One of the many culture shocks one receives when coming into the Catholic Church from a predominantly Evangelical background is the existence of “holy days of obligation”. The phrase has such a foreign, oppressive ring to it, as though the idea is that we’re all to be forced into worshiping, and threatened with the fires of hell if we don’t. That doesn’t seem right, does it? For worship to be valid, it must be an act of praise and thanksgiving spontaneously offered from the heart, or so I have always been taught. This article from CatholicCulture.org by Brother John M. Samaha, S.M. provides some helpful background and perspective on the celebration of
Holy days are usually regarded in terms of obligation and imposition. But should they not be considered even more as graced times of opportunity to mark a special mystery of our faith? In recent years, holy days have come in for a good deal of discussion, evaluation and renewal.
As early as the fourth century, St. John Chrysostom was concerned about the celebration of holy days in Constantinople. This Father and Doctor of the Church commented in a homily that “many people celebrate the holy days and know their names: but of their history, meaning and origin they know nothing.”
Today, this challenge persists, and needs to be addressed anew. We might respond to the Bishop of Constantinople in the words of our earliest forebears in the faith: How can I know the meaning or history of the holy days and other feasts “unless someone explains it to me” (Acts 8:31).
The comment of St. John Chrysostom and the words of the Acts of the Apostles invite us to do some home-work, and to draw a historical perspective on holy days of obligation, which are really opportunities to celebrate, to renew and to enrich our faith. ….Continue Reading….
For your further edification:
One more excellent post by Andrew Preslar at Called to Communion:
Do You Want To Go To Heaven?
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