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in what you would accept as the Word of God, still it is unquestioned history; the last feast, moreover, is mentioned in the New Testament (John x. 22).
If, then, the Church of the Old Law had and exercised these powers without reproof except for a too strict and rigorous interpretation, why should not that of the New Law have a similar authority ?
It has simply followed in the footsteps of the Synagogue in its action. The greatest change, or new departure, was in the substitution of Sunday for Saturday, in honor of the Resurrection of Christ, intimated (John xx. 19, and Acts xx. 7, I. Cor. xvi. 2), and adopted by Christians generally. It has definitely formulated the way of observance of Sunday, or given us the commands of Christ in this respect not recorded in the Bible; and if its regulations as to this matter are not binding on us, nothing is, as those of the law of Moses have necessarily disappeared with the change of the day. It has established new feasts in honor of the principal events and mysteries of our Redemption, as the Synagogue of the Jews did for the principal events of God's providence toward them. What reasonable objection can be made to all this?
It is now time to see just what the Church does prescribe concerning Sundays and holydays.
First, as given above, the attendance at Mass on these days. The Mass, as has been explained, is the great service of the Church ; it is eminently fitting and proper that this should be one selected as of obligation. This is all that is absolutely required in the way of worship on these days; it is, however, the desire of the Church that Catholics should spend the rest of the day in a pious and religious manner; and particularly that they should also attend the afternoon or evening service known as Vespers. But experience shows that more than the attendance at Mass cannot be prudently commanded under pain of sin.
How, then, is the rest of the day to be spent ? In the first place, servile work is to be avoided. By this is meant fatiguing labor of the body, such as most men have to perform during the week to procure their daily bread. Mental work, such as reading or writing, is not forbidden; neither is artistic or scientific occupation ; and it is immaterial whether compensation is or is not expected for what is done. But one is not allowed to do servile work for satisfaction, for exercise, or to pass away the time; this is as much forbidden as that done for pay would be. Recreation or play, if it be innocent, is allowed; but it should not be such as would interfere with the public worship of God, or with the peace of those who wish to spend the
day in prayer or quiet; nor should it be such as would produce excitement or fatigue. The Church is always opposed to noisy and exciting festivities, particularly on Sunday, and of course to intoxication, debauchery, or any amusement which would probably be an occasion of sin. All these latter things would be wrong on any day, but especially on a day which should be spent in a closer union with God.
Work, however, required by necessity, piety, or charity is allowed; such as the cooking of food, the daily care of the house, preparation for public worship, attendance on the sick, etc. It is unavoidable also that some should work in . order that others should be able to go from place to place for reasonable recreation or necessary business; and also, some must do so because the work in which they are engaged is of a character that cannot be altogether suspended, as the care of furnaces which cannot, without great loss, be allowed to go out. And no one is obliged to suspend work if by so doing he would lose his occupation and have to starve. It is a misfortune that such should be the case with any one; but as things actually are it evidently cannot be helped.
Of course, excuse for one's regular work on holydays other than Sundays is much more common, as abstinence from it, unless the
country were all Catholic, would be probably attended by danger of losing one's occupation altogether. All are expected, however, to hear Mass on those days, if a Mass is provided at an hour at which they can be present without great inconvenience. And no one should do servile work voluntarily or unnecessarily on those days any more than on Sunday.
In this country there are only a few such days through the year; namely:
1. New Year's day.
3. Feast of the Assumption of the B. V. (August 15).
4. Feast of All Saints (November 1).
5. Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the B. V. (December 8).
6. Christmas Day.
The first and last of these are pretty generally recognized as public holidays. The addition of the four others to the fifty-two Sundays of the year makes really very little difference.
2. The second precept of the Church concerns fasting and abstinence. These are two different things, though often confounded, even by Catholics.
By "abstinence" is meant abstaining from flesh meat. All the world knows that the regular practice of good Catholics is to abstain from meat on every Friday. The only excep
tion to this is when Christmas falls on that day of the week. This Friday abstinence is of course, in commemoration of the death of Christ, which occurred on that day. It is manifestly fitting that Christians should undergo some suffering on the day on which Christ's great sufferings were endured.
Protestants are not usually inclined to admit this, however, alleging that it is useless, superstitious, and presumptuous for us to afflict ourselves in this way, and that it derogates from the dignity of our Saviour to have us put ourselves in His place in this way. This at least seenis to be their idea in opposing it. But in this they are contradicted by Christ Himself; His words are given in Matt. ix. 15, Mark ii. 20, Luke v. 35. When He was asked how it was that His disciples did not fast as the Jews did, He said that as long as they had the bridegroom (that is, evidently, Himself) with them, tliey could not fast; but that the days will come when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them and that then they shall fast. And such was actually the case from the earliest ages of tlie Church. Afflicting the body by deprivation of food and other means is no modern invention; on tire contrary, it was practised much more in the beginning of the Church than now.
St. Paul bears witness to this most clearly when he says (I. Cor. ix. 25-27):