A question about canon 29 of the council of Laodicea

I recently learned that a member of our parish (who’s a self-employed artist, and who regularly attends mass on Sunday) avoids working on Saturday because he regards it as the Sabbath (while he regards Sunday as The Lord’s day, and, as I said, attends mass on that day.)

When I attempted to point out that that’s not exactly Catholic doctrine, he replied that it’s in the bible, and in starting a new job, I myself recently chose a Sunday thru Thursday schedule (that still allows me to attend 10 o’clock mass on Sunday.)

Now here’s what bothers me, the 29th canon of the council of Laodicea says:

“Christians should not Judaize and should not be idle on the Sabbath, but should work on that day; they should, however, particularly reverence the Lord’s day and, if possible, not work on it, because they were Christians”

So does that mean we’re both sinning by resting on Saturday?

And am I, in particular, sinning by working four hours on Sunday (when I could have taken a schedule that would have had me working on Saturday, and off all day on Sunday)?

Are these councils still binding?

And what does Judaize mean?

If I choose not to work on Saturday, am I Judaizing (even if I don’t believe keeping the Jewish Sabbath is necessary for salvation)?

BTW, I don’t think I really have the option of changing my schedule now, and this is the only job I have.

The types of synods range from the smallest (diocesan council) to the largest (“General Council” or “Ecumenical Council”), and there are seven different types of synods in all. The Second Vatican Council, for example, falls under the category of an “Ecumenical” or “General” council, meaning all of the world’s bishops were gathered to discuss matters pertaining to the universal church.

Ecumenical councils, of which there have been 21 in the history of the church, are the only kind of council whose decrees “bind all Christians.” All others exist to foster discussion and provide guidance on a regional level, but their decrees aren’t seen as infallible or binding on the whole church.

The Synod (or Council) of Laodicea, held in the 4th Century, appears to have been the equivalent of a “provincial synod”, meaning basically that the bishops in the region surrounding Laodicea were gathered to provide guidance to the faithful under their care.

The church allows for enough freedom of preference, outside of doctrine and dogma, that bishops are able to run their dioceses, in large part, how they see fit. The same holds true for regions and provinces of bishops as well. Any contradictions or problems in faith, morals, or discipline that come to light from a lesser synod or council would be corrected by the highest level within the church — namely the pope or the offices within the church he directly oversees.

In this particular instance, the bishops in the Synod of Laodicea seemingly spoke most commonly on “judaizing”, more specifically, that Christians were forbidden from judaizing if they were to remain in communion with the church. So now we ask, what is judaizing?

Judaizers were a Christian sect in the early church who believed that Gentiles must convert to Judaism in order to accept Jesus Christ as the Messiah. Judaizing amounted to following the Old Testament customs of the Mosaic Law instead of the teachings of Christ, effectively walking backward in faith to follow Mosaic custom. Ignoring the fact that Christ’s death brought about a new covenant — literally a “New Testament” — and the fulfillment of the Jewish faith, thus making salvation a matter of faith instead of a matter of following Jewish law, would naturally be rejected by the church Christ founded.

These canons in particular were meant for a specific time period and place and thus weren’t binding on the whole church.

As for whether any particular conduct constitutes sin, or at least mortal sin, you would have to examine whether it is “grave matter”, of which you were aware when you did it, and whether you did it voluntarily.

Catechism section 1857 "For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: “Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.”


Laodicea was a metropolitan city with many Jews, Gentile Christians, Jewish-convert Christians, and others. The reason for the canon is that some were arguing that to be ‘really Christian’, one had to be Jewish first and follow some pre-Jewish restrictions/laws. While there is nothing wrong with personally following some of these, there is no requirement to do so. Personal piety notwithstanding, Christians need not follow Jewish kashrut and Sabbath, although it is certainly laudable to do so out of love for God and neighbor.

The point is that we’ve got a “New Sabbath,” the old one has passed away. The New Sabbath’s precepts are also far less demanding…

Reverencing Saturday as if it is still part of God’s will to do so is a problem… because it is not God’s will. But if it is your day off, then it is your day off. When you won’t do all the things that Jews don’t do on the Sabbath, then you’re in trouble.

IOW, you’re fine.

Thank you all.

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