday we drift further into the commodification of Eucharist — a thing to be gotten when available, rather than the center of a world made new and expressed foundationally in the gathering of the People of God on the day on which Christ rose from the dead. There is a theology embodied in Sunday. I wonder if we are losing it.