Proposals for a reform of the calendar

Latest post in my blog on popular science:
Proposals for a reform of the calendar


Well, that sounds about typical for a quasi-governmental organization–decide there’s a problem, form a working group to address it, hear the proposals, and do nothing. It’s interesting, though, that the international fixed calendar essentially re-implements a lunar calendar–everything old is new again, apparently.

One thing that has happened is ISO 8061, which defines Monday as the first day of the week. I understand that’s widely adopted in Europe, though it isn’t at all in .us.

Yes, I’ve been gifted calendars from European relatives which are always disconcerting because they show Monday as the first day of the week.
Of course we’re used to the resurrection occurring on the first day of the week and would hate to give that up.
Regina Haring

Even more than that, I think there’s some potential for confusion. The Sabbath was the seventh day, or Saturday. Christ rose on the first day, or Sunday, which is why (most of) the church meets on Sunday for worship (except for the Seventh-Day Adventists and Baptists, who correctly observe that there’s no biblical instruction changing the holy day from the seventh day to the first; and the modern “seeker-friendly” churches who just meet whenever they feel like it). The week hasn’t changed in 4000 years, even if the names of the days have–the first day of the week has always been what we (in English, at least) call Sunday, and the seventh day has been Saturday. Why ISO decided to change that is beyond me, though no doubt there was some rationale (and if I had to guess, it’d be that Monday is the start of the ordinary work week, and it would make sense for the “weekend” to be at the end of the week).

Now, I don’t believe the change is inherently wrong, even if pointless. The church can teach this history to its members (particularly to its children). Though the track record of the church on teaching anything of substance is sadly very poor.

In fact, as a European, I’m used to the week starting on Monday since I was a child. And I’ve never had any problem with the difference: as Google is a US firm, they use Sunday as the first day of the week to give me the weekly statistics of the use of my blog. I have no problem with that.

But recently, for the reason you mention, I have decided to consider that the week starts on Sunday from the point of view of my prayer life.


With so many people having to work around the week (public servants like police, fire fighters, emergency services, nurses), what day begins and ends the week for other than calendar design has faded in importance. There is lots of significance in Sunday being the first day, however, and not just for traditional Christian worship services. In Miracles, Lewis suggests that the ascended Christ was beginning the work of making a new cosmos fit to receive our resurrected bodies. If that is the case, Christ’s own resurrected Body was the beginning of a whole new remade heavens and earth. The first day thus echoes Genesis 1:1 as a beginning when God re-creates the heavens and the earth.

On the first day of the week, especially when receiving Communion, I am vividly reminded and invited to dwell upon the physicality and historicity of our faith: “this is my Body.” For the Christian church the “first day” is far from trivial. God’s space, time and matter are radiant with significance. But how the world chooses to organize its calendar seems like a non-issue to me.

Incidentally, Christians in Muslim majority countries will often hold their public gatherings for worship on Fridays, the traditional Muslim worship day. This is to integrate social gatherings as seamlessly as possible with the gatherings of the majority group. But the significance of the first day remains regardless of when the local church meets for its public worship.