Holy days remind us that Heaven is our true homeBy: Fr. David J. Dohogne
Most all religions have designated days throughout the year that are considered “sacred.” This is certainly true within our Catholic Faith. We commonly refer to these sacred moments as “Holy Days of Obligation.” The purpose of Holy Days is to recognize and celebrate important events in the life of our Lord and the Blessed Virgin, as well as key doctrines and beliefs of our faith.
On Wed., Aug. 15, the Church will celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a Holy Day of Obligation. In this solemnity, we commemorate the end of the earthly life of the Virgin Mary. It is our belief as Catholics that when Mary’s earthly life was completed, she was “assumed” and received body and soul into Heaven. Just as God preserved the soul of the Virgin Mary from the stain of original sin through her Immaculate Conception in the womb of St. Ann, so now God preserves her body from the decay and corruption that occurs with physical death. What significance does this have for us?
First of all, we are reminded that heaven is our true home and eternal destination. This is why God created us in the first place: to be with Him forever in Heaven. Second, we are reminded that our bodies, as temples of the Holy Spirit, are sacred to God. How often do we think of Heaven? In what ways do we care for our body as a temple sacred to God?
Many of our Catholic liturgical and spiritual traditions and customs originate within the Jewish Faith. We read about the Jewish “festivals” and “holy days” in the Old Testament. The festivals and holy days in Jewish Tradition commemorate key events and moments in Israel’s relationship with God. The Sabbath was the greatest of all celebrations, just as Sunday is the greatest of all days and celebrations for us as Christians. Within the Jewish Tradition, we learn about the celebration of Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks (known also as Pentecost), the Feast of Tabernacles, the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), the Feast of Hanukkah, and the Feast of Purim.
As Catholics, we find similarities in the celebration of our own Holy Days. What are the Holy Days of Obligation we celebrate as Catholics in the US? They are as follows: the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God (Jan. 1), the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven (while traditionally celebrated 40 days after Easter, in many dioceses the celebration of this event is transferred to the following Sunday), the Assumption of the Virgin Mary into Heaven (Aug. 15), the Solemnity of All Saints (Nov. 1), the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8), and the Solemnity of the Lord’s Incarnation and Birth at Christmas (Dec. 25).
In the Universal Liturgical Calendar of the Church, there are additional days that are celebrated as Holy Days in other countries (e.g. the solemnity in honor of St. Joseph on March 19 and the solemnity in honor of Sts. Peter and Paul on June 29). In the US, some Holy Days (e.g. the Ascension) have been transferred to the nearest Sunday, namely the Solemnity of the Epiphany, normally celebrated on Jan. 6, as well as the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, normally celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. As a side note, the obligation to attend Mass on Jan. 1, Nov. 1, and Aug. 15 is suspended if these days fall on Saturday or Monday.
On these days designated by the Church as “holy days,” the faithful have a serious moral obligation to attend Mass. To willingly and deliberately miss Mass on these days is a grave sin. It is the hope of the Church that these sacred days be celebrated properly by attending Mass and refraining from unnecessary work.
As Catholics, let’s joyfully celebrate and anticipate the Holy Days of our Faith, which invite us to ponder the life that awaits us in Heaven!