A - Thanks for the question. Even St. John Chrysostom commented in the 4th Century about the questions surrounding holy days:
"many people celebrate the holy days and know their names: but of their history, meaning and origin they know nothing."So, having the same question in nothing new for the Church.
The first thing we have to answer is this - what is a holy day of obligation?
It is an extraordinary celebration in the Church's liturgical calendar that the Church asks and obliges us to attend, just as we are to do every Sunday. So, the Church is telling us that we are to hold up these days as extra special in our spiritual life.
The Church has a liturgical calendar that it follows, starting in Advent. The calendar has many feast days, solemnities, and other celebrations on it. Most days have no special celebrations, but the ones that do celebrate the lives of the Saints and others celebrate important events. But, all are to help us remember our history as a Church and honor the Saints as models for us.
So, why are they important?
They are important because we come together in a Church to honor Mary or an important event in the Church's calendar as a way to celebrate these things as one people of God. We are not just individuals, but also one Body of Christ - the Church. So, as a universal Church, we celebrate the Eucharist and this time as "holy" for God's sake and our own. The Church has laid it down as a "basic" element of a practicing Catholic to attend Mass and Holy Days of Obligation - it is one of the precepts of the Church.
It might be different and a sacrifice to go to Mass during the week, but as Catholics we are asked to be counter-cultural and sacrificial. This is one of the ways we show God we place Him as our highest priority.
As Fr. David likes to say - they are so much obligations, but opportunities, if we have the eyes of faith to see them as such. The question I would ask is this - what is more important than celebrating Mass, where Christ Himself comes to be one with us in Holy Communion? With that in mind, the obligation melts away, and the eyes of faith are opened to see how awesome a gift we get.
These are some of the benefits to celebrating a Holy Day:
- We get to unite with Catholics throughout the world to show how special the day is.
- We get to unite with Christ in the Eucharist.
- We get to worship God and love Him.
- We get to put our priorities in order once again.
- We get to pray in the highest form of prayer there is - The Mass.
- We get to stand out from the crowd and proclaim to the world our faith.
- We get the opportunity to share the faith with a friend who is non-Catholic and may not understand why we do such things.
I hope this helps.
Whenever January 1, the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, or August 15, the solemnity of the Assumption, or November 1, the solemnity of All Saints, falls on a Saturday or on a Monday, the precept to attend Mass is abrogated.
- January 1, the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God;
- Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter, the solemnity of the Ascension;
- August 15, the solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary;
- November 1, the solemnity of All Saints;
- December 8, the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception;
- December 25, the solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Other links of interest:
**Precepts of the Church
**What is the Sunday Mass Obligation?
**Does Having a Small Baby Excuse One from the Mass Obligation?
**What is the Sabbath Rest?