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Faith Comment published in the Petersfield Post

31 August 2011: Dominic Oliver, St Laurence Catholic Church

Consider the weekend

We have a combination of religious belief and industrialisation to thank for the weekend and its break from work. The present-day concept of the weekend first arose from the Dies Solis (Day of the Sun) decreed by Emperor Constantine and the Biblical Sabbath, an echo of the fact that, according to Genesis, God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh.

So why do we now regularly have two days? It wasn't until the industrial revolution and its aftermath that the movement for an additional day off took hold, gaining its first real foothold in America and pressure from union attempts to accommodate Jewish workers who took Saturday instead of Sunday as their Sabbath. The first five-day work week was apparently instituted by a New England spinning mill for just this reason. In 1926, Henry Ford began closing his factories on Saturdays as well as Sundays, but it wasn't until 1940 that the two-day weekend officially began nationwide and subsequently became more firmly established practice across the industrialized world.

Religion still has a part to play: whereas the Sabbath itself is just one day each week, there was a pressure in the past for the preceding day to be taken as a holiday because it was considered necessary to do preparatory tasks at home that would permit proper Sabbath observance the next day. (See Luke chapter 23 verse 54 'It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.') What form should such preparation take today?

The bustle of day-to-day life makes it all too easy to forget the daily injunction to prayer. However, as each Saturday turns into an impending Sunday, the least we can do is take a moment to thank Our Lord for the blessings of our free time and to place ourselves in the right frame of mind for Sunday's celebrations of the mysteries of Christ's sacrifice and our salvation.

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