Someone asked me the other day about attending a wedding Mass on August 15th. He was wondering if this would fulfill his “obligation” to attend Mass for the Feast of The Assumption. I told him I felt it would! I don’t know whether he was convinced or not. I said it would not be the Mass of the Holy Day but that he would be in church and at Mass on the Holy Day and that, in my opinion, was all that was asked of him.
It makes me think a bit about Holy Days. There aren’t too many left in the Church’s Calendar that we are asked to treat as Sunday – in other words, attend Mass. Most Holy Days have been moved to the nearest Sunday and only a handful of Holy Days of Obligation remain, e.g. Epiphany (January 6th) The Assumption (August 15th), All Saints’ (November 1st) Immaculate Conception (December 8th), Christmas Day …
So what are they about? Why have them? I suppose their purpose is to focus our minds and root our prayer on days set apart. Like the birthday or anniversary, days like these call us to a place of recognition, respect, reverence and renewal. They are days when we’re asked to give something back.
When I was growing up my father would close the garage at home on Holy Days. Only what absolutely could not be avoided, in terms of work, was done. We’d go to Mass on the day and, to all extents and purposes, it was as Sunday. In later years that changed a little and the garage would not close but the Faith dimension of the day would be honoured through attending Mass. Schools would be closed too and children would be at home.
For many now, it seems, the significance of the Holy Day has all but disappeared. There is no apparent connect, for some, between the day being celebrated and the call to join the community in prayer. Of course this is not just limited to the Holy Day but can also be the story of Sunday. Yet, the Church maintains these days and, in so doing, calls the Faithful to pray – to come to church and to mark the day as special; as Holy.
Today, for example, we celebrate the Feast of The Assumption. It is that day when Our Lady was drawn into the Heavens and into the presence of God whom she so faithfully served from that first “yes” during Gabriel’s visit through all the “yeses” that followed – up to and including Calvary and all it stole from her. It is surely right that we mark such a day, draw inspiration from it and seek to imitate the woman it celebrates.
So likewise, all our Holy Days. It was reassuring the man felt the need make contact to see if the wedding celebration would mark the day. I feel certain Our Lady will rejoice with the couple and all gathered on the day. Prayers will be said, time together shared and a major step taken on life’s journey. God blesses this occasion and all gathered. I believe Our Lady will take that as fitting recognition.
How will we mark the day? Will we let the day “mark” us?