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Catholic Church Holy Days of Obligation

Catholic Church Holy Days of Obligation

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On holy days of obligation, Catholics are obliged to participate in Mass. Every Sunday is a holy day of obligation, as are six other days throughout the year.

The following days must also be observed:

    • the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ,
    • the Epiphany,
    • the Ascension,
    • the Body and Blood of Christ,
    • Holy Mary the Mother of God,
    • her Immaculate Conception,
    • her Assumption,
    • Saint Joseph,
    • Saint Peter and Saint Paul the Apostles,
    • and All Saints.

Vatican City

These ten are the exact holy days of obligation that are celebrated in Vatican City, but there is variation elsewhere (including in Italy). The reason is that the Code of Canon Law goes on to state:

Can.  1246 §2. With the prior approval of the Apostolic See, however, the conference of bishops can suppress some of the holy days of obligation or transfer them to a Sunday.

Country with fewest Holy Days

Thus different countries celebrate different holy days of obligation (apart from Sunday, which they all celebrate).

  • The country with the fewest number of holy days of obligation seems to Hong Kong, which has only one: Christmas.
  • Canada has two: Christmas and Mary, Mother of God.
  • The United States, by contrast, has a fairly robust eight holy days of obligation, though two to three have been transferred to Sundays (depending on where you live).

The details can be a little bewildering though, so here is a complete, up-to-date list of the holy days of obligation in the United States:

  • January 1: The Feast of Mary, the Mother of God

  • 40 days after Easter Sunday: Ascension Thursday

  • August 15: Assumption of Mary into heaven

  • November 1: All Saints’ Day

  • December 8: The Feast of the Immaculate Conception

  • December 25: Christmas, the Nativity of Our Lord

In the United States, Christmas Day (December 25) and the Immaculate Conception (December 8) are always days of obligation. Christmas and Easter (which always falls on Sunday) are the highest-ranking holy days, and the Immaculate Conception is the feast for the United States.

Holy Days for Europe

Europe has four more holy days than the United States observes: January 6 (Epiphany), March 19 (St. Joseph), Corpus Christi (Thursday after Trinity Sunday, which is the Sunday after Pentecost, which is 50 days after Easter), and the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul (June 29)

How old was Elizabeth when she gave birth to John?

How old was Elizabeth when she gave birth to John?

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The Gnostic Elizabeth

In the Mandaean Gospel of John the Baptizer, Elizabeth is called Enishbai. Because the Mandaeans hold John and not Jesus to be the true teacher, she is more important than Mary, who is mentioned but briefly. In this source we learn that Elizabeth was 88 years old when she gave birth to John:

“My father,” says Yahyā (John), “was ninety and nine and my mother eighty and eight years old. Out of the basin of Jordan they took me. They bore me up and laid me in the womb of Enishbai. ‘Nine months,’ said they, ‘thou shalt stay in her womb, as do all other children.’ No wise woman,” said he, “brought me into the world in Judæa, and they have not cut my cord in Jerusalem. They made for me no picture of lies, and for me hung up no bell of deceit. I was born from Enishbai in the region of Jerusalem.”

Elizabeth was the mother of John the Baptist and the wife of Zechariah, according to the Gospel of Luke. A righteous woman of a priestly lineage, she conceived her son miraculously as an old woman, after her husband received a revelation while serving at the Temple of Jerusalem.

During her pregnancy, she and Zechariah provided hospitality to Mary, the mother of Jesus, who visited the couple immediately after receiving her own revelation that she, too, would miraculously conceive a son. Elizabeth acted prophetically in greeting Mary by sensing that her young cousin would be “the mother of my Lord.”

Family background

According to Luke 1:36, Elizabeth was related to Mary. The word used in the Greek original to describe their kinship is suggenes, a blood relative. Traditionally, they are believed to have been cousins. St. Hippolytus of Rome affirmed that Mary’s mother (Saint Anne) and Elizabeth’s mother (Sobe) were sisters.

Luke reports that Elizabeth was a descendant of Aaron the priest (Luke 1:5). She and her husband Zechariah were “righteous before God, living blamelessly” (1:6). Like several other providential women in the Bible, Elizabeth was barren. Luke mentions that she was also old, being “far advanced in years.”

Miraculous conception

Zechariah, having been chosen by lot for the honor to minister at the altar of incense in the Temple of Jerusalem was visited by the Angel Gabriel, who told him that Elizabeth would have a son who “will be great in the sight of the Lord” (1:15) and would be inspired by the “spirit and power of Elijah.”

Zechariah expressed doubts that such a thing could be possible, because, “I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” Gabriel caused him to lose the power of speech because of his doubt.

Nevertheless, after Zechariah returned to their home in the hill country of Judea, both he and Elizabeth proved equal to the task.

Overjoyed, Elizabeth declared, “The Lord has done this for me. In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.” To ensure the success of her pregnancy, she secluded herself for five months.

Elizabeth and Mary

In the sixth month, however, Elizabeth received an unexpected visit from of her young cousin, Mary (1:39).

Gabriel had visited Mary in Nazareth and informed that she, too, would conceive a son, even though she had not yet “known a man.” (1:34) Asked how such a thing could happen, he informed Mary of Elizabeth’s own miraculous pregnancy.

Mary immediately left Nazareth for the hill country in response. The visit had a powerful effect on Elizabeth, as her fetus became agitated, and she prophesied:

Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb. But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? (1:41-43)

Elizabeth and Zechariah then provided hospitality to Mary for three months, but as the time for Elizabeth to give birth neared, Mary returned to Nazareth.

The birth of John

Zechariah confirms Elizabeth’s statement: “His name is John.”

After this, Elizabeth gave birth to a son, and when the extended family, not including Mary, gathered for his circumcision eight days later, she named him John. The relatives protested on the grounds that none of the child’s ancestors had been so named. At this point Zechariah confirmed the name through the use of a writing tablet, and his power of speech miraculously returned. He too then prophesied, predicting:

You, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins. (Luke 1:76-77)

John would indeed go on to be a famous prophet in Christian tradition, being the forerunner of Jesus who baptized many thousands at the Jordan River and testified to Jesus as the son of God. Outside of the New Testament, John is mentioned in the works of the historian Josephus. Luke reports John’s reputation to be so great that, “The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ. (3:15)

Is Mary the mother of the world?

Is Mary the mother of the world?

Glory to Jesus; Honour to Mary and Joseph

The question of whether Mary is the Mother of the world should not be mentioned. Mary is a woman everybody should hold with esteem. She begot the Son of God, Jesus. We shall be hinting us on the reasons why mary is the mother of the world.

The following reasons indicate that She merited that honour:

  1. Mary is the mother of Jesus; God Son
  2. When she visited Elizabeth,the mother of John the Baptist, she acclaimed that ” all generation shall call her blessed”
  3. on the foot of the cross, Jesus gave His mother to John the Beloved,”Son behold thy mother and mother behold thy Son”
  4. Mary became Queen of the whole universe following her assumption

Who is God’s mother?

The mother of God must be someone who mother the God’s Son, Jesus. If Jesus is God, then the mother of Jesus is the mother of God. Many argue that Mary is the mother of Jesus but not mother of God. Jesus is both God and Man. She is claimed to have miraculously appeared to believers many times over the centuries. The Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran churches believe that Mary, as mother of Jesus, is the Mother of God (Greek: Θεοτόκος, translit. Theotokos, lit. ‘God-bearer’

Mary visited Elizabeth

Mary visits her relative Elizabeth; they are both pregnant: Mary with Jesus, and Elizabeth with John the Baptist. Mary left Nazareth immediately after the Annunciation and went “into the hill country…into a city of Judah” (Luke 1:39) to attend to her cousin (Luke 1:36) Elizabeth.

As soon as her greetings reaches her hear (Elizabeth), the child in the womb of Elizabeth leaped for Joy. This Prompted Elizabeth to Say:

Who am I that the mother of my Lord should visit me, for as soon as the your greeting reaches my hear, my child rejoice. And Mary replied, ” ……. All Generation shall call me Blessed.”

Jesus Gave his Mother to us

At the foot of the cross, Jesus gave us His Mother when he said:

‘Son, behold thy mother and Mother, behold thy Son.

At this point Mary, mother of Jesus adopted John and the rest of the world as her children and the acceptance by John means that all of us have accepted her too.

8 Things About the Immaculate Conception-Do you Know?

8 Things About the Immaculate Conception-Do you Know?


immaculate conception
Immaculate conception

On December 8th, is the feast of the Immaculate Conception. It celebrates an important point of Catholic teaching, and it is a holy day of obligation.

Here are 8 things you need to know about the teaching and the way we celebrate it.

1. Who does the Immaculate Conception refer to?

There’s a popular idea that it refers to Jesus’ conception by the Virgin Mary.

It doesn’t.

Instead, it refers to the special way in which the Virgin Mary herself was conceived.

This conception was not virginal. (That is, she had a human father as well as a human mother.) But it was special and unique in another way. . . .


2. What is the Immaculate Conception?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains it this way:

490 To become the mother of the Saviour, Mary “was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.” The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as “full of grace”.  In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God’s grace.

491 Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, “full of grace” through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854:

The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin. 


3. Does this mean Mary never sinned?

Yes. Because of the way redemption was applied to Mary at the moment of her conception, she not only was protected from contracting original sin but also personal sin. The Catechism explains:

493 The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God “the All-Holy” (Panagia), and celebrate her as “free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature”.  By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long. “Let it be done to me according to your word. . .”


4. Does this mean Mary didn’t need Jesus to die on the Cross for her?

No. What we’ve already quoted states that Mary was immaculately conceived as part of her being “full of grace” and thus “redeemed from the moment of her conception” by “a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race.”

The Catechism goes on to state:

492 The “splendour of an entirely unique holiness” by which Mary is “enriched from the first instant of her conception” comes wholly from Christ: she is “redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son”.  The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person “in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” and chose her “in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love”.

508 From among the descendants of Eve, God chose the Virgin Mary to be the mother of his Son. “Full of grace”, Mary is “the most excellent fruit of redemption” (SC 103): from the first instant of her conception, she was totally preserved from the stain of original sin and she remained pure from all personal sin throughout her life.


5. How does this make Mary a parallel of Eve?

Adam and Eve were both created immaculate–without original sin or its stain. They fell from grace, and through them mankind was bound to sin.

Christ and Mary were also conceived immaculate. They remained faithful, and through them mankind was redeemed from sin.

Christ is thus the New Adam, and Mary the New Eve.

The Catechism notes:

494 . . . As St. Irenaeus says, “Being obedient she became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race.” Hence not a few of the early Fathers gladly assert. . .: “The knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by Mary’s obedience: what the virgin Eve bound through her disbelief, Mary loosened by her faith.”  Comparing her with Eve, they call Mary “the Mother of the living” and frequently claim: “Death through Eve, life through Mary.”


6. How does this make Mary an icon of our own destiny?

Those who die in God’s friendship and thus go to heaven will be freed from all sin and stain of sin. We will thus all be rendered “immaculate” (Latin, immaculatus = “stainless”) if we remain faithful to God.

Even in this life, God purifies us and trains us in holiness and, if we die in his friendship but imperfectly purified, he will purify us in purgatory and render us immaculate.

By giving Mary this grace from the first moment of her conception, God showed us an image of our own destiny. He shows us that this is possible for humans by his grace.

John Paul II noted:

In contemplating this mystery in a Marian perspective, we can say that “Mary, at the side of her Son, is the most perfect image of freedom and of the liberation of humanity and of the universe. It is to her as Mother and Model that the Church must look in order to understand in its completeness the meaning of her own mission” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Libertatis conscientia, 22 March, 1986, n. 97; cf. Redemptoris Mater, n. 37).

Let us fix our gaze, then, on Mary, the icon of the pilgrim Church in the wilderness of history but on her way to the glorious destination of the heavenly Jerusalem, where she [the Church] will shine as the Bride of the Lamb, Christ the Lord


7. Was it necessary for God to make Mary immaculate at her conception so that she could be Jesus’ mother?

No. The Church only speaks of the Immaculate Conception as something that was “fitting,” something that made Mary a “fit habitation” (i.e., suitable dwelling) for the Son of God, not something that was necessary. Thus in preparing to define the dogma, Pope Pius IX stated:

And hence they [the Church Fathers] affirmed that the Blessed Virgin was, through grace, entirely free from every stain of sin, and from all corruption of body, soul and mind; that she was always united with God and joined to him by an eternal covenant; that she was never in darkness but always in light; and that, therefore, she was entirely a fit habitation for Christ, not because of the state of her body, but because of her original grace. . . .

For it was certainly not fitting that this vessel of election should be wounded by the common injuries, since she, differing so much from the others, had only nature in common with them, not sin.

In fact, it was quite fitting that, as the Only-Begotten has a Father in heaven, whom the Seraphim extol as thrice holy, so he should have a Mother on earth who would never be without the splendor of holiness [Ineffabilis Deus].


8. How do we celebrate the Immaculate Conception today?

In the Latin rite of the Catholic Church, December 8th is the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. In the United States and in a number of other countries, it is a holy day of obligation.

When December 8th falls on Saturday, the precept of attending Mass is still observed in the United States, even though it will mean going to Mass two days in a row (since every Sunday is also a holy day of obligation)