Although Christmas this year is the day after the fourth Sunday of Advent, Catholics looking to count a Sunday evening Mass 24th of December for both that Sunday obligation and Monday's Christmas Mass obligation will have to think again.
Here’s how to plan your liturgical celebrations.
Advent is shorter than usual this year. It’s still four Sundays, but because 25th December is a Monday, there are only 22 days of the preparatory season.
There’s another thing about this shortened schedule that’s suddenly dawning on everyone. Sunday, 24th December is not only the Fourth Sunday of Advent, but also Christmas Eve!
Both the Advent Sunday and the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord carry the obligation to assist at Mass. And though there are occasions when the obligation is waived for a holy day that falls so close to a Sunday – 1st January 2018, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God is one example, as New Year’s Day will also fall on a Monday – Christmas is not one of those occasions. Christmas (literally, “Christ Mass”) is one of our greatest reasons for giving thanks, a Eucharist that is less an obligation than a joy.
So the weekend of IV Advent/Christmas means twice the Mass. No combining, either – the two days are completely different in tone and focus, with different readings, prayers, and hymns.
We have options
Fortunately, because the Church celebrates vigils, there are several options for fulfilling this double obligation. You can attend a Saturday evening Vigil Mass at 6:00 pm or a Sunday morning Mass at 9:30 am or 11:00 am to celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Advent.
Then you may choose to attend a Christmas Eve Vigil Mass at 6:00pm or Christmas Night Mass at 8:00pm on Sunday or a morning Masses at 9:30am or 11:00am on Monday, Christmas Day to celebrate the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. (See Parish Newsletter for Christmas Schedule)
Make plans now
As you can see, it will take a little extra planning this year. Start now by checking the Mass schedules for your parish, or for the parish you will be attending if you are travelling to visit family for the holiday.
Yes, it’s two Mass obligations this year. But that’s really a way to double the celebration, reminding ourselves that we live outside the boundaries of the calendar, where Christ has come, is present, and will come again.