Peculiarly Early Vigil?


My current missal states “The entire celebration of the Easter Vigil must take place during the night, so that it begins after nightfall and ends before daybreak on the Sunday.”

I was surprised to see, therefore, that my local parish has scheduled theirs to begin at 5.30pm. Not only will it still be fully daylight at the start, but it’s likely to be still light by the time they finish! Is this permitted? Are their any reasons as to why a parish might be justified in having it so early?



In fact, Paschale Solemnitatis says

  1. “The entire celebration of the Easter Vigil takes place at night. It should not begin before nightfall; it should end before daybreak on Sunday”. (82) This rule is to be taken according to its strictest sense. **Reprehensible are those abuses and practices which have crept in in many places in violation of this ruling, whereby the Easter Vigil is celebrated at the time of day that it is customary to celebrate anticipated Sunday Masses. **

Those reasons which have been advanced in some quarters for the anticipation of the Easter Vigil, such as lack of public order, are not put forward in connection with Christmas night, nor other gatherings of various kinds.


To take this in a charitable light, though I don’t know if this applies here… in some parishes I’ve attended, this “rollback” has happened to accommodate an aging congregation, who would like to attend certain Masses but has difficulty staying up as late as perhaps they once did.

One of my favorites from bulletins past:

“Midnight Mass - 8pm.” :smiley:


I’m not a liturgical traditionalist, but I do miss midnight mass. As I child I loved going to church at 11:00pm and the bells ringing at midnight. One of my favourite memories is getting home after 1:00 and my father breaking his Holy Week fast with a salami sandwich. The latest vigil in my area is 8:00.


The night Vigil was only reintroduced into the West in 1951, and made obligatory for celebration in 1956. It therefore had approximately only fifteen years to develop. It is supposed to begin at such a time that the actual Mass of the Resurrection begins at 12 AM Sunday.

The older Holy Saturday Fire service was done in the afternoon, long before twilight. It was very peculiar and unique to the Tridentine era of the West.

I’m sure the modern 1969 Easter Vigil has its own rubrics…

My parish has one at 6 PM and one at 8 PM simply out of necessity: it has two churches, but one priest.


The Vigil, ideally, should take place after sundown. A parish in my diocese had the Vigil at 6 p.m. last year, but they moved it to 8:30 this year. The earliest Vigils in the diocese are at 7 p.m., which is still too early given the fact that the sun doesn’t set until 8 p.m. or so.

I think that part of the meaning of the Vigil is diminished whenever it takes place prior to sundown. We are, in fact, waiting in the night for Our Lord to rise from the tomb.


Wow your people must be REALLY old. Our congregation
is in their eighties and our Midnight Mass
doesn’t start til 9:00. Haha!


I live in a suburb of a large city. The Easter Vigil at my parish starts well after dark. Some of the inner city parishes, however, have their vigil masses early enough that it’s over by sundown. Mainly because the neighborhoods where they are located become a war zone after dark.


Though it’s not the case with this particular church, even if a parish was in a slightly less than salubrious area where people are reluctant to be out after dark, I’d prefer to see some sort of organised effort to bring them to the Vigil by car/bus and then drop them home again afterwards. Of course, if they really don’t want to go out after dark, there is always the option of the Easter Sunday morning Mass.

I mean, it’s one night each year. The holiest of nights. It always galls me when the supposed convenience of people is held up above the solemn dignity of Mass, but to mess around with the rubrics on this night in particular seems thoroughly scandalous. :shrug:


Well if PS says its reprehensible then I would probably obey it… it is extremely rare for modern documents to use such language. They mean business.


The reprehensible part refers to when the vigil is celebrated when the normal Sat. evening Mass is normally celebrated. In many parishes that is 4-6pm. IOW you are not to celebrate the Easter Vigil at the times you normally have Sat evening Mass.


From what I have read by various dioceses, nightfall is nautical twilight.


I used to call the weather office and find out when sunset was going to be and we scheduled the Vigil for at least half an hour after that – sometimes a full hour.


Do these same churches not have evening Masses in winter, nor midnight Mass at Christmas?


No, typically they do not.


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