EXPLANATION OF THE EPISTLES AND GOSPELS
FOR SUNDAYS AND FESTIVALS
TO WHICH ARE ADDED INSTRUCTIONS ON CHRISTIAN
FAITH AND MORALS
Since its first appearance in the English language Goffine has steadily increased in popularity. The book has given such general satisfaction that bishops, as well as priests, have called attention to the work, and warmly recommended it to the faithful. It would, indeed, be difficult to find a book more suitable for the laity, imparting fuller instruction in faith and morals, or giving more lucid explanations of the ceremonies which the Church employs throughout the Ecclesiastical year. The firm of Fr. Pustet & Co. have, moreover, spared neither pains nor expense to render it superior to every other work of the kind.
Owing to the general demand, we find it necessary to publish another edition. For this purpose we have carefully revised the latest edition; corrected typographical errors and rendered certain obscure passages plain and clear; hence we flatter ourselves that we are able to place before the public a book greatly improved in every respect.
That it may find a home in every Catholic household; serve to strengthen Catholic faith, propagate true Christian morality, and lead to a better comprehension of the spirit of the Ecclesiastical year, is the fervent wish of THE AUTHOR.
SHORT INSTRUCTIONS ON THE MANNER OF USING THIS BOOK
My dear Christian, before you commence to read these instructions:
I. Place yourself in the presence of God.
II. Humble yourself before Him, sincerely imploring His forgiveness.
III. Pray that you may be enlightened, that you may love Him; recommend yourself to the Blessed Virgin and to the saints.
Then, step by step, read the instructions carefully. After each point reflect upon the truth you have just read, asking yourself:
1. What must I believe?
That which I have just read. Then make an act of faith saying: "O Lord! I will believe this truth, help my faith, increase my faith!"
2. What must I now do?
I must correct the faults opposed to this truth.
3. What have I done heretofore? Unhappily, O God, I have acted in contradiction to this truth; how differently, O Jesus, from Thee and from Thy saints!
4. What shall I now do?
Here make a firm resolution to put these truths into immediate practice, to contend against and overcome the faults opposed to them, and to acquire new virtue. Then finish the reading with acts of faith, hope, charity, and contrition; repeat the same each time you read in this or in any book of devotion, and you will soon perceive that great benefit for your soul is derived from such exercises.
EXPLANATIONS AND INSTRUCTIONS CONCERNING
THE ECCLESIASTICAL YEAR
What is understood by the ecclesiastical year?
By the ecclesiastical year is understood the succession of those holy days and seasons, reoccurring with each succeeding year, which the Church has appointed to be celebrated, that the faithful may be reminded of the divine graces and mysteries, may praise God, and occupy themselves, at such times, with pious, devotional exercises in His honor, and for their own sanctification.
When does the ecclesiastical year begin, and when terminate?
It begins with the first Sunday of Advent and concludes with the last Sunday after Pentecost.
How is the ecclesiastical year divided?
Into Sundays, week-days, festivals, holydays, and fast-days.
What is Sunday?
Sunday is the first day of the week, sanctified in an especial manner by God Himself; therefore, it should be devoted exclusively to His service. The Apostles called it the "Lord's Day".
Why should Sunday be devoted exclusively to God?
Because it is but proper that man, who is created for the service of God only, should reserve at least one out of the seven days of the week for that service, and for the salvation of his own soul; again, in the beginning, God ordered that on the seventh day or Saturday, on which He rested after finishing the work of creation, (Exodus XX, it.) man should also rest, (Exodus XX, 8. 9. 10.) abstain from all worldly employment, and attend only to the worship of God. This was the Sabbath, or day of rest, of the Jews which they were required to keep holy. (Lev. XXIII, 3.) But the Catholic Church, authorized by Christ, inspired by the Holy Ghost, and directed by the Apostles, has made Sunday, the first day of the week, the day of rest for Christians. The holy martyr Justin (f 167 A. D.) makes mention of this fact. Sunday was designated as the day of rest for the Christians partly to distinguish them from the Jews, as well as, for the following reasons: On this day God commenced the creation of the world, so too on this day He crowned the glorious work of our Redemption by Christ's Resurrection; on this day, as Bellarmine says, Christ was born, was circumcised, and was baptized; and on this day the Holy Ghost descended upon the Apostles.
Why is this day called Sunday?
Because on this day, as St. Ambrose says, Christ, "the Sun of justice, having driven away the darkness of hell, shone forth, as the rising sun, in the glory of the Resurrection. (Malach. IV, 2.)
How should the Catholic keep Sunday holy, and how does he profane it?
Sunday is kept holy by abstaining from all servile work, performed for wages or gain, or not commanded by necessity; by passing the day in works of piety; in hearing Mass devoutly, listening to the word of God in church and spending the day at home in a quiet manner pleasing to God. If justly prevented from being present at church on Sundays and holydays of obligation, we should unite, in spirit, with the priest and the faithful assembled there, and pray fervently; during the rest of the day we should read books of devotion, and endeavor to perform some work of charity. Sunday is profaned by being spent either in idleness, or in unnecessary servile work, or in that which is still worse, debauchery, gambling, dancing, and other sinful actions. It would be better, that is, less sinful, as St. Augustine says, to till the field on such days, than to spend them in frivolous, dangerous, and sinful pleasures. But it is not forbidden, after having properly attended divine service, to participate on Sundays and holydays in honorable, decorous entertainment of the mind and heart.
What ought a Catholic to think of dances and fairs on Sundays and holydays of obligation?
The amusement of dancing on such days cannot possibly be pleasing to God. Dancing in general is an occasion of sin. The council of Baltimore protests against round dances especially, because they are highly indecent. Buying and selling without great necessity, as also holding fairs on Sundays and holydays are likewise sinful. God never ordained His days of rest for the gratification of avarice.
What rewards are offered for keeping Sunday sacred, and what punishment is incurred by its desecration?
The Old Law promised blessings, spiritual and temporal to those who kept holy the Sabbath day, (Lev. XXVI.) and threatened all evils and misfortunes to those who desecrated it. Thus, to show how much He condemned its profanation, God caused a man to be stoned to death for gathering wood upon that day. (Num. XV, 32.) The Catholic Church from her very beginning, and in several councils (Council. Elv. A. D. 313, Paris 829.) has enjoined the keeping holy of Sundays and holydays, and experience proves in our days especially, that, as the consequence of the constantly increasing profanation of Sundays and holydays, immorality and poverty are growing greater; a manifest sign that God never blesses those, who refuse to devote a few days of the year to His honor and service.
PRAYER FOR ALL SUNDAYS.
O God, who hast appointed Sunday, that we should serve Thee and participate in Thy grace, grant that always on this day our faith may be renewed, and our hearts incited to the praise and adoration of Thy Majesty; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord. Amen.
What are festivals?
Festivals are days set apart by the Catholic Church, to celebrate with due solemnity the mysteries of religion, or the memory of the saints. Hence they are of two kinds, the festivals of our Lord, and the festivals of the saints.
Has the Church the right to institute festivals and fast-days?
To deny her such right would be to place her below the Jewish Synagogue, which in acknowledgment of benefits received, established many festivals, such as the Feast of Lots; (Esther IX, 26.) the festival in honor of Judith's victory over Holofernes; (Judith XVI, 31) the feast of the Dedication of the Temple, (2. Mac. 4, 56.) which our Lord Himself celebrated with them. (John X. 22.}
Should not the Catholic Church, therefore, celebrate with equal solemnity the far greater blessings she has received from God?
God Himself, through Moses, commanded the Jews to celebrate and, as it were, to immortalize by the Pasch their redemption from Egyptian captivity; the reception of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, by the festival of Pentecost; their forty years journey through the desert, and their living in tents, by the feast of the Tabernacles. How unjustly then would the Church conduct herself, if she would not commemorate, as the Old Law did, by the institution of certain festivals in honor of God and His saints, those graces of which He has made her partaker, through Christ and His saints, since our Lord gave to the Apostles and to the bishops, their successors, the power to bind and to loose, that is, to make ordinances and, as circumstances may require, changes for the salvation of the people! (Matt. XVIIL 18.)
These festivals are instituted to assist the faithful in working out their salvation. And from
this very right of the Church to institute festivals, follows her right to change or abolish them at her discretion, whenever her object of directing them to the honor of God is no longer reached, and the faithful in this case would be as much bound to obey her, as when she established them, for: Who hears not the Church, says Christ, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican. (Matt. XVIIL ij.)
How are holydays and festivals to be observed?
They are to be observed like Sunday. Besides we should endeavor to understand well the mysteries and blessings of God and the lives and labors of the saints on whose account the festivals have been instituted. This we can do by hearing Mass and attending catechetical instruction, or by reading devotional books at home, in order to induce ourselves to love and praise God and to imitate the saints, which is the object the Church has in view in instituting festivals. But, unfortunately, as this object of the Church is responded to by few, and as, on the contrary, the holydays are spent very differently from what the Church intended, she has done well in abolishing certain festivals, or transferring them to Sunday, that they may be, at least, better regarded, and no offence offered to God by their profanation.
What are fast-days?
Fast-days are those days on which the Church commands us to mortify the body by abstaining from flesh-meat, or by taking but one full meal in the day. Those days on which besides abstinence from meat, one full meal is allowed, are called Fast-days of Obligation; those days on which it is only required to abstain from flesh-meat, are called Days of Abstinence.
Can the Church institute fast-days?
She can, because the Church of Christ, as mother of the faithful, has the power to make all useful and necessary regulations for the salvation of their souls. In doing so she only follows the example of our Lord, her Head, for He fasted, and of the Apostles, who, even in their day,
ordered the Christians to abstain from blood and things strangled, (Acts. XV. 29.) in order not to prevent the conversion of the Jews, who, on account of the Old Law, abhorred the blood and meat of strangled animals. This prohibition was removed when this danger no longer existed. "Fasting is no new invention, as many imagine", writes the Father of the Church, Basil the Great, "it is a precious treasure, which our forefathers preserved long before our days, and have handed down to us."
Why has the Church instituted fast-days, and for what purpose?
The Catholic Church, from the very beginning, has looked upon external fasting, only as a means of penance. Her object in instituting fast-days, therefore, was and is, that by fasting the faithful should mortify their flesh and their evil desires, seek to pacify God, render satisfaction for their sins, practice obedience to the Church, their mother, and by practicing these virtues become more zealous and fervent in the service of God. Innumerable texts of Scripture, as well as experience prove that fasting aids to this end. The Fathers of the Church praise very highly the usefulness of fasting, and our Lord predicted that the Church, His spouse, would fast, when He, her Bridegroom, should be taken from her. (Matt. IX. 15)
What are we to think of those heretics and Catholics who contemn the command of the Church?
Those Catholics who contemn this command, contemn their mother, the Church, and Christ her founder, her head, who fasted; they give scandal to the faithful children of the Church, and do themselves great harm, because they become slaves of the flesh, subjecting their souls to the evil desires of the body and thus fall into many sins. They prove moreover, that they have departed from the spirit of the early Christians who fasted with great strictness; that they are too cowardly to overcome themselves, and offer God the sacrifice of obedience to His Church. The heretics have the Bible against them, if they assert that the command of the Church to fast is useless and unnecessary: (Acts XIII, 2), that Bible which they so often quote, as well as all Christian antiquity, experience and reason. One of the Fathers of the Church, St. Basil, writes: "Honor ever the ancient practice of fasting, for it is as old as the creation of man."
We must fast if we would return to paradise from which gluttony expelled us." Every rational, reflecting person must acknowledge, as experience teaches, that bodily health, and unimpaired mind are best preserved and improved by temperance and abstinence, especially from flesh-meat. It was by continual fasting that many of the fathers of the desert preserved vigorous health, often living beyond the usual limit of man's age, sometimes for more than a century, even in tropical countries, where a lifetime is generally shorter than in colder climates. St. Paul, the first hermit, lived one hundred and thirteen years; St. Anthony one hundred and five; St. Arsenius one hundred and twenty; St. John, the silent, one hundred and four; St. Theodosius, abbot, one hundred and five. The Catholic Church here proves herself a good mother to us, for in this command she regards not only the spiritual, but also the corporal welfare of her children. The words of our Lord: "Not that which goeth into the mouth, defileth a man: but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man", (Matt. XV. u.) was meant for the Pharisees who judged certain kinds of food prohibited by law, or that had been touched by unclean hands, to be unclean. Had He intended it to be understood in the sense the contemners of fasting assert, He would have declared intoxication by drinking, or even the taking of poison, to be permitted; certainly, food being the gift of God and therefore good, does not make man a sinner, but disobedience to the command, and gluttony, make him such.
Which are the most important fast-days, and days of abstinence?
All the week-days of Lent; the Fridays in Advent; the Ember-days for the four seasons of the year; and the Vigils of All-Saints, Christmas, Whitsunday, and the Assumption. If the Feast, however, occurs on Monday, the vigil is kept on the Saturday before; as Sunday is never a fast-day.*
The days of abstinence are, all Fridays in the year, excepting Christmas day when it falls on Friday; and all fast-days of obligation, excepting those on which the use of flesh-meat is expressly allowed by the proper authorities. Soldiers and sailors in the service of the United States of America, however, are exempted from the rule of abstinence throughout the year; Ash-Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday in Holy Week, the Vigils of the Assumption and Christmas excepted. A day of abstinence is that on which it is not allowed to eat flesh-meat.
What are the Ember-days and why are they instituted?
The Ember-days are the first Wednesday, Friday and Saturday of each of the four seasons of the year, set apart as fast days by the Catholic Church. According to the testimony of Pope Leo, they originated in the time of the Apostles, who were inspired by the Holy Ghost to dedicate each season of the year to God by a few days of penance, or, as it were, to pay three days interest, every three months, on the graces received from God. The Church has also commanded us to fast at the beginning of each of the four seasons of the year, because it is at this time that she ordains the priests and other servants of the Church, which even the Apostles did with much prayer and fasting. Thus she desires that during the Ember-days Christians should fervently ask of God by prayer, by fasting and other good works, worthy pastors and servants, on whom depends the welfare of the whole Christian flock; she desires that in the spring Ember-days we should ask God's blessing for the fertility of the earth; in summer for the preservation of the fruits of the field, in autumn when the harvest is ripe, and
in winter when it is sheltered, that we should offer to God by fasting and prayer a sacrifice of thanks, petitioning Him to assist us, that we may not use His gifts for our soul's detriment, but that we refer all praise to Him, the fountain of all good, and assist our neighbor according to our means.
What are Vigils?
They are the eves of certain festivals, which the Church has ordered to be observed as fast-days. The early Christians prepared themselves by fasting, praying and watching, as signified by the latin word "Vigilise," for the coming festival. Thus to this day in the Vigil-Mass the priest does not say: "Ite Missa est," (Go ye, Mass is over), but "Benedicamus Domino," (Let us praise the Lord), because in olden times when Mass was celebrated at night, the Christians were exhorted to continue praising God in Church until the dawn of the festival. This nightwatch the Church has now abolished, partly on account of the declining zeal of the Christians, and partly on account of the fear of its being abused; the fast, however, has been retained to honor God and His saints, to obtain their intercession, and to mortify the flesh according to their example. "By fasting on the eves of festivals," says St. Bernard, "we learn that we can enter heaven only through many sufferings."
Why does the Church forbid the use of flesh-meat on Fridays and Saturdays?
"The Church," says Pope Innocent, "forbids the use of flesh-meat on Fridays because our Lord died on that day, and on Saturdays because on that day He rested in the sepulchre, and also that we may be better prepared by this abstinence for Sunday," In many dioceses the use of flesh-meat is allowed on Saturdays and the permission is so marked in the calendar, and every year announced to the people; for this dispensation the faithful should perform another good work and fast the more conscientiously on Fridays.
Who is bound to fast, and who not?
All Christians over seven years of age, unless for some reason excused, are required under pain of mortal sin, to abstain from flesh-meat on all days of fasting and abstinence; all those who are over twenty-one years of age are allowed to take but one full meal a day. A severe illness or a dispensation obtained for valid reasons, excuses from abstinence on Fridays: those are dispensed from fasting on one meal, who cannot fulfil the command without great inconvenience, such as: those recovering from sickness, pregnant and nursing women, old and infirm people, those who are engaged in hard labor, undertaking severe journeys, and the poor who have no full meals; also, those who are prevented by the fast from some better work, incumbent upon their office, or dictated by Christian charity. These persons mentioned are excused from fasting, in so far that they are permitted to eat, whenever they need food, but must still abstain from the use of flesh-meat unless dispensed from the command of abstinence. They should, however, be sincerely grieved to be unable to unite with the whole Church in such meritorious work, and should endeavor to make amends by prayer, alms and other good deeds.
Who are those who sin against fasting?
First, those who deliberately and without sufficient cause do not abstain from the use of flesh-meat; secondly, those who without any of the excuses mentioned, take more than one full meal a day; thirdly, those who eat between the time of meals; fourthly, those who indulge in long, extravagant and sumptuous dinners, and excessive drinking, all of which are opposed to the spirit of penance and mortification. Lastly, when on a fast-day meat and fish are used at the same meal.
Is it not allowed to eat any thing in the evening on fast days?
The early Christians were so rigorous in their penance that they contented themselves with one temperate meal on fast-days, and that was generally of bread and water, taken only in the evening; but as, in the course of time, the penitential zeal declined, the Church like an indulgent mother permitted, besides the full meal at noon, a small quantity of food to be taken in the evening, about as much as would make the fourth part of a regular meal, or not to appear scrupulous, as much as would not cause too great an aggravation, or exhaust the strength necessary for the next day's labor; but "to wish to feel no aggravation in fasting, is to wish not to fast at all."
With what intention should we fast?
First, with the intention of doing penance and punishing the body for the sins which we have committed by yielding to its evil desires; secondly, to satisfy God and to unite ourselves with our Lord in his forty days fast: thirdly, to obtain strength to lead a chaste, pure life; fourthly, to give to the poor that which is saved by fasting.
NOTE: Whatever is necessary to be understood further in regard to this subject, will be found in the instructions on the forty days fast.