When does the Lord's day start?

Does it start on Sunday at midnight, or on Saturday after sundown? On Saturday evening, do/can we still do normal work or not? What if we go to a Saturday evening mass?


The answer is that it begins with Evening Prayer I of Sunday (which is said on Saturday evening according to the secular calendar)-- a.k.a. “first Vespers”.
The “official” time for EP I is 4:00 PM, although it may begin later.

Pope John Paul II provided an answer in Dies Domini adoremus.org/DiesDomini.html

  1. Because the faithful are obliged to attend Mass unless there is a grave impediment, Pastors have the corresponding duty to offer to everyone the real possibility of fulfilling the precept. The provisions of Church law move in this direction, as for example in the faculty granted to priests, with the prior authorization of the diocesan Bishop, to celebrate more than one Mass on Sundays and holy days, the institution of evening Masses and the provision which allows the obligation to be fulfilled from Saturday evening onwards, starting at the time of First Vespers of Sunday. From a liturgical point of view, in fact, holy days begin with First Vespers. Consequently, the liturgy of what is sometimes called the “Vigil Mass” is in effect the “festive” Mass of Sunday, at which the celebrant is required to preach the homily and recite the Prayer of the Faithful.

There has been much discussion about this topic lately, and it seems that this is the only “definitive” definition which the Church provides–or at least as close to a definitive definition as anyone can find.

Now, as to when First Vespers begins in any given parish, there is realy no answer to that one, although we can say that the time established for it is no earlier than 4:00 PM.

Does that count for the no work rules too though? No unnessessary household chores on Saturday evening either, for example? I used to sometimes do things on saturday evening so I wouldn’t have to do them Sunday… And how about Lent - so no Lenten fasting anymore starting Saturday at 4?

By the way, what would you say about the following work related question:
Teaching somebody something small, e.g. during a conversation with family telling somebody what a word means, translating a few words, or explaining something to somebody - that’s ok to do on a Sunday, right? Or would anybody here say that’s already not ok?


With due respect, I would note that Canon Law defines “a day” in a natural way:
Can. 202 §1. In law, a day is understood as a period consisting of 24 continuous hours and begins at midnight unless other provision is expressly made…
And that the law pertaining to the Mass obligation does not expressly provide an “extended day”:
Can. 1248 §1. A person who assists at a Mass celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the feast day itself or in the evening of the preceding day satisfies the obligation of participating in the Mass.

I infer that Sunday begins and ends at the appropriate midnights.


As I recall the rule is no servile work; shich is taken to mean manual/physical labor. Mental work, such as teaching, is not forbidden.

Its not clear what you are inferring. Are you saying Mass on Saturday evening does not fulfill the Sunday obligation?

Canon 1248 plainly states that the obligation to assist at Mass is satisfied by participating in a Mass in the evening of the preceding day. (eg on Saturday evening for Sunday)

Canon 1248 does not plainly state “a feast day begins 8 hours earlier than otherwise expected”. From this I infer that Canon 202 still applies and that Sunday, as day, begins at midnight and continues for 24 hours.


I would infer that “Sunday” for Mass purposes begins Saturday evening.

Ok, I think I am clear on this now. :slight_smile:

To sum it up, if I understand it right, Sunday as a feast day begins at midnight and ends at midnight. Mass obligation can be met on Saturday evening as well, but that does not make Saturday part of Sunday in all the other senses…

Can. 1248 §1. A person who assists at a Mass celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite
either on the feast day itself or in the evening of the preceding day satisfies the
obligation of participating in the Mass.

“either on the feast day itself or in the evening of the preceding day” sounds clear to me that the preceeding day is BEFORE the actual feast day.

Thanks all. :slight_smile:


Yes, that does sum up my interpretation. :thumbsup:

Know, however, that there are others who hold a differing opinion.


Which also means that for those feasts having a proper Vigil Mass (such as the Nativity), the Vigil Mass is celebrated in the evening, and the festal Mass not until midnight at the earliest.

But these Vigil masses count for the obligation of the feat day, don’t they?


In a related matter, the Friday penance does not apply if the Friday is a Solemnity. If the Solemnity is on a Saturday is the requirement removed for late Friday? or is it strictly midnight to midnight? I suspect the latter, but have never seen the question addressed.

I’m told they do.

I assume canon 1248 deals with that case as well as anticipated Masses on Saturday evening.

Canon 202 defines a “day” as a way of calculating time. It helps us to know what number to look at on the calendar. It is not meant to define what is the “Lord’s Day.”

That canon is in Title XI which is called “Computation of Time” It’s not intended to be a very spiritual part of the code of canons, but instead a practical section.

The phrase “unless otherwise expressly provided” is a very important sentence clause.

The context for this thread is to help a poster define what is meant by “The Lord’s Day” or “The Sabbath” This is a spiritual (and in some sense liturgical) question. It is not a question about how to read a calendar.

Pope John Paul II said the following words with regard to the Lord’s Day:

From a liturgical point of view, in fact, holy days begin with First Vespers. Consequently, the liturgy of what is sometimes called the “Vigil Mass” is in effect the “festive” Mass of Sunday

Again, let’s remember that he’s not speaking about a calendar, but he’s speaking about the Lord’s Day.

Sure, perhaps the best answer from a liturgical or spiritual point of view would be Pope John Paul II’s.

The lamentable fact remains though that in the Latin Church, First Vespers is not said with the congregation present (with extremely few exceptions), and so that very important signal is absent for the faithful. Perhaps that’s why the discussion here became so technical.

Isn’t marking the hours of the Divine Office based on an ancient way of keeping time. ‘Sext’, the sixth hour, is our 12pm and ‘None’ is our 3pm?

So three hours after None is Vespers, 6pm, which is beginning of the next liturgical day, then Compline, 9pm, then Matins, 12am, Lauds 3am, Prime 6am, Tierce 9am, then Sext, (six hours after Prime), at 12pm, then None at 3pm and so on.

So a 6pm Vigil Mass on a Saturday counts for your Sunday obligation.

Note: I understand some Offices may be said together or earlier or later, so people don’t have to get up at 3am to say Lauds, for example?

Hello Kathrin:

May the Peace of the Lord be with you!

It is very basic that the actual Day of Obligation is the Lord’s Day – Sunday. On this day, we are to give God which is due to Him. Hence, every Faithful is obliged to participate in the Mass on Sundays. There are very strict exceptions when one can attend the “Anticipated Mass” done on the day before that.

Now, as to the question of the start and end of the Day of Obligation: I believe it should be on Sunday as defined by Canon and the natural reason – 00:00:0.0001h to 11:59:59.9999h of the day between Saturday and Monday (local time).

Therefore as for the question of working or not on Sunday, I ask: Have we given to God what is due to Him on that Day? Does the work interfere with giving Him full what is due to Him? Does any other precede Mass in preference?

I believe we should stick to what is one’s intent, not necessarily very strictly following the codes for “God looks into the heart” not like men do. For example, if i do a charity work during Sunday, should this be considered work by Church standards? I believe it is working to earn that is prohibited. Also, an intended missing of the Mass is the one sinful. Maybe you can schedule the charity work out of the Mass schedule prioritizing the Mass?

Hence, it is up to you, Kathrin, if you are doing right what is due to God. The Canons are there as our guidelines as to whether we have obviously done wrong or not. I say, search deep into your heart and ask God’s guidance, that you may serve Him the right way and always.

Cheers to God’s love,

Thank you Geekborj for your kind and helpful words. :slight_smile:

This is probably beside the point, but I couldn’t resist. Christianity borrows from its Jewish roots. A day is measured by Jews from evening to evening, not from midnight to midnight. It is evening (and the beginning of the new day) when it is sufficiently dark that you cannot distinguish a black hair from a white hair. Of course, we like greater precision, and that time of day differs during the years (later during the summer than in the winter in the northern hemisphere). That’s why modern rubrics pick a time of day, that is, as measured by a clock, so the evening begins at the same time every day of the year.

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