When does Sunday begin?

I am new to CAF but I have read in numerous posts that the First Mass of Sunday cannot be celebrated on Saturday evening before 4.00 p.m.

Where has it been laid down that 4.00 p.m. is the time for Sunday to begin?

Many of these posts state 4.00 p.m. is the time for Vespers. I was not aware that there is a prescribed time for Vespers. Anyway, I thought the traditional canonical hour for Vespers was 6.00 p.m.

This leads me to vent one of my frustrations. Surely we should be going to Sunday Mass on SUNDAY!

I appreciate that fulfilling the obligation on Saturday evening was a concession to people who could genuinely not go to Mass on Sunday. I was never really convinced that even that was necessary.

It seems to me that a lot of people go to Mass late on Saturday afternoon/early Saturday evening - it still leaves them time to go out on Saturday night and that Sunday doesn’t have to be disrupted by going to Mass.

The diocese sets the earliest time for the Sunday anticipated Mass. Usually it’s 4pm or 5pm.

Going to Mass on Saturday evening does not change the obligation to keep Sunday as a day set apart - avoiding unnecessary work, etc.

Sadly, the reason we have more people going to Mass on Saturday evenings is because they have work on Sundays

Sunset on a Saturday traditionally.

To Matthew Holford: Many years ago before the obligation for Sunday Mass could be fulfilled on Saturday afternoon my husband was a fireman and often his day to work was on Sunday – even though at that time there wasn’t a Saturday afternoon Mass my husband NEVER missed Mass on Sunday. The earliest Mass in our Parish was at 7 AM and he had to be at work at 8 AM – he asked the Pastor to please have a 6:30 Mass but the Pastor never made the change – SO he had to attend Mass at a neighboring Parish and take the car to the Firehouse. Of course, that meant that my children and I had to walk to Mass which was all right except if we had a very rainy day. However, to the best of my recollection even though at times it was very difficult my husband always attended Sunday Mass.
When they changed the Sunday obligation to include Saturday afternoon Mass it definitely was a blessing in my house.

Right across the street they have a mass at 4. We have the max number of masses in the diocese at 11 vigil and sunday masses.

Here is an excellent article that reviews this issue.

[quote=Matthew Holford]I appreciate that fulfilling the obligation on Saturday evening was a concession to people who could genuinely not go to Mass on Sunday. I was never really convinced that even that was necessary.

There is nothing wrong with believing that the Church made a poor choice in permitting this. However, since it is the law, many will avail themselves of this legitimate option, and can’t really be faulted for doing so.

I was taught Saturday evening Masses are vigil or anticipatory Masses - not early Sunday Masses - though the readings are usually the same.

No, it’s Sunday Mass - same liturgical colour, Gloria if not Advent or Lent, two readings before the Gospel, homily compulsory, Credo, same propers and readings and it fulfills the obligation. It’s only different if say the Sunday has its own proper Vigil Mass and I think only Pentecost does have but that still fulfills the obligation. Of course, such an anticipated Mass can’t happen on Holy Saturday.

Traditionally it is at sundown. Remember that when the Office was first established, time was flexible and followed the sun.

In the Rule of St. Benedict, in Lent, the only meal was delayed until after Vespers, and the Rule stated that the meal should be accomplished in daylight. So that would put Vespers at that time, at approximately an hour before sunset.

The exact hour is not fixed. At our abbey, it is at 5 pm, but I believe anywhere from 4 pm to 8 pm is OK.

In an abbey using the natural clock of the sun, Vespers could be quite late in summer and quite early in winter in the northern latitudes. Similarly Matins would be quite early or late accordingly so that “Lauds” would be accomplished at sunrise. In those days “Lauds” was in fact the “laudate” psalms after the OT canticle (148, 149 and 150). Vigils of course was in the middle of the night. Eventually the distinctions became Vigils and Lauds.

I wasn’t suggesting that it was fixed. It was more that this was a traditional hour. Many things I’ve read have said the traditional hours were 6 am Prime, 9 am Terce, 12 pm Sext, 3pm None and 6 pm Vespers. If we had Vespers at sundown here in Northern England it would happen anywhere between 3.30 and 10 pm and I don’t think any monastic community could organise around those parameters.

There’s a good reason why many people are a bit confused about the idea of Sunday Mass on Saturday evening.

Under the 1917 Code of Canon Law (and even before that, going back for centuries) Sunday Mass had to be celebrated on Sunday itself (ie, after midnight). Beginning in the 1950s the Church permitted Sunday Masses on Saturday evening in order to accomodate people who could not attend on Sunday proper–these were known as “anticipated” Masses. They were not the norm but the exception. They were permitted only for those who could not attend on Sunday.

However, that thinking changed. Around the 1970s/80s the Church began to restore the ancient and biblical concept that the Sabbath begins at sunset. The current 1983 Code of Canon Law reflects this restored understanding of the Sabbath. See canon 1248 vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P4N.HTM

Since we now have the restored understanding that Sunday begins at sunset on Saturday, the Saturday evening Mass is not a Saturday Mass at all, but a Sunday Mass. Even though the secular calendar says “Saturday”, from a liturgical view it is Sunday, and therefore the Saturday evening Mass is not in any way different from a Mass on Sunday morning. That’s why it is no longer called an “anticipated” Mass, even though it was in the past. We aren’t anticipating Sunday, we are celebrating Sunday, which has already begun.

What makes this difficult is that so many people grew up with the understanding that a Saturday evening Mass was only a concession to deal with an impossible situation, and it’s not easy to make that transition.

The custom of the liturgical day beginning the eve of the day before, comes from the Jewish custom based on the verse in Genesis, “It was evening, then it was morning, the first day.” The Jews begin their Sabbath on Friday 18 minutes before sunset, and while we do not follow the time as exacting, the Church retains this custom.

This from Wikipedia:

“The term “eve” means that the observance begins on the evening before. In traditional Christianity, the celebration of liturgical feasts begins on the evening before the holy day because the Early Church continued the Jewish practice of beginning the day at sunset rather than midnight.”

This seems to me to be one of those “yes … but…” things. It strikes me that canon 1248 itself is merely a codification of a practice that was already in place. Looking at it that way, the terminology is more or less irrelevant since it is, in fact, an “anticipated” (not a “vigil”) Mass, canon 1248 notwithstanding.

The concept of the liturgical day starting at Vespers Hour is certainly not new, as is clear from the Divine Office. But, even using the biblical/Hebrew concept, certain prayers are done at certain times of the day, and so it was with Mass. It was (rightly, IMO) the case that Mass should normally not be offered before dawn (and not after noon). (One major exception was Christmas, where the First Mass was (and still even in the OF) called in nocte, the Second Mass in aurora, and the Third Mass in die, but still all after midnight. The OF adds a Mass for Christmas (in vigilia) which must not begin before the Verspers Hour. The other major exception (at least in modern times, since 1955) was/is the Easter Vigil.)

In any case, (and I’m not saying I see anything intrinsically wrong with it,) as I see it, the actual practice of regularizing the practice of Mass the “evening before” is a concession to modern times begun by Pius XII, and really has nothing to do with any “renewed understanding” of the liturgical day.

OK so I can now rearrange our weekends. When we finish our shopping on Saturday we can pop in to Mass (the first Mass of Sunday is at 6 pm on Saturday in our parish). On Sunday I’ll have a lie in and read the Sunday paper (of course it takes all week to read the supplements). Then perhaps we could have a trip to the garden centre, Then take the kids bowling and go for a pizza afterwards. It’ll be great not to have church intruding on our Sunday.

Somehow I don’t think so!

Yet the Church does think so.

What I find strange, is that if the day starts at, say 4pm, so technically the Chuch views Sunday starting at 4pm on Saturday, what about the parishes that have a Mass on Sunday after 4pm? Isn’t that now Monday?

Does she? Where does the Church now teach that we shouldn’t keep Sunday holy? Perhaps, we’re on the same road already trod by Anglicans where we can have a ‘pick and mix’ faith where we choose what bits suit us and ignore those that don’t.

The answer to that one depends on what liturgical day falls on Monday. It may be a Mass of the Monday if a solemnity falls on the Monday. Only Sundays, solemnities, and feasts of our Lord in the General Roman Calendar that fall on a Sunday in the Christmas season or Ordinary Time have their celebration extending into the evening of the previous day, including Vespers I and Night Prayer I.

If the Monday is a feast (excluding the exception in the previous paragraph), memorial or feria then the answer is no because these liturgical days run concurrently with the calendar - midnight to midnight.

Now as for the contents of the last two paragraphs I know to be fact. The next bit I’m not 100% certain - I think the Mass of a solemnity can only anticipated (=celebrated on the evening of the previous day) if it’s a solemnity of precept, i.e. a holyday of obligation. However, it may apply to all solemnities.

I will go back to my original post and why I posed the question. I still firmly believe that the law is to provide for situations where a person is physically or morally prevented from assisting at Mass on a Sunday. I do not think that the spirit of the law was for us to use it as a mere convenience to save us the bother of going to church on Sunday.

The Church allows for attendance at Sunday Mass on Saturday evenings without the necessity of a reason. That is you can attend the Sunday Mass that is held at 6pm on Saturday for any reason you want.

It is in no way ‘pick and mix’ when the Church allows for it.

Can you tell me how spending time with your family (as your exmaple is) is not Holy?

I agree that this has nothing, or at least very little, to do with any “renewed understanding” of the liturgical day. Especially if we are talking about a renewed, biblical understanding of the Sabbath, which runs from Friday evening to Saturday evening, and from which Christians moved their worship to the Lord’s Day, which is a different day of the week.

This is precisely why the Sabbath theory is suspicious. The Church has not said, we now recognize Sunday to occur within the confines of the Jewish reckoning of a day. Rather, the (historically) new discipline simply abolished the restrictions upon when Mass could fall within the liturgical day of Sunday. Sunday has for untold centuries been celebrated, in the broader context of the liturgy, from first vespers (on Saturday evening) to Compline on Sunday evening. Whereas before Mass could only be celebrated, apart from rare exceptions, from sunrise to noon in the course of that liturgical day, it can now be celebrated any time in the course of that liturgical day.

While it was indeed the intent of the first permission by Pius XII for evening Mass, the current canon regulating the Sunday obligation does not contain that spirit. It states simply that one fulfills the obligation by attending in any Catholic rite on the day itself or the preceding evening, with no proviso for a grave or even simply a just reason and with no stated preference as to when that attendance best occurs.

Nowhere. We are still required to keep the Lord’s Day holy. How we may do so is described in the CCC, which I’m too lazy to look up at the moment. Suffice to say it doesn’t require that we spend all day Sunday at Church.

So if you choose to attend 10 AM mass, and thus keep both Saturday evening and Sunday evening open for family, friends, or leisure activities, you are free to do so. If you choose to attend 5pm Sunday mass, and spend an extended breakfast in the morning with your family, you are free to do so. If you choose to attend twice, perhaps at 6pm Saturday and 1130am Sunday, and miss the early morning mass to go birdwatching, you are free to do so.

I don’t see where the Church indicates that any of these options are better or worse than any others.

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