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holy days of "obligation"?

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  • asteresplanetai
    ... doesn t it strike you that the problem in a nutshell is already the very fact that the feasts of the Church are referred to as days of obligation (under
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 2, 2005
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      > From: Tom Poelker <TomPoelker@...>
      > Subject: Re: The liturgical year, secular life, and an
      > epiphany/confession (of sorts)
      > In the RCC, there are two things going on. One is dealing
      > with the Holy Days of Obligation in their various numbers,
      > many more in Europe than in NA. Bluntly, the vast majority
      > of Catholics don't worship with the community except when
      > they are required by law under pain of Mortal Sin.

      doesn't it strike you that the problem in a nutshell is already the
      very fact that the feasts of the Church are referred to as "days of
      obligation" (under pain of mortal sin), rather than as "great feasts"?

      i mean, an obligation is something you have to do, whereas a feast is
      something you *want* to do!

      isn't this already a sterling example of minimalism and legalism? and
      it's no wonder that it inevitably leads to constant "reformations"--
      the latest being the transfer of feasts to sundays-- because somehow
      the approach just *doesn't work*!

      there's nothing about an "obligation" that tells me why i might
      **want** to go to church on a wednesday after or before a hard day's

      > Second is dealing with the ignorance concerning feasts and
      > seasons.

      how would one expect anyone to acquire knowledge of *feasts* and
      seasons when they're presented as obligations??

      > Transferring feasts to Sundays insures that people at least
      > hear of them and there is the opportunity to preach them
      > without piling up an additional obligations as Jesus pointed
      > out was done by the Pharisees.

      but what has been lost when the feasts are transferred to sunday is
      precisely the character of the **feast**!

      A "feast", in normal parlance, means an unusual occasion, not just the
      same occasion as always, with a special name or a new theme.

      And when you have collapsed the festal cycle to the sunday cycle, how
      will you ever again talk about how they are related? The feasts
      themselves are no longer feasts, but merely "themes", right up there
      with "Diocesan Development Drive Sunday" and "Marriage Vow Renewal
      Sunday" and all the rest.

      > There is also the adjustment to the reality that the church
      > is no longer a dominant force in society as it was when Holy
      > Days of Obligation were established, and Europe thought of
      > itself as Christendom. In those times, if the church
      > declared a day a Holy Day, it was de facto a holiday from
      > ordinary labors. Society no longer cooperates in the
      > observation of Holy Days.

      In one parish of ordinary working class people (many of whom have to
      drive 20 miles or more to get to church), feast days are *special
      events*, and people *want* to come to them, at least to the vigil if
      they possibly can. We normally have about 50% attendance for the vigils
      on a weeknight; at the liturgy in the morning, usually about 30%. On
      the really big feasts (parish patronal feast, Dormition, Annunciation,
      etc), attendance is usually more like 75-80%, and the feast lasts all
      day (including the banquet).

      In another parish where no effort is made to make the day special, and
      where the feasts are not preached or promoted, maybe 5 to 10% come to
      liturgy (there is no vigil, and certainly no banquet).

      > I would trade all other advances in
      > congregational understanding of the church year if we could
      > get Americans to speak of the Triduum and treat it as the
      > High Holy Days from sundown Holy Thursday to an Easter
      > Eucharist actually on Sunday.
      > As a RC, I would like to see these days alone be considered
      > the Holy Days of Obligation.

      Why, **why??**--- "obligation"?!

      Isn't the nature of the Triduum itself **enough** motivation for a
      Christian to attend? and if they don't attend, wouldn't we be better
      off asking whether as a church we've raised them up as Christians, or
      whether we've made it clear what these days are and why they're
      **inherently** important??

      > It is strange how many people come to "Midnight Mass" when
      > so few are willing to come out after dark in better weather
      > for the Easter Vigil.

      this is a function of culture and of preaching, both of which are more
      amenable to change (with a little patience) than people are sometimes
      willing to grant. But the preaching has to be done all year, not just
      the few sundays before the triduum. A sense of those services as
      actually BEING the center of the Church and of its year has to permeate
      the whole cycle. We really have to understand something here, not just
      be told about it a few weeks in advance, so we can clear our calendars.

      I have never been to a paschal vigil in the orthodox church-- always 3
      to 4 hours long, standing-- that was not absolutely packed, like
      sardines. Granted, half the people (the relatively unchurched) leave
      halfway through, but at least they made an effort, and go home with a
      sense of, well-- Pascha! Even the nominal know that pascha is Pascha!,
      and it's something you don't want to miss!

      > From: Frank Senn <fcsenn@...>

      > Also, I would note that attending evening events at church even on
      > work days is not uncommon. I'll never forget the Ascension Thursday
      > several years ago when I concluded the Eucharist and joined the parish
      > council who were sitting there waiting for me to arrive so they could
      > begin their meeting. Only two of the twelve council members had
      > attended the Eucharist. The president asked if I would lead them in
      > opening devotions, and I declined, saying we had just done it and they
      > missed it. Point made and they sheepishly went on with the meeting.

      the priest in my former parish absolutely would not permit a parish
      council meeting to occur unless the members had been to vespers
      immediately before it. And ultimately, he wouldn't allow people on the
      council at all, if they never came to the feast days. "They don't know
      enough about what's going on to make decisions," he said. And he made
      that very clear when election time came: they were just not eligible.
      Names were not named, but the rules were clear. That's where one might
      speak a bit of "obligation": with regard to other activities and
      positions in the community, not the feasts themselves.

      > From: "Thomas R. Jackson" <thomas@...>
      > Subject: Re: The liturgical year, secular life, and an
      > epiphany/confession (of sorts)
      > I get a bit concerned with the idea that
      > ecclesial life should take a back seat to the needs of secular society,
      > rather than the other way around.

      i completely agree with this. If a church follows the way of
      accommodation and assimilation, membership will decline. People want a
      challenge! And they want a sense that there's actually something there
      in the church and its services, not just a sort of religious
      convenience. Frank is absolutely right: the moslems put most of us to
      shame, and so do the buddhists. Give em their money's worth, and
      they'll buy. Give em cheap grace, and they'll find something better

      > Daily
      > vespers celebrations were common in the early Church, even obligatory
      > in
      > some areas, and presumably did not supercede the need for daily
      > secular life.

      And daily matins and vespers are still the rule in orthodox parishes,
      except in america (though some parishes have them; and i think the
      practice is very slowly gaining again now that monasticism is finally
      growing here). In such parishes, here or in greece, attendance at
      vespers and/or matins is about as good as for daily mass.

      > The point about piling on obligations is well taken. However, I don't
      > think that the desire to reduce this burden requires abandoning or
      > vandalizing the calendar.

      ***** The feast days are NOT a burden or an "obligation" !!!!!! ********

      > Further, the role of obligation in Catholic
      > liturgical observance has taken on a very unique type of cultural and
      > spiritual importance, and I am not sure that it can be dealt with in a
      > black and white legal means. Removing the designation of "obligatory"
      > from
      > a Roman Rite practice is tantamount to saying that it is no longer
      > important.

      This would happen if the word were "removed" by some (again, legal)
      fiat. The WHOLE problem is one of education and perception: You don't
      need to make new decrees. You just need to stop referring to feasts and
      thinking about them and TREATING them as "obligations" and "burdens"
      and "requirements", and start really thinking of them as **feasts**---
      and I believe with a little patience you'll begin to see a big

      Just forget about trying to define the minimum necessary (what you'll
      settle for). Think in terms of maximums!


      John burnett.
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