A Summary Dies Domini by St. John Paul II

St. John Paul II’s Dies Domini, Keeping the Lord’s Day Holy, was an Apostolic Letter published on the feast of Pentecost 1998.



In the introduction to this wonderful treatment of the Lord’s Day, the pope expressed three hopes:

  1. That this document would help to recover the deep doctrinal foundations of the Church’s precepts so that the abiding value of Sunday in Christian life will be clear to all the faithful.
  2. That the age-old tradition and teaching of the Church would be renewed so that Christian believers should come together to hear God’s Word and share in the Eucharist.
  3. That Sunday would again be at the heart of Christian life so that we may live the demands of faith to the full and respond concretely to the deepest human longing.

If Sunday is the “very heart of Christian life,” then the celebration of the Eucharist is the very heart of Sunday. The Eucharist is the celebration of the living presence of the Risen Lord in the midst of his own people. The Eucharist is the “fountainhead” of the Church; it feeds and forms the Church.

The Lord’s Day is Easter which returns week by week.

The Resurrection of Jesus lies at the very heart of the mystery of time. Sunday is established not only to mark the succession of time but to reveal time’s deeper meaning.

“Sunday is the day of the Resurrection, it is the day of Christians, it is our day” ~ St. Jerome

Genuine spiritual maturity needed to distinguish between “the weekend” (time to rest and relax) and Sunday (time to worship).

Do not be afraid to give your time to Christ.Yes, let us open our time to Christ, that he may cast light upon it and give it direction. He is the One who knows the secret of time and the secret of eternity, and he gives us “his day” as an ever new gift of his love. The rediscovery of this day is a grace which we must implore, not only so that we may live the demands of faith to the full, but also so that we may respond concretely to the deepest human yearnings. Time given to Christ is never time lost, but is rather time gained, so that our relationships and indeed our whole life may become more profoundly human.” ~ JP2, 7

CHAPTER 1: The Celebration of the Creator’s Work (8-18)

In order to grasp fully the meaning of Sunday, therefore, we must re-read the great story of creation and deepen our understanding of the theology of the “Sabbath”.

The pope uses beautiful, poetic imagery to describe God’s rest on the final day. He talks about God “lingering before” what he has created, and looking upon it with “a gaze of joyous delight” (11). He talks about God as the Bridegroom, anticipating “the nuptial shape of the relationship which God wants to establish with the creature made in his own image” (11).

John Paul II notes that Sunday is the “day par excellence” (76) for our relationship with God. It is a day of explicit prayer, “in which the relationship becomes an intense dialogue” with God (15). Sunday is the day for remembering all the good that God has done (16).

The dies Domini becomes the dies Christi! (18).

CHAPTER 2: DIES CHRISTI, The Day of the Risen Lord and the Gift of the Holy Spirit

The Resurrection – 1st day of the week – becomes the beginning of a new creation – 1st day of that cosmic week.

Sunday is also the 8th day – unique and transcendent position – the day without end.

The “weekly Easter” becomes the “weekly Pentecost” – we relive the joyful encounter with the Risen Lord and receive the life-giving breath of his Spirit (28).

Sunday is the day of faith.


CHAPTER 3: DIES ECCLESIAE, The Eucharistic Assembly: Heart of Sunday

Sunday is not only the remembrance of a past event: it is a celebration of the living presence of the Risen Lord in the midst of his own people (31).

Those who have received the grace of baptism are not saved as individuals alone, but as members of the Mystical Body, having become part of the People of God (31).

The Eucharist is the “fountain-head” of the Church’s life (32).

Dies Domini is also dies Ecclesiae – important to stress community aspect for pastor.

Eschatological & pilgrim character of Sunday – Sunday after Sunday the Church moves towards the final Sunday which knows no end (37).

The day of hope.

As in every Eucharistic celebration, the Risen Lord is encountered in the Sunday assembly at the twofold table of the word and of the Bread of Life (39).  The Second Vatican Council recalled that “the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist are so closely joined together that they form a single act of worship”.

At the level of personal appropriation, the hearing of the word of God proclaimed must be well prepared in the souls of the faithful by an apt knowledge of Scripture and, where pastorally possible, by special initiatives designed to deepen understanding of the biblical readings, particularly those used on Sundays and holy days… The objective sought here is that the entire celebration — praying, singing, listening, and not just the preaching — should express in some way the theme of the Sunday liturgy, so that all those taking part may be penetrated more powerfully by it. Clearly, much depends on those who exercise the ministry of the word. It is their duty to prepare the reflection on the word of the Lord by prayer and study of the sacred text, so that they may then express its contents faithfully and apply them to people’s concerns and to their daily lives (40).

The Sunday Eucharistic gathering is an experience of brotherhood,which the celebration should demonstrate clearly, while ever respecting the nature of the liturgical action (44).

From Mass to “mission” –> the Eucharistic celebration does NOT stop at the church door… there is a responsibility entrusted to all members to share with others the joy of meeting the Lord.

The Sunday Obligation

“Leave everything on the Lord’s Day”, urges the third century text known as the Didascalia, “and run diligently to your assembly, because it is your praise of God. Otherwise, what excuse will they make to God, those who do not come together on the Lord’s Day to hear the word of life and feed on the divine nourishment which lasts forever?”

Became universal law in the Code of 1917. Normally understood as a grave obligation.

Moreover, Pastors should remind the faithful that when they are away from home on Sundays they are to take care to attend Mass wherever they may be, enriching the local community with their personal witness. At the same time, these communities should show a warm sense of welcome to visiting brothers and sisters, especially in places which attract many tourists and pilgrims, for whom it will often be necessary to provide special religious assistance (49).

50. Joyful celebration in song.

52. Sharing in the Eucharist is the heart of Sunday, but the duty to keep Sunday holy cannot be reduced to this. In fact, the Lord’s Day is lived well if it is marked from beginning to end by grateful and active remembrance of God’s saving work.

CHAPTER 4: DIES HOMINIS. Sunday: Day of Joy, Rest and Solidarity

The full joy of Christ = a day of joy (55-58).

Fulfillment of the Sabbath = More than a “replacement” for the Sabbath, therefore, Sunday is its fulfilment, and in a certain sense its extension and full expression in the ordered unfolding of the history of salvation, which reaches its culmination in Christ (59).

The day of rest – rest is something “sacred”, because it is man’s way of withdrawing from the sometimes excessively demanding cycle of earthly tasks in order to renew his awareness that everything is the work of God (65).

66. Sunday rest is a worker’s right which the State must guarantee.

67. Refrain from work and activities which are incompatible with the sanctification of the Lord’s day.

68. In order that rest may not degenerate into emptiness or boredom, it must offer spiritual enrichment, greater freedom, opportunities for contemplation and fraternal communion. In short, the Lord’s Day thus becomes in the truest sense the day of man as well.

A Day of Solidarity

69. Sunday should also give the faithful an opportunity to devote themselves to works of mercy, charity and apostolate.

72. Why not make the Lord’s Day a more intense time of sharing, encouraging all the inventiveness of which Christian charity is capable? Inviting to a meal people who are alone, visiting the sick, providing food for needy families, spending a few hours in voluntary work and acts of solidarity: these would certainly be ways of bringing into people’s lives the love of Christ received at the Eucharistic table.

CHAPER 5: DIES DIERUM. Sunday: the Primordial Feast, Revealing the Meaning of Time

Christ is the Alpha and Omega of time.

75. Sunday is the day which reveals the meaning of time.

76. The annual liturgical cycle.


81. Observance of the Lord’s Day should be seen above all as a need rising from the depths of Christian life.

82. Sunday is the day of joy and the day of rest precisely because it is “the Lord’s Day”, the day of the Risen Lord.

83. Understood and lived in this fashion, Sunday in a way becomes the soul of the other days, and in this sense we can recall the insight of Origen that the perfect Christian “is always in the Lord’s Day, and is always celebrating Sunday”.

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