How long has Sunday been an obligation?


Does anyone know how long Sunday has been an obligation for Catholics? I mean, is it crystal clear from the Apostolic Age that Christians understood it as a sin if they didn’t celebrate the Eucharist?

Some people cite Acts 20:7 where it talks about Paul “breaking bread” on the “first day of the week.” However, this doesn’t definitively prove anything in itself. After all, there are other references in the book of Acts where we see the Apostles breaking bread without specifying what day of the week it is.

In any case, I know that Sunday as an obligation is ancient. But does anyone know how ancient? Any help would be appreciated.


I believe it started in the desert after the exodus from Egypt. Moses received the 10 commandments on Mt. Sinai and observance of the Sabbath was written on the tablets. At no point did the Jews ever not hold that.

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. (book of exodus)

The early Christians were Jews for the first 30-90 years of Christianity. The “official” Church teaching; I think is missing the point that it’s a 10 commandment and therefore the Church doesn’t need an official teaching on a 10 commandment nor could they over change it.

The early Christians did move the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday, due to Jesus resurrection. Is this more of what you are referring to? Thanks.


From New Advent (see here):
These and similar indications show that during the first three centuries practice and tradition had consecrated the Sunday to the public worship of God by the hearing of the Mass and the resting from work. With the opening of the fourth century positive legislation, both ecclesiastical and civil, began to make these duties more definite. The Council of Elvira (300) decreed: “If anyone in the city neglects to come to church for three Sundays, let him be excommunicated for a short time so that he may be corrected” (xxi). In the Apostolic Constitutions, which belong to the end of the fourth century, both the hearing of the Mass and the rest from work are prescribed, and the precept is attributed to the Apostles.


This is what I was referring to, yes, but for me it’s more of a question of when. Thanks for your response.


This sets me in the right direction, thank you.


I think the usual Early Christian attitude was not so much that it’s a sin to miss church on Sunday, as that Mass was an insanely awesome privilege and you couldn’t pay them (or frighten them) enough to keep away.

Like the 49 martyrs of Abitene said in AD 303, after persisting in going to Mass and being arrested, “We cannot live without the Lord’s Day.” (“Sine Dominico, non possumus.”)


I’ve seen two passages cited as evidence that the Apostles commanded obligatory Sunday worship. One is 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 – “Now concerning the contribution for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that contributions need not be made when I come.”

Some say that this passage commands Sunday gatherings as an obligation because it is a command to churches (and their people) to do something as a group on Sunday. Now, it is impossible to do that if the church isn’t assembled on Sunday. Therefore, it seems to follow that all the early Christians, or at least the people in Corinth and Galatia, were required by the Apostles to come to Mass on Sunday.

The other passage I’ve seen cited in this regard is Hebrews 10:24-25 – “let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

This passage doesn’t specifically say that Sunday is the day of assembling (though some people try to draw that out of Hebrews 4:8-10), but it does command people not to neglect to meet together, and it seems to refer to a specific day. We can use the rest of the New Testament to infer that the day of meeting was Sunday, and this passage specifically says not to neglect to come together as we see the day approaching. That seems to support that Sunday attendance was obligatory in the days of the Apostles.

I hope that helps.


I am not sure that the phrase “day drawing near” refers to Mass; the Early Church expected the Second Coming of Christ, and it was not until some time had passed (and some of those alive at the time of Christ had also passed) that people started to see the Second Coming as not immediately imminent. “day drawing near” certainly fits within the early expectation.

Keep in mind that the first Christians did not see themselves as anything other than Jews (and there was a good deal of dustup over whether or not Gentiles had to become Jews). As such, they kept holy the Sabbath and went to synagogue on Saturday, and would meet for Eucharist on Sunday. during at least part of that time, there were no Gospels widely available to all, and Paul’s letters as well as the other epistles were either being written, or would be in the near future. So any Scripture readings were from Jewish Scripture, or as we call it, Old Testament. Somewhere around 70 ot 72 AD, Christians pretty much were uninvited to attend synagogue. Prior to that time, it varied by area.


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