Should Christians observe the Day of Atonement?


#1

I am new to the Catholic Church and will begin RCIA next week. My mother is a Pentecostal, belonging to a very small congregation. She brought up the observance of the Jewish Day of Atonement, a part of Rosh Hashanah, which her pastor preached about this past Sunday. She asked me what I think about observing Jewish holidays, and I am uncertain what to tell her.

Isn’t the practice of these Jewish traditions, stemming from the Torah and Jewish tradition, something St. Paul warned against in some of his epistles? I’m afraid the traditions of Judaism are infiltrating my mother’s church, but am uncertain on this issue. She isn’t real happy about me becoming Catholic to begin with and I don’t want to rock the boat unnecessarily.


#2

The Day of Atonement is another name for the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year. This year, Rosh Hashanah will begin at sundown on Friday, September 18. Yom Kippur will begin at sundown on Sunday, September 27. The days from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur are sometimes called the Days of Awe.

St. Paul’s concern was that Christians not feel that they must observe Jewish holidays as a religious obligation by which they would find salvation. As St. Paul pointed out, Christ made the observance of the Jewish holidays no longer binding for Christians because it is by his sacrificial death and resurrection that mankind is redeemed and men work out their salvation:

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a sabbath. These are only a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ (Col. 2:16-17).

This doesn’t mean that there may not be some circumstances in which Christians might participate in Jewish holidays in some way (e.g., Jewish converts to Christianity who are seeking to maintain their Jewish heritage), so long as they do not place their Christian faith at risk and so long as they do not confuse their voluntary participation for a religious obligation for themselves or for other Christians.


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