Sunday, February 24, 2019

Are The Roman Catholic Holy Days Of Obligation Biblical?

  • Introduction:
          -The Roman Catholic hierarchy has invented an annual series of holy days of obligation for faithful adherents to observe, which comprises a liturgical calendar. Two such mandatory days for Catholics to comply with would include Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Both take place during the Lenten season. The question that this article strives to answer is whether or not a church government has the scriptural authority to command us to set aside specific days for penitential purposes.
  • The New Testament Does Not Speak Of Holy Days Of Obligation:
          -While the Jewish people of the Old Testament participated in obligatory religious celebrations such as Pentecost, the Passover, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23), there are no such stipulations in the New Testament for Christians. In other words, there are no listings of, examples of, or any implicit or explicit commandments for a church hierarchy mandating special days of observance which are dedicated to specific people, events, or for a designated purpose found for Christians in the New Covenant Scriptures. If the Lord Jesus Christ willed for us to follow a universally binding liturgical calendar, then it is strange that the authors of the New Testament nowhere wrote down any instructions. Jesus Christ was the fulfillment to the Old Covenant celebrations. The priesthood, animal sacrifices, dietary regulations, and other aspects of the Mosaic Law were only "shadows" of the greater things to come (Hebrews 10:1). It would still be wise to study these Jewish customs, for they are part of our heritage and point us to the Savior.
  • The Roman Catholic Church Goes Even Further Beyond The Teaching Of Scripture As It Makes Observing Specific Holy Days Of Obligation A Requirement For Salvation:
          -The Catechism of the Catholic Church plainly says that willingly and intentionally failing to observe holy days of obligation is a mortal sin (CCC #2181). It is mortal sins that constitute an instantaneous loss of all saving grace (CCC #1861). But the Bible does not authorize such a doctrine. We cannot merit our salvation by making reparation for sin. We cannot merit our salvation by rituals. If a person wishes to be saved, then he or she needs to approach God by faith (Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:8-9).
  • Brief Comments On The Observance Of Ash Wednesday: 
          -During Ash Wednesday, palm branches are burned. Then, the ashes are rubbed on the forehead by a priest in the shape of a cross. Sacramental graces are imparted to partakers because the ashes were previously blessed. That is heresy. What does make atonement for sins according to Scripture is the sacrificial work of Jesus Christ (Isaiah 53:11; 1 Peter 1:18-19). We must trust place our trust in His work alone for salvation. Moreover, Christ expressly scolded the religious leaders of His day for openly making known their times of religious fasting (Matthew 6:16-18). Placing ashes on one's forehead certainly qualifies as a violation of this warning against pride. Why not just give up Lent this upcoming Lent season? Even this Roman Catholic source admits:

          "You won’t find a listing of the Holy Days of Obligation in the Bible because they aren’t there. They aren’t there because they weren’t instituted when the Bible was written and compiled. Like so many things in our Catholic tradition, the practice of celebrating Holy Days developed over a period of centuries as Church leaders reflected on the importance of particular events..."
  • Mandating Special Days Of Obligation Is A Sign Of Apostasy:
          -The New Testament nowhere requires the observation of any "holy days of obligation". In fact, we have been given the liberty of deciding which days that we individually choose to observe to be specifically glorifying God (Romans 14:1-6; Colossians 2:13-17). We should be turning to Him on a daily basis. We should be glorifying Him on a daily basis. We should always be serving Him. But mandating the observance of certain "holidays" on the other members of the church is a sign of spiritual apostasy (Galatians 4:9-11).


  1. Wow - I had almost forgotten the words "Mortal Sin" (and it's evil companion "Venial Sin") and "Holy Days of Obligation" (Side note: Did you ever notice that the RCC calls pride a venial sin while God clearly hates pride) I'm also giving up Lenten nonsense for Lent, except for the fish fries. Nothing beats an old school Buffalo NY Fish Fry.

  2. Thank you for mentioning that the Roman Catholic Church classifies pride as a venial sin. That is odd, considering how Scripture says God opposes the proud. It is in fact the root of all evil. That really is an interesting point, Doug!

  3. Hey Jesse,

    Great post! It is certainly true that we should not be caught up in "special / holy" days "of obligation."

    But I do want to point out that I believe that Ash Wednesday is actually not considered a holy day of obligation like Easter is.

  4. Russell,

    Ash Wednesday, while a tradition of the Roman Catholic Church, is not considered a holy day of obligation. I appreciate you pointing out a lack of clarification on my part.

    Anyway, I encourage those who may be reading this to check out Russell's well done article: