Friday, October 30, 2015

Precepts of The Church Part 2: Mass and Holy Days of Obligation

high mass | Catholic Lane 
 The first precept of the Church has to do with Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation; namely the participation in Mass on these days.  The Code of Canon Law states: “On Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass; they are to abstain from those labors and business concerns which impede the worship to be rendered to God, the joy which is proper to the Lord’s day or the proper relaxation of mind and body.” ( Canon 1247) 2180 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church says the same thing as well.  Let’s unpack this canon.

“On Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation” :  This would constitute every single Sunday of the calendar year and the following Feasts: Immaculate Conception (Dec 8th), Christmas (Dec 25th), Mary, Mother of God  (Jan 1st), Epiphany (Jan 6th), Ascension Thursday (40 days after Easter), Corpus Christi (Thursday after Trinity Sunday), Assumption (August 15th) and All Saints (Nov 1st).  In the United States Epiphany and Corpus Christi have been moved to the following Sunday.  Additionally, in this diocese, Ascension has been moved to the following Sunday.  Immaculate Conception is always celebrated unless it falls on a Sunday (Sunday of Advent would take precedence). Christmas is a holy day regardless of what day it falls on.  The others are celebrated unless they fall on a Saturday or Monday.

the faithful” : This would be all baptized Catholics.  Those who are ill or taking care of those who are ill are exempt.  All others should make every effort to participate during Sunday and holy day masses.  I am aware that some employers make this near impossible. If you are an employer, don’t be that guy.  I realize that despite best efforts a church cannot be located in time whilst traveling.  Although should help in planning travel and vacations.  Save these, the faithful are obliged to participate in Sunday Mass.  To choose to not do so is a mortal sin.  To choose to not go to Mass for insufficient reason (stated above) constitutes a mortal sin in that it is serious matter (despite what our society says) and is done so with full use of knowledge and free will.  Hence, to willingly skip Mass incurs a penalty of not receiving Communion until one has been reconciled with God through Confession.  To be faithful means that we act in good faith and seek that which will build up that faith.

“are bound to participate in the Mass”:  Bound.  You are bound to participate in Mass if your are a faithful Catholic. Sunday Mass and holy day Masses are not optional!  This also means more than occupying a pew for x amount of minutes.  To participate means that one comes in with a disposition to worship God, to give thanks to God, and to seek a deeper relationship with God and His people.

“They are to abstain from those labors and business concerns which impede the worship to be rendered to God”:   Mass is to take central stage on Sunday.  It is the first priority.  I know this has gotten difficult because so many other entities have supplanted Mass as the first priority.  Let’s be honest, though, it was ground we ceded.  Sports, sport practices, jobs, and whole host of other things have reached into Sunday morning demanding this time.  I am not saying these things are evil.  However, to be blunt, the 1st Commandment does say “I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods before me” and the third commandment says “Keep holy the Sabbath.”   These are commandments given by God.  They are commandments, not suggestions.

Sunday takes precedence because it is the day of the Resurrection.  It stands as the center of the week.  From the very early Church on, it was the day when the Christian community gathered together for worship and thanksgiving of God.  Because of the latter, the Greek word, eukharistia, meaning ‘thanksgiving’ was attached to the worship service.  Furthermore, as Christ says in Mark 2:27: “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”  The Sabbath was to be for the benefit of humanity.  There is a human necessity to both worship and give thanks.  It staves off false pride, a sense of entitlement, and gives us proper sight in how to approach the world.  In Mass, we are furthermore given the grace we need to meet the challenges of our time, to negotiate this world, to grow free from our sinful inclinations, and to set the world anew.  Also, Jesus says  in John 6:53, “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life within you.”  Participation in Mass gives the opportunity for that new life.

So central to Catholic life is Sunday Mass that the Church has always seen it as central, with Vatican  II declaring it to be the ‘source and summit’ of the Catholic faith (see Lumen Gentium 11, Catechism of the Catholic Church 1324).  To willingly skip Sunday Mass is to starve ourselves spiritually and to drain the life of Christ from us; a life that we will need to enter heaven.  Sunday Mass is celebrated by anticipatory Masses on Saturday evening through Sunday day and night.  Other Masses of the week do not take the place of the Sunday Mass!  If your child goes to school weekday Masses, this is not in lieu of Sunday.  Unless the weekday be a holy day of obligation, no sin is incurred by missing Mass on a weekday.  This is not so for Sunday Mass.  This is not so for Holy days of Obligation.

“the joy which is proper to the Lord’s day or the proper relaxation of mind and body.”:  Again, the Sabbath is made for man.  We need rest.  Our ridding Sunday of its rest has not been to our betterment.  We, as a nation, are more stressed out than ever.  We are finding that secular engagements can be a demanding master.  That we choose to act as if Sunday is just another day has not served us, our country, or our parishes well.  We physically, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally need down time.  Maybe the God who hardwired us knows this.

This precept, as all the following precepts are meant for our betterment.  Challenging though they be, they are meant to help us grow in holiness, maturity, and faith.  Withdrawing from them will produce nothing positive or good.  Entering into them and participating as God commanded us to do (recall Jesus’ command to ’do this in memory of me’ at that first Mass, the Last Supper) can only be to our good if we allow it to be so.  So come giving thanks, expressing sorrow, expressing glory and adoration of God so that He may, in turn, give you an abundance of His grace.

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