Archbishop Martinelli on the “Lord’s Day”

IN the Catholic Mirror, Archbishop Martinelli, “Delegate Apostolic to the United States,” considers the question “Shall Sunday be ‘Lord’s Day?’” and states the doctrine by which the question is answered for Roman Catholics. According to his statements, as will be noticed, Protestants in applying the term “Lord’s day” to Sunday, have been following an example set by Rome from very early times. The archbishop says:—

“The Latin races have used the word ‘Dominico,’ or day of the Lord, to designate the first day of the week since the reign of Pope Sylvester I, who ruled the church from A. D. 312 to 337.

“From the beginning we find that all those people who derive their language from the Latin—the Spanish, French, Italian, and Portuguese, do not honor a heathen god in the specific title which they give to the day which we call holy, but they call it, as we do in ecclesiastical Latin—Lord’s day—‘Dominico’—in Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, and ‘Dimanche’ in French.

“The change which the Christian church made from the Sabbath to Sunday is too well known to need discussion. The early followers of Christ chose the first day of the week as the day of prayer rather than the last mainly to commemorate his glorious resurrection.

“The teachings of the early fathers tell us that the Holy Ghost descended upon the disciples on Whit Sunday or Pentecost, and this constitutes another reason for the change. The observance of the Sunday or day of rest does not emanate from the natural law, which would indeed require us to worship the author of nature during parts of every day rather than during a whole day of every week.

“There is no divine law which commands us to commemorate Sunday. The observance is purely of ecclesiastical origin, dating, however, from the time of the apostles. But as we have no trace of the Sabbath being observed among the Hebrews before the time of Moses we need not question the authority of the apostles to sanctify Sunday and set it apart as the day on which we honor the resurrection of the Son of God.

“The Anglo-Saxon word Sunday is the name given to honor the sun, the divinity considered the most powerful in heathen mythology. The names of the other days of the week are chosen to honor some other divinity, as Monday, Luna, the moon; Tuesday, Mardi, Mars, the God of war; Wednesday, Woden, or Mercury; Thursday, or Thorday, the day which Jupiter was remembered; Friday was dedicated to Venus and Saturday to Saturn, the father of Jupiter and Neptune.

“I believe that all Christian people should proclaim their belief in the Son of God by honoring his name in the day which they have chosen to consecrate to him. This great country is a Christian country, and by adopting the word ‘Lord’s day’ or ‘Sonday’ to honor the Word Incarnate, it will bear witness of the truth. In the Latin we used to say ‘Dies de Dominus,’ but this was considered too cumbersome for ordinary use, so the name has become simply Dominico.

“There will be some means of simplifying the English word to meet the popular requirements. We follow the New Testament as our guide and we will find therein many reasons for calling the first day of the week the ‘Lord’s day.’ Thus, there is but one passage in the New Testament in which we find the first day mentioned specifically as the Lord’s day, namely, in the Apoc. 1:10. In Acts 20:7, we are told that St. Paul abode seven days at Troas, and that on the first day of the week the disciples came together to break bread. We have every reason, both from revelation and from tradition, to consecrate the first day of the week to the Son of God, and to name it for him is consistently and religiously to put in practise the discussion, and I hope that it will bear good fruits among the believers in Christ in this country.”

Observe that the archbishop says: “This great country is a Christian country, and by adopting the word ‘Lord’s day’ or ‘Sonday’ to honor the Word Incarnate, it will bear witness of the truth.” By making Sunday the “Lord’s day,” then, this country will proclaim that it is “Christian.” But with the archbishop, the term “Christian” means Catholic and not Protestant. The country can proclaim itself “Christian” as a Catholic, but not as a Protestant, country; and it will do this by making Sunday the “Lord’s day.” This is perfectly in harmony with the Catholic claim that the Sabbath was changed by authority of the (Catholic) church, and that the change of the day stands as the sign of the church’s spiritual power and authority. It is perfectly true therefore that in making Sunday the “Lord’s day” this nation will proclaim itself “Christian” in the Roman Catholic sense, which will be simply to proclaim itself a Catholic nation.

It is amusing to note the archbishop’s further statement that in “Apoc. 1:10,” “we find the first day of the week specifically mentioned as the Lord’s day.” The idea that the “Lord’s day” of Revelation 1:10 refers specifically or in any way to Sunday was specifically controverted in the Catholic Mirror some years ago by a prominent Catholic writer, and seems to be better “Protestant” doctrine than Catholic; but the archbishop’s statement well illustrates the assumption that goes with the attempt to find Bible proof for Sunday. The text in question says nothing whatever about the first day of the week. The conclusion that it does refer to the first day of the week is reached by “arguing in a circle.” The first day of the week is “proved” from Scripture, first, to be the Lord’s day; and then the term “Lord’s day” in Scripture is taken as proof that the text refers to the first day of the week. It is like two persons trying to hold each other up in the air: each depends on the other, but as neither has any support, they must fall to the ground together.

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