What's the earliest a Christmas Eve Mass can be held?

I’m visiting my grandparents and they insist on going to a Christmas Eve Mass at 3:30 pm. As far as I’m aware, Canon Law says that Liturgical Day of Christmas would start on the evening of the 24th, but it doesn’t specify what “evening” means. Personally, I don’t consider 3:30 pm as the evening. It also seems that there might be a consensus of 4:00 pm as the earliest times. I found some Spanish Canon Law commentaries and they seems to say 2:00 pm but these are obviously just commentaries.

Is there a definitive time that is the earliest a Vigil Mass can be held?

Here we go again. AFAIK Christmas Eve is the entire Dec 24th. Masses can be said anytime during the day but under the new Canon Law the obligation is fulfilled at Masses which start after vespere on the 24th and the entire 25th. This should be at 4pm but in many places they sing carols and such before Mass; perhaps this is one of them?

If the local bishop allows the Mass to be at 3:30 pm, I would just trust him. If he is in violation of the law, that is another issue, but you would fulfill your obligation by attending a Christmas Mass as approved in his diocese.

What concerns me is that there is a Mass on Christmas Day at 6:30 pm, which is more than 24 hours past the first Christmas Mass. That doesn’t seem right that the a Liturgical Day would last more than 24 hours, and that a Mass on December 25th at 6:30 pm would be the vigil of the feast of St. Stephen.

No, the Mass starts promptly at 3:30 pm, no caroling or anything. Also, isn’t Vespers traditionally at 6:00 pm? At least that’s when I pray Vespers.

Around here, liturgical days often last more than 24 hours. I’ve never been crazy about it, because it seems that people want to have it both ways, but it seems to be allowed. There is more than one local parish that has a Saturday evening Mass at 5:30 and a Sunday Evening Mass at 7:30 pm. Both are considered the Mass for Sunday. It has been this way for many years.

I know this doesn’t exactly apply to you and your situation because the canon law is different. but my Byzantine parish is praying Vespers at 3 pm. The Liturgy prescribed for Christmas Eve is Vespers with the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great. They run seamlessly, one into another. Then we’ll go home and come back for Compline at 8:30. Some years we pray vespers as early as 2 pm. The local FSSP parish prays Vespers every Sunday at 3pm.

The liturgical day starts from midnight to midnight.

It is by permission of "Rome that Mass on the evening before satisfies any obligation to attend on either Sunday or a Holy Day.

As far as what is legal, that is not particularly your decision; it is the bishop’s; and as ProVobis noted, the Mass may start out with hymns or carols, and may well take more than an hour. You will fulfill your obligation by going to Mass with your grandparents.

As far as St Stephen, that is not a holy day of obi]ligation, and I have attended Sunday Masses starting as late as 7:30 p.m. Sunday evening.

No, the liturgical day begins with Vespers. It is the first prayer of the liturgical day.

Edit: I think I’m wrong. :slight_smile: I’m thinking of the Byzantine Rite. I think, for the Latin Rite, the liturgical day only begins with Vespers on Sundays and Solemnities. Christmas, of course is a solemnity.

No, you are correct. A Sunday or solemnity starts with first vespers the evening before, then runs through midnight on the Sunday or solemnity.

That means someone could attend a Sunday Mass at 4pm on Saturday, 9am on Sunday, 5pm on Sunday, or even at 11:59pm on Sunday, and it’s all good. (And while I don’t know of any parishes with an 11:59pm Mass, I know of college-related parishes with regular 8pm or 9pm Sunday Masses.)

My parish is huge with lots of families – it has 2pm, 4pm, 6pm, 8pm, and midnight Masses on Christmas Eve and two Christmas morning Masses. I assume it received permission from the bishop for the 2pm Mass, most likely because it can’t possibly accommodate all parishioners without it.

Go with your grandparents. Leave the running of the parish to the pastor and the Bishop.
I think it would be a great gift to the Child Jesus to respect the wishes of your grandparents.
If you really can’t accept it, go again by yourself the following day. :shrug:

Christmas Eve is the day before Christmas, and as far as I know, *Christmas Eve Mass *may be celebrated as early as 00:01 24-Dec.

The Vigil Mass of Christmas is celebrated on the evening of 24-Dec, either before or after Evening Prayer I.

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Liturgical Calendar Nerd :nerd:

If you pray the Liturgy of the Hours - you would realize that Sunday is always more then 24 hours … Just looking at Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer

For example - Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday have Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer.

Saturday only has Morning Prayer … In place of Saturday Evening Prayer you will find Sunday Evening Prayer I which is then followed by Sunday Morning Prayer and then followed by Sunday Evening Prayer II … in liturgical time Sunday is always a little longer then the rest of the week days - Saturday much shorter :wink:

Doesn’t it make you wonder how they accomplished it when the first Christmas Mass was at midnight and Mass couldn’t be celebrated after noon?

Nowadays, in my parish at least, the Children/Family Mass on Christmas Eve (varies between 5-7pm depending on the Pastor) is standing room only but the Midnight and Christmas Day Masses are sparcely attended because everyone wants to get it over with early. When one Pastor sarcastically commented that maybe he should celebrate the Christmas Family Mass on the 23rd to get that out of the way so as not to interfere with Santa not a few parents tthought this was a great idea.

I don’t think we had the huge parishes back then, and we had a higher percentage of Catholics regularly attending Mass. With fewer Christmas and Easter Catholics, the regular Sunday schedule, plus midnight Mass, accommodated everybody. These days, many parishes have a huge surge in attendance on Christmas so they have extra Masses.

I’d actually *love *to do midnight Mass again! My two-year-old…not so much. :slight_smile:

That shouldn’t be a concern. The Church tells us that on solemnities the liturgical day begins at vespers on the calendar day before the feast, and continues to midnight early the next day.

I can understand that you say it “doesn’t seem right.” OK. That just means that it hasn’t been explained to you very well.

This is from the Universal Norms on the Liturgical Year which is printed on the opening pages of the Roman Missal.

  1. Christmas Time runs from First Vespers (Evening Prayer I) of the Nativity of the Lord up to and including the Sunday after Epiphany or after 6 January.

So, the mind of the Church is clear. A Mass after the time of First Vespers on Dec. 24 (ie Christmas Eve) is indeed a Mass for Christmas Day.

Admittedly, that shows the Church’s norm. It doesn’t exactly explain it. Perhaps an explanation belongs in a new thread.

However, you need not be concerned (to use your own word there) when a parish is doing exactly what the Church describes in the Church’s own laws. There’s no problem.

We’ve taken our grandson to Midnight Mass since he was born because DD insisted that everyone go. This year will be his 4th one and his 7 month old brother’s 1st. Fingers crossed that the baby’s behavior will mirror his big brother’s.:smiley:

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