Sunday, October 18, 2009

Upside Down Sabbath

Hello, everyone. I'm glad to be back from my "blog sabbatical." I was able to really enjoy some quality time with God and my family, reflect on some things, get some much needed catch-up rest, and reevaluate what this blog is about and how I approach it. Thank you for your prayers and thoughts during my absence. It was a nice "welcome home" to read so many words of support and encouragement from you all.

I will likely write a bit about what I learned on this "blog break" in the near future; for now, I am still mulling over and processing it all. What I want to talk about tonight was how my family's Sabbath routine flipped on its head this week.

It all started when my husband and I decided simultaneously and with no previous discussion (how's that for Providence?) to start getting involved in youth ministry at our local parish. We used to be really engaged with youth in past churches--especially my husband who even co-led summer mission trips to Mexico. It was something we had been excited to vision about when we got married. Then, life happened: a couple moves and couple kids later, we realized that this was a ministry dream that we had not yet dived into.

So, we decided to go to the Life Teen Mass at our parish. Life Teen is our name for the Senior High youth program. And, Life Teen takes place on Sunday evening after the appropriately monichered Life Teen Mass. It's pretty much like a regular Mass, except you're likely to see even more teens there--and a few more seekers, since the teens are encouraged to bring their friends--and they have a worship band instead of a cantor or a choir (no complaints from Brian and me, having both been members of worship bands). And, it takes place at 5:30 PM on Sunday.

Now, I wrote about our Sabbath routine some weeks ago, so my regular readers know that heading to Mass when the sun is already beginning to set on Sunday evening was not a part of that routine. I am used to beginning the Sabbath day at church; it always seemed to consecrate the whole day for me. It reminded me of the women at the tomb on Easter Sunday, and it seemed appropriate to celebrate Christ's Resurrection as the morning sun climbed the horizon. I was excited to take a step toward getting involved with the youth of our parish, but I wasn't so sure about how it would affect our Sabbath day as a family.

Interestingly, I found it was wonderful to worship in the evening! Instead of starting my day with Mass, the entire Sabbath culminated with it! Our family was able to take an entire leisurely day enjoying each other at home and out in God's Creation. We lingered over a delicious late breakfast, then took the kids to the playground, which of course was entirely abandoned since it was Sunday morning, so Sophia had the run of the place. While the kids napped, Brian and I enjoyed a couple of precious hours together. Then, we had our Sunday dinner around 4 PM and got ready for Mass. Then, our day found its proper consummation in the worship and Presence of Jesus Christ at Mass. It felt so right to end the Sabbath and begin the week with Jesus in the Eucharist.

I think Life Teen Mass may become a weekly fixture in our family life, and I am already feeling what an enormous blessing this will be. No morning rush for church, for one thing. I also anticipate the desire to begin our Sabbath on Saturday night. This is common practice for Jews (only it's Friday night for a Saturday Shabbat), but it makes sense for Catholics, too. Catholics are big on vigils--and not just because we love candles, which we do. No, it's that feeling of anticipation that allows for a more true fulfillment of celebration.

We have Advent before Christmas. We do not decorate for Christmas until Christmas Eve--and then we celebrate Christmas for twelve whole days! For us, the Easter sun does not shine as gloriously without the shadows of Lent; the Easter "Alleluia!" which we sing before the Gospel sounds so beautiful because we have not heard it for five weeks.

Beginning Sabbath on the vigil has a similar impact on our experience of Sabbath. First, we get an entire day to really prepare ourselves for the Sabbath. We have the opportunity to complete our work and do what we need to in the world before coming home in the evening and settling in for our day of rest as the sun sinks in the sky. We gather in the darkness around the table or at the fireside and we anticipate what is to come. Then, morning dawns, and we remember that first Easter morning and the tomb that stood empty! We gather for prayer and breakfast together. We spend time celebrating Christ's love and God's glory in our family and in the beauty of His Creation. And, then we go to bow at the feet of our Eucharistic Lord, the Lord of the Sabbath, Himself. You return home, the celebration over, and the evening lays before you to set things in order to reenter the world on Monday morning.

As a lifelong Sunday morning church-goer, I thought any other way of celebrating the day of rest would feel topsy-turvy and off-kilter. But, there was nothing upside-down about it. Though there is certainly something poignantly majestic about watching the rising sun spill through the stained glass windows upon the bowed heads of a congregation in prayer, and something exhilaratingly celebratory about beginning Sunday with the family gathered at Mass, there is something to be said for doing things "upside-down." The night to night Sabbath is what Jesus Himself celebrated while here on earth, after all.

If you have a parish that offers a Sabbath evening service, I recommend attending sometime. What a glorious way to transition from the Lord's Day into the week! And, what a wonderful way to end my week "off."


  1. What a coincidence - my husband and I just went to our first Life Teen Mass last night, too! I'm also big on Sunday morning mass, so it felt strange to me, but he loved it. I was glad to read your take on it and realize that it doesn't just have to be morning or nothing!

  2. It's nice to have you back Bethany!



Hello! I'm so glad that you have come here to share your heart and thoughts. One quick word from me before you comment:

I ask all visitors to respect this as a place of peace. Disagreements are welcome, but please refrain from posting any ungracious comments. Thank you, and God bless.