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Holydays of obligation

31 Aug 2015, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Doctrines

Holydays of obligation in the Catholic ChurchThe Catholic Church is a very traditional Church whose actions, teachings and worship are guided by the holy bible, the code of canon law, and some other official documents of the Church. These other Church documents are not superior to the bible neither do they contradict it; the same one and Holy Spirit breaths on them.

It is recorded in the bible that man must keep the Sabbath holy; remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your GOD; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your Son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates; for six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it (Ex. 20:8-11). This Sabbath day which gradually became Sunday and some other days that may not be Sundays but on which solemnity are celebrated are what the Church refers to as holydays of obligation. For instance, Christmas is a holiday of obligation in the Catholic church, yet it may not fall on a Sunday.

Reemphasizing God’s command to keep the Sabbath holy,The code of Canon law the Catholic Church in her code of canon law insists that On Sundays and other holydays of obligation, the faithful are obliged to assist at Mass. They are also to abstain from such work or business that would inhabit the worship to be given to God, the joy proper to the Lord’s Day, or the due relaxation of mind and body (Can.1247). This obligation to assist at Mass is simply another way of saying that as a Catholic you must attend Mass on holydays of obligation, if not, you sin.

In recent times, some persons have asked me why they have to go for confession just because they did not keep the holy day of obligation. It is most likely that they feel it is too minor to be considered a sin, or, for none Catholics, it may be seen as a creation or an invention of sin by the Catholic Church.

The bible commands us to keep the Sabbath holy; it is a Divine command. But you may be tempted to argue that the bible only talks about Sabbath and not any other day as the Catholic Church teaches. You may be right here, but let’s look at the bible again and see if the Catholic Church is wrong or if the canon law contradicts the bible.

There are so many bible passages that talk about the Church as the body of Christ; an example is 1Cor. 12:27, Now you are the body of Christ and individual member of it. I guess you have no doubt about this, that the Church is the body of Christ and that Jesus Christ is the head of this body. Do not doubt the word of God; that is what the bible says in Colossians 1:18. He is the head of the body, the Church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. This is not a diversion from the subject matter, we are still talking about how the Catholic Church is not wrong in her teaching that he who does not keep the holydays of obligation sins.

why this obligation in the catholic ChurchSince the Church is the body of Christ and Christ is the head of this body, then anyone who sins against the Church sins against Christ and every member of the Church. If you hurt the body of the Church you hurt the head as well. If the foot should say, “because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. … If one member suffers, all suffers together; if one member is honoured, all rejoices together (1Cor.1:15 :26). When Saul persecuted the Church, the body of Christ, Christ himself was equally persecuted. Jesus said; Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me… I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting (Act 9:4-5)

Anyone who rises against the Church rises against Jesus Christ. The Catholic Church has set aside some special days to honour the Lord, to worship him, and to celebrate his love and mercies in the lives of his Saints. These days are called holydays of obligation in the Catholic Church, and they are to be kept holy. Catholics are obliged to assist at Mass or attend Mass as you would want to call it these days; if you are a catholic, you are obliged to attend Mass, and if you don’t, you sin against the Church and, by implication against the head of the Church. You cannot sin against the body and believe the head is not affected; if any part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers. As the Church, the body of Christ suffered in Saul’s hands, Christ the head felt persecuted as well.

Holydays of obligation are special days the Church sets aside for God, and any Catholic who disregard any of these days disregard the body of Christ. Such a person needs to be reconciled to God and to the Church again through the sacrament of reconciliation.

This is not an invention of sin neither is it a pharisaic way of putting loads on people, it is simply inspired teaching of the Church.

Do you still think that the Catholic Church is wrong when she insists that anyone who disregards the holyday of obligation must seek forgiveness from God? Does the code of the canon law contradict the bible? Certainly no; the same one and Holy Spirit continue to inspire the teachings of the Church.

  • David Stephen Alabi Reply

    Catholic Church, holydays of obligation.

    Very educating, well done Padre.
    However, is Christmas an holyday of obligation in Nigeria?
    Can you acquaint me with observed holydays of obligation in Nigerian churches; I mean Catholic Churches?