By Rev. John J. Burke.
"Seven days shalt thou celebrate feasts to the Lord thy God, in the place which the Lord shalt choose" (Deut. xvi. 15).
"If he will not hear the Church, let him be to thee as the heathen and the publican" (Matt. xviii. 17).
FROM these texts we learn that besides the Sunday God wishes certain other days to be observed religiously, and that the Church has the power of designating these days.
As the State sets aside certain national holidays in commemoration of its founder or of the Declaration of Independence, so the Church sets aside these holidays in honor of Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin, and the saints.
Besides the feasts celebrated on Sundays, there are in this country but six holidays of obligation. Three of these are commemorative of events in the life of Our Lord: Christmas, the Circumcision, and the Ascension; two, the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, in honor of the Blessed Virgin; and one in honor of God's saints—the Feast of All Saints.
The ecclesiastical year begins in Advent. Advent is a period of about four weeks of penance and prayer preparatory to the great feast of Christmas and corresponding to the penitential season of Lent before Easter. During the ecclesiastical year, the first of the feasts of obligation in the order of time is the feast of the Immaculate Conception.
It is celebrated on the 8th of December. On this day we commemorate the fact that Mary was immaculate when she first came into being in her mother's womb; that she was always pure; that sin never touched her fair soul. Immaculate Conception, as you will see in the article on the Blessed Virgin, means that she was always free from sin.
The great feast of Christmas, in honor of the birth of Jesus Christ, is celebrated on December 25th. This feast is a time of joy and peace to all mankind, and is celebrated by the Church with much pomp and ceremony.
The festival of the Circumcision is kept on the first day of the new year. It is commemorative of Our Lord's strict observance of the law by submitting to the Jewish ceremony of circumcision. We solemnly celebrate the day in honor of our merciful Lord, who is our model in all things.
Next in the order of time is the feast of the Ascension. It is kept forty days after the grand feast of Easter, and is in honor of Our Lord's glorious ascension into heaven.
The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, celebrated the 15th of August, is commemorative of the glorious taking up to heaven of Mary, soul and body. (This is a pious tradition.)
All Saints' Day is November 1st. Every day is a saint's day. There is not a day that the Catholic Church does not celebrate a feast in honor of some special mystery or saint. But as there are more saints in heaven than could be thus specially honored, she sets aside this one day every year in honor of all the saints in heaven.
There are various other important feasts, some of which fall on Sunday; but these we have mentioned being feasts of obligation to be observed as Sunday, it was thought that it would not be uninteresting to give a short explanation of them.
On them we honor God and His special friends. Let us always, by faith, hope, and love, bear Jesus in our minds and hearts.
This is taken from Reasonableness of Catholic Ceremonies and Practices.
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