Friday, 4 March 2016

Writing - Sunday is a day of rest.

I've said it frequently and will probably say it again but apart from death and taxes the only sure thing in life is change.

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Sunday 1950s

There has been a quantity of chat and negotiating in political circles about extending shop hours on a Sunday. Then I read an article about when 'Sunday being a day of rest'  began. It took my mind back to my childhood in the fifties and sixties and a word that sums up the day - calm.

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Constantine the Great

On the 7th March 321 AD Constantine issued an edict declaring that Sunday must be a day of rest, he was once again treading a fine line between Christianity and paganism; and, between religious principle and economic pragmatism. He ordered,

'On the venerable day of the sun, 
let the magistrates and people residing 
in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed.
In the country, however, persons engaged in
agriculture may freely and lawfully continue
their pursuits because it often happens that
another day is not suitable for grain-sowing
or vine planting; 
lest by neglecting the proper moment for such
operations the bounty of heaven should be 
lost.'

(Poor farmers!) Picking Sunday made excellent political sense. Although it was nominally a working day, many Christians already treated Sunday as a day of religious worship, although those in Rome and Alexandria tended to prefer Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. More importantly, though, most non-Christians already regarded Sundays as special because that was the day they were paid. Perhaps crucially, this was the special day of Sol Invictus, which had become an official cult as recently as AD 274 and had particular appeal to the senatorial classes.

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For the modern generations who have never known Sunday as being a day of tranquillity, I believe they don't know what they're missing. Of course the reason for the loss is down to a new God - the worship of money.

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The Sundays when I was a teenager seemed interminable, no TV until after seven in the evening, no shops open and little or no sport. There was a rest day in cricket, no football fixtures and no athletics. They even made a film of one man's struggle with his principle's in the 1924 Olympics. In Chariots of Fire, Eric Liddell, a strict Scottish Christian, refused to run on a Sunday. So as a boy in my teens I didn't appreciate how precious a day of rest was and to a degree we were never educated to that. As a younger child I attended church service in the morning and in the afternoon walked on to Sunday School, but that wasn't really educating us to get the best out of our Sundays.

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Now it seems that if we don't consider the value of a day of rest we are likely to lose it and probably forever. I would ask that people consider the value of having a day which should be designated for the family and not solely for religious purposes. Constantine obviously saw the value of such a day over 1600  years ago, why have we lost sight of the reasons for it being set up?
It is easy to say that life is lived at such a rapid pace, that you can make more money if open for business seven days a week, and the religious reasoning is no longer as relevant as it was. However, for me, such arguments are indicating the need for money making at the cost of humanness. If you turn on the news, scarcely a day passes without some issue being highlighted that at one time could have been avoided by stronger family ties and the opportunity for reflection which Sunday gave us. 

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It was a day that was always about opportunity and these days when we don't have to buy or spend or make should be valued.

God Bless