Reclaiming the Spiritual Significance of Rest: How to Keep the Sabbath Holy

After God made the heavens and the earth and everything within them, the Book of Genesis says that God rested...

 Min read
July 24, 2023

After God made the heavens and the earth and everything within them, the Book of Genesis says that God rested.

Unlike us, God didn’t need to rest after his busy week of work, so why did he?

God’s decision to bless the seventh day in this way holds incredible significance for us, His people, and we would do well to take note.

Let’s go back to the creation of man for a second.

Scripture tells that God said “Let us make* human beings in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the tame animals, all the wild animals, and all the creatures that crawl on the earth” (Genesis 1:26).

The words “image and likeness” don’t just acknowledge humanity’s resemblance to God with our rationality and immortal soul, they also imply something greater. This phrase is also used in Genesis 5 to describe Seth’s relationship to Adam; it is a phrase that indicates sonship.

Right from the beginning, Scripture makes it clear that we are not merely God’s creations but His children.

God seals the covenant between himself and his creation, specifically with his children Adam and Eve, by setting apart the seventh day. (A covenant is made by swearing an oath, and in Hebrew, “to swear an oath” literally means “to seven oneself.”

The Sabbath acts as a sign of this covenant in which God promises himself to man, and man promises himself to God in return.

God sets aside a day for rest, not for His own need, but for ours, to remind us of our identity as His sons and daughters.

The New Sabbath

Although God remained faithful in upholding His side of the covenant, humanity quickly broke the covenant through sin.

Our relationship and communion with God no longer maintained the effortlessness it once had, but needed a bridge. A bridge which God Himself provided for us.

God sent His only Son Jesus to repair the relationship between God and man through his death and resurrection.

Sunday, the day Christians remember the Resurrection and the new creation, becomes a fulfillment of the original covenant and the sign of the new covenant established by Christ.

Living in a world that treats the human person like a machine — valuable because of what we can produce — has twisted our understanding of rest.

Most people understand leisure to mean scrolling on social media for hours or binge-watching the newest Netflix show–zoning out and shutting down. Rest, most of us have come to believe, is good only insofar as it allows us to produce more.

God sets aside a day to remind us that we were made for something even greater than having “dominion over the earth,” that our dignity does not come from anything we do, say, or produce. We are not slaves, but children.

Resting on Sundays helps us remember that we were made for a relationship with our heavenly Father, a relationship made possible through Jesus.

So how do we reclaim the Sabbath?

Unlike the Jews who were forbidden to work in any capacity on the Sabbath, the Church recognizes that you might not have the ability to completely forgo work on Sundays. However, the Church still invites us to set Sunday apart.

You’ll soon find that making this a priority in your life will inevitably shift your whole week, as you’ll need to orient your day-to-day life toward the goal of true worship and communion with God.

Go to Mass

This one may seem obvious if you’ve been a Catholic for any amount of time as it is our first obligation to keep the Sabbath holy.

Worship is the most perfect way for humanity to exercise the freedom God has given us as His sons and daughters and to enter into communion with God. And Mass is the highest form of worship.

Prioritize Prayer

Mass allows us to rejoice in the New Covenant by remembering the Paschal Mystery, or the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, but this prayerful remembrance should extend throughout your day.

Praying the Liturgy of the Hours, saying the Rosary, or using Ignatian meditation with the Scriptures can help center your day (and week) on the Lord.

Make time for Holy Leisure

Veggin’ out on the couch is not the right way to reclaim the holy rest of Sunday.

In his book, Leisure: The Basis of Culture, Catholic German philosopher Josef Pieper writes that leisure is like “the stillness in the conversation of lovers, which is fed by their oneness… And as it is written in the Scriptures. God saw, when ‘He rested from all the works that He had made’ that everything was good, very good, just so the leisure of man includes within itself a celebratory, approving, lingering gaze of the inner eye on the reality of creation.”

True, holy leisure is not a state of inactivity, but of an active, contemplative stillness and wonder.

Choose activities that fill you with life and life your heart toward God. Read a good book, take a hike in nature. Listen to music, or make something beautiful.

Follow God’s lead; look at the works of His hands and delight in them.


Every Sunday is a weekly remembrance of the Resurrection, or a little Easter in a sense so the Church invites us to celebrate accordingly.

Invite your family and friends over for a big dinner or start a potluck at your parish. Break out the special dishware and your drink of choice. Make Sundays a day of good food and good people.

Pietra Fitness