Non Solum: “Midnight” Mass

Today’s Question: “Midnight” Mass

This summer I had the opportunity to go to a vigil for the feast of Corpus Christi at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The church reopened especially for this service at midnight. Sitting in front of the tomb chanting the Latin chants for the feast day will forever be one of my most cherished memories. Besides the environment, there was something beautiful and mystical about going to church at the height of the night and celebrating our Lord amid lit candles and “ancient” chants.

While Christmas Eve Mass at the local parish is not the same as celebrating a vigil at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, there are still many similarities. There is something about the transfer of our “midnight” celebrations to 10 or earlier which deeply disturbs me and strikes me as a bit too domesticated. At the Church of the Holy Sepulchre I felt deep solidarity with pilgrims like Egeria who routinely gathered at the wee hours of the night to praise our Lord.

Even though “Midnight” Mass in many places has only been moved up a few hours, for me the connection to the ancient vigils of the Church is diminished. By moving up our Midnight Mass times it is as if we as a community are saying that we are not willing to sacrifice and disturb our lives. While midnight might not be the most convenient time to meet as a community to praise our Lord that is entirely the point.

I understand why many parishes might move their times up and I do not want to discount their pastoral reasons for doing so. Rather as a young Catholic I wanted to share my experience of how powerful midnight liturgies have been for me.

I am curious to know what your community does with “Midnight” Masses like those on Christmas Eve. Do you move your Mass times up? If so what pastoral reasons have motivated that decision? If not, what leads you to continue celebrating Mass at midnight?

Whenever your liturgies are, I hope that you too experience the joy of praying with the centuries of Christians who have gone before us.

Moderator’s note: “Non solum” is a feature at Pray Tell for our readership community to discuss practical liturgical issues. The title comes from article 11 of the Vatican II liturgy constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium: “Therefore there is to be vigilance among holy pastors that in liturgical action not only are laws for valid and licit celebration to be observed, but that the faithful should participate knowingly, actively, and fruitfully.” (Ideo sacris pastoribus advigilandum est ut in actione liturgica non solum observentur leges ad validam et licitam celebrationem, sed ut fideles scienter, actuose et fructuose eandem participent.) May the series contribute to good liturgical practice – not only following the law, but especially grasping the spirit of the liturgy!



  1. For a few years, our church had “Midnight Mass” at 10:00, and as a member of the choir and someone with a small child, I was profoundly thankful that I was getting home at midnight and not 2AM. The current pastor has returned the time to midnight. I was pleased to note that in our missalette, the mass is referred to not as “Midnight Mass” but as “Mass at Night”, which caused me to think maybe I’d take another run at the pastor to see if he’d consider an earlier time. I’m not sure what in this case is special about the midnight hour. I’d make a stronger case for the Easter Vigil ending at dawn!

  2. Once the practice of anticipated Masses became so widely accepted, Mass at midnight was pretty much doomed. Since the late 70’s so many Catholics have flocked to Masses on Christmas Eve that many parishes have but one Mass on Christmas Day. Why should we even want to recreate a culture which couldn’t even conceive of a Christmas Eve Mass that didn’t start at midnight since earlier Masses were forbidden. I applaud Francis for continuing the practice started by his predecessor. The idea of expecting aged popes to stay up late for the purpose of maintaining a custom makes no sense today. The only midnight masses in my diocese are celebrated by younger priests who seem to think it is more “Catholic” to do so.

  3. I miss Mass at midnight, I have to say. I’m not particularly young, and for many years have been attending both a vigil Mass and a Christmas morning Mass (as a cantor), and appreciate the differences in texts and tone.

    I agree that there is something about being out and about at such an unusual (for me, at least) hour that is important.

    1. @Kelly Marie Santini – comment #10:
      As I understand it, Mass was at midnight so that people could receive communion without having to fast from midnight the day before, which they would have to do if it were held any earlier.

      Ours is at 10pm, which is fine by me. I only wish that we would start calling it Mass During the Night (as the Missal does) rather than “Midnight Mass” (complete with scare-quotes).

      1. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #15:
        Actually receiving Communion at the midnight Mass is a fairly late, 20th century phenomenon. Before Pius X, it was one of the few occasions where Communion could not be distributed to the people (except for custom or indults). Pius X eased up slightly on the restriction with regards to midnight Masses in religious houses and seminaries, and the 1917 Code extended this to parishes (however, it was a controverted question due to the wording of the canons, until it was settled in the mid-30s). Then, the fast was from midnight – until Pius XII’s Christus Dominus and Sacram Communionem made it a 3 (or 1) hour fast.

      2. @Joshua Vas – comment #35:

        Another post, another surprise – I too always assumed that Mass at midnight was meant to facilitate reception of Communion due to the from-midnight fast of yore.

    2. @Kelly Marie Santini – comment #10:
      Why do we have Mass at midnight on Christmas Eve, anyway? Is there a theological reason for it?
      The vigil Mass at 4 or 5 am ending the long night vigil was gradually pushed back into the earlier part of Christmas morning to accommodate larger crowds drawn to a much shortened vigil (today Matins and Lauds before midnight Mass) which became popular in the Roman basilicas. My guess this shortening of the vigil and introduction of midnight Mass at 12.00 was done for the same reason Mass at 9pm or 10pm on Dec. 24 has become so popular today. To the point of replacing midnight Mass altogether. It is better for families. Revelers can plan parties at more convenient hours too.
      The ” Mass of the Shepherds”or second Mass at 3 or 4 am is , I believe , the most ancient of the three.

  4. At one time, midnight Mass was the first opportunity to celebrate Christmas. That’s no longer the case. We now observe vigil Masses on Saturday evenings or before Holy Days of Obligation. Therefore, the midnight Mass is no longer necessary….liturgically, we don’t need to wait until the “secular” midnight as the beginning of the new day. Rather, we observe the biblical sundown as the end of one day and the beginning of another.

    From my experience, folks come from all kinds of parties at midnight and may not be in the best frame of mind or sobriety for Mass. The Vigil Masses allow people and families to participate in Mass before getting into the party scene. As far as I’m concerned, the midnight Mass is a liturgical “belly-button.” It had a purpose at one time in the past, but no longer.

    1. @Fr. Vincent Gluc, OFM Conv. – comment #4:

      Fr. Gluc, I share your concern about sobriety and attendance at Midnight Mass. I would also add that driving while fatigued, even while sober, is also dangerous. I still attend Midnight Mass at midnight, but I also take a nap on Christmas eve. This way, I am reassured that I will be driving safely.

      I do think that there should be at least a 10 PM “midnight Mass”. Many people do not party on Christmas eve. I look forward to the late evening or midnight Mass at the commencement of Christmas and the octave. The vigils are important for many people, but I have found that they are often rushed as if to satisfy the obligation. Christmas eve is about the Mass and not about tree trimming, present-wrapping, and partying.

  5. Mixed feelings here. On the one hand, I get that “there [is] something beautiful and mystical about going to church at the height of the night”, but I also worry about that thought as bordering upon worship of the ritual rather than worship of God.

    As a child, we didn’t have Vigil Masses, so Midnight Mass was really the first opportunity to go. And going meant that you were old enough to stay up that late, and therefore, something of a goal, but also perhaps not the ideal worship posture.

    On balance I do not feel less worshipful going to an early Mass, and I also think it is better to go early and have most worshipers remain until the end instead of leaving early after Communion.

  6. When we moved our Midnight Mass to 11pm six years ago, our attendance doubled. Ministers now refer to it as the “still going on AT Midnight Mass”. Now we have a completely full church, rather than one that is half empty. The sound of singing is full as well, both from the assembly and the choir, even though many choir members have already led music for one of our four earlier masses. So we feel it was a very good pastoral decision.

    On a practical note, starting an hour earlier makes it easier for those of us who return for masses (2 of them) on Christmas Day. Getting home around 12:30am while still on an adrenaline rush from the experience then winding down and making it to bed around 1:30am or 2am is better than an hour later when mass starts at 9am the same day.

  7. We moved our “Mass at Night” from Midnight to 10:00 PM several years ago at the request of our musicians, who also had to minister at least at 3 other Msses. Granted, I live in a suburban, affluent parish, but I tried to be sensitive to the real needs of these ministers, who have families and friends, and their needs to gather with their loved ones. We need to get real, and be sensitive to the real needs of our lay people who have very different needs from the liturgies designed in Rome. Remember, Rome has lots and lots of priests and Bishops who have little to do on an everyday basis. Again, I think it’s important to be realistic, and pastoral!

    1. @Gene Vavrick – comment #7:

      Remember, Rome has lots and lots of priests and Bishops who have little to do on an everyday basis. Again, I think it’s important to be realistic, and pastoral!

      Yes, same here. Midnight Mass is gone. Still not a whole much motivation to introduced morning prayer or vespers (those hinges the Council referred to) in the parish or cathedral. With deacons and lay ministers now taking communion to parishioners and performing other pastoral duties, etc. So, what’s left for these guys to do that prevents them from celebrating a Christmas vigil at 12:00 midnight on Christmas, Easter, and other times?

      In my childhood we went to Christmas eve on the morning of Dec. 24, midnight Mass at 12;00 midnight with few drunks and loads of children. Followed by a festive le Reveilon which lasted until 6 am Christmas morning. It was wonderful!!! Families with children of all ages and plenty of the elderly as well.

      Today, outside parts of Quebec, Paris, or southern France only the high church Anglicans or Russian Orthodox bother to celebrate Christmas like this.

  8. As a person who goes to bed early and gets up very early, the Midnight Mass in recent years is beginning to kill me. We do have two other vigils and the most heavily attended in the 4:30 PM one. The 6:30 PM is quite full but not to standing room only and outside the Church as at the 4:30 PM. The Midnight one which begins at Midnight unless the choir has been slow in their preludal caroling is packed but just a few standing and we’ve seen increases in attendance, at my pleading, at the two morning Masses.
    But with that said, who in the world on the staff and or liturgical ministries (clericalism if that is the primary concern) couldn’t make sacrifices for this one time only a year event to have a Midnight Mass? It is only once a year! Come on guys!

  9. I decided to see what was available in the five parishes in my area where I have gone to Mass at least occasionally in the past. All parishes in the diocese are now clustered with at least one other parish. Three of my five parishes are in the same cluster, so I decided to include two other parishes clustered with the remaining two parishes for a total of seven parishes, and three clusters. These are all medium or large size affluent suburban parishes.

    4:00 7 masses, three of which are in church halls
    4:30 3 masses, one of which is in a church hall
    5:00 1 mass
    6:00 2 masses
    6:30 2 masses
    7:00 2 masses
    8:00 1 mass
    10:00 3 masses
    11:00 2 masses
    Total 23 masses on December 24 th

    midnight 2 masses
    7:30 1 mass
    8:00 3 masses
    8:30 1 mass
    9:00 1 mass
    9:30 1 mass
    10:00 3 masses
    11:00 3 masses
    11:30 1 mass
    noon 2 masses
    Total 18 masses on December 25th

    Total Masses per parish: 8, 7, 6, 5, 5, 5, 4
    24/25 Masses per parish: 4/4, 4/3, 4/2, 2/3, 3/2 ,3/2, 2/2

    Affluent suburbia is obviously a consumer’s paradise. I not only can go to Christmas Mass at almost any hour from 4 pm on the vigil to noon the next day, I could go to Mass almost on any half-hour of my choice!

    What sticks out are the seven Masses at 4 pm, three of which are in church halls simultaneously with the 4pm Mass in the church. There is a fourth church hall Mass at 4:30 in another parish.

    The seven parishes have regular Sunday vigil Masses at the following times 4:00 (1); 4:30 (3); 5:00 (2) 6:00 (1) so in some ways the pre 7pm Christmas vigil Masses are all an outgrowth of the regular Sunday vigil Masses.

    The 8 Masses between 7pm and midnight all seem to be a result of moving the Midnight Mass to earlier times. If they were all moved to midnight, December 25th would predominate 26 masses to 15.

    I enjoyed midnight Mass when I was in my teens and twenties, too. Perhaps parishes should consider making the midnight Mass the teen and young adult Christmas Mass perhaps with a social and caroling session preceding the Mass.

  10. Come to the Diocese of Rochester where one prominent parish with usually good liturgical credentials is offering the “anticipated” Mass of Christmas at 3:00pm. If I recall correctly it was even earlier last year. Once again, the relaxation of ancient principles for ostensibly good reasons has the unintended consequences of cheapening the whole affair.

    1. @Rev Richard Middleton – comment #12:

      “the unintended consequences of cheapening the whole affair”

      How so?

      Around here, we have a 4 pm mass on Christmas eve, which I’m not sure qualifies as “midnight mass” and then, a 10:30 am mass on Christmas morning.

      I don’t mind not having a midnight mass, though if there were one, I’d go.

  11. We’re a brand new parish, only 3 years old, and so in many ways we’re blessed by no precedence and no “we’ve always done it this way.” If there’s one area where this played out in a curious way is our Christmas times. Our pastor LOVES surveys, and we’ve had several surveys on this topic. Why? Because the pastor wants a Mass at midnight (or 10 or 11 pm). But no parishioners do. Survey after survey, parishioners say “no thank you” (a common response “we would love a midnight Mass, but we wouldn’t go because it’s too late/we go somewhere else on Christmas/etc.”) So our schedule is just 4 & 6 pm on Christmas Eve (both full); and 9:30 am on Christmas morning (rather empty).

  12. Don’t forget – given that the median age of priests in the USA is 59, adjusting Mass times to suit their stamina may be the only viable option.

  13. For over forty years I have never served in a parish without a midnight Mass. In my current parish, even with 8 Christmas Masses available, the Midnight liturgy is always nearly full. As for moving midnight Mass to 10pm, can we possibly imagine moving the celebration of the beginning of the New Year from midnight to 10pm?

  14. To be honest, since the liturgical day changes at Vespers, I don’t see the problem with a 10 p.m. mass – or the benefit of the Midnight one. It’s already Christmas at 10 p.m., so it’s not really necessary to wait until midnight.

    There’s nothing in the Scriptures, as far as I know, that says anything about what time Christ was born – but of course, neither does it say anything about which day it happened!

    At a parish I used to attend, there were three Christmas Eve masses, including one at 3 p.m. (which was actually quite beautiful, since the sun set during the service).

    So, I’m perfectly fine with earlier “Midnight masses” – and with later ones, too.

  15. Some great comments – too much Vatican/Rome influence; consider the typical US priests’ age; concerns about dating/drinking/driving; ressourcement of vigil masses; emphasis on families of young children, etc.

    What strikes me is that this is a *first world* northern hemisphere discussion and more specifically, a first world urban/suburban discussion in parishes that are always staffed with adequate numbers of clerics.

    IMO, have noticed a trend in large city parishes – most liturgies are vigils and end with some type of nite/midnight liturgy and then there is only ONE liturgy on Christmas Day… is almost as if the Christmas season ends on the actual day?

    In the southern hemisphere and third world, a primary issue is having the celebration at all…mission parishes feel blessed if they have a Christmas liturgy – whether early vigil; late vigil, midnite, or christmas day. At times, the liturgy happens during Christmas week.

    Wonder if this *vigil, night, midnite, day discussion parellels our earlier posts on Sarum Blue and the Advent Wreath. Paul Inwood was kind enough to share his *sarum blue* research; in terms of how thing evolve; how we think we know why we do things now but find out that the actual history tells a very different story. Reference –

    1. @Bill deHaas – comment #20:


      You are on the right track here, but I think it is even deeper than historical origins.

      We have had this discussion before, and the last time all my secondary sources said that the Service of Readings (Christmas Matins) began once it was completely dark, and was followed immediately by the Mass in the midst of the Night. So people who are starting Midnight Mass in the range of 6-8 pm are probably being historically correct. People who are celebrating the Vigil Mass at 4pm (after None and before Vespers) are also being historically correct.

      But a lot of other things weight in, e.g. that the Jewish and Byzantine days began at sunset rather than at midnight. I don’t know when Europeans switched to midnight to midnight.

      Then there is the problem of clocks and watches which are relatively late inventions so it was difficult to know when it was midnight.

      The communion issue is probably really late, e.g. the modern practice of frequent communion, and even receiving communion during Mass rather than outside of Mass (which might have solved a lot of fasting problems).

      Then there is the problem of artificial lighting. There is evidence from history and experimental studies that we seem to have two four hour sleep cycles. Historically since people went to bed shortly after it became completely dark , they often spent one to several hours between the sleep cycles for social and creative (or even procreative) activities in the middle of the night.

      So our romantic notions of monks and laity keeping vigil in the middle of the night might not have been that extraordinary, merely using a period of time for religious purposes when people often were awake.

      So much of our views of ancient history often end up being romantic, literally as well as figuratively.

  16. @Kelly Marie Santini – comment #21:

    Kelly, here’s some additional information.

    Christmas eve was once not only a fast but also an abstinence day. Your father might have looked forward to eating meat on Christmas for this reason. I do like the traditional Italian Christmas eve dinner, and especially baccala. So the fast and abstinence brought about a great culinary tradition.

  17. @Kelly Marie Santini – comment #21:

    December 24th was originally a day of partial fast which ended at noon; basically all that meant was a small breakfast. However it was a day of complete abstinence from meat all day long. So my Polish father always talked about the 12 course meatless dinners which were the tradition on Christmas Eve (you could eat all you want but no meat). After midnight, of course meat could be eaten, so people could come back from Mass and begin to eat the Christmas meat dishes. This has nothing to do with the fast before communion.

    I am not sure when December 24th ceased to be a day of abstinence. I do not remember observing it as a child in the fifties, but that does not mean that it was not still on the books.

  18. Christmas eve was also a day of fasting and/or abstinence (being that it preceded the feast day) so midnight mass so as to be able to receive communion without the prolonged Eucharistic fast doesn’t sound convincing?!

  19. It was only a few years ago, when I had to play the organ for a dawn mass, that I recognised how the three liturgies of the Word form something of a trilogy, and seem to presuppose a community keeping vigil through the night and into the day. Given that such a scenario is remote from what would go on in any parish, might we not give ourselves permission to simplify things: one mass after sundown with the Lucan account of the birth in full, before the daytime mass as we currently have it?

    1. @Philip Endean Sj – comment #30:
      Fr. agree but as I tried to state above…..except for certain liturgical/music ministers, who is even aware of the *three* liturgies; different readings, etc. and, the trend appears to be that very few ever attend on Christmas day – so unaware of what you speak about.

      But,then the same happens at the Easter Vigil, Easter Sunrise, Easter Day.

    2. @Philip Endean Sj – comment #30:

      There was a time when a significant number of parishes at Midnight Mass would

      (a) sing the Gloria at the end of the midnight Mass Gospel (“And suddenly there was with the angel a great multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying/singing:” — MUSIC ;

      (b) then continue with the Gospel of the Shepherds from the Dawn Mass, concluding with “The Gospel of the Lord”;

      (c) after which the presider would say something along the lines of “Like the shepherds, let us too go to Bethlehem to see this thing which has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us”. A procession would then form up, either carrying a figure of the babe in the manger or a white candle lit from one of the four candles of the Advent wreath, or both, and then proceed to the crib where the babe would be placed in the straw and all sing “Away in a manger”;

      (d) following which the procession would then proceed back to the sanctuary, with the lit white candle (if used) which would then be placed in the middle of the Advent wreath.

      (e) The presentation of the gifts would then follow and the Mass continue as normal.

      No singing during the processions to and from the crib (quiet background music, or a song/hymn with refrain or an ostinato, easily sung by heart) so that no one’s eyes would be glued to a sheet or book and all could follow the procession with their eyes and symbolically “journey to Bethlehem”.

      I think that would not only fulfill your desire but add a bit of creative symbolism with it.

  20. I have two thoughts on the whole question:

    1) There are actually 4 Propers for the Nativity of the Lord: Vigil, during the Night, at Dawn, during the Day. Given that some parishes schedule a Christmas Mass at 4:00 pm, would it not be proper to use the Vigil propers? Although I could see the protest because the gospel is of the genealogy in Matthew and not the shepherd in Luke (but I believe the lectionary allows the substitution of the gospel reading of a later Mass).

    2. I have noticed the different character of the different Masses, often the early ones as much more children focused and have a much more contemporary feel, where as a later one is more adult focused and has a more solemn sense about it, such as incense, etc

    Just a final thought, how many parishes use he proclamation of Christ’s birth?

  21. In my 52 years, I’ve never attended a Midnight Mass. When I was a child int he 1960s, children were forbidden to attend at local parishes. I always attended the Mass at Dawn after opening gifts (a great way to refocus kids away from the gifts) and before breakfast. Love the readings of the Mass during the Day. Very saddened (doesn’t begin to describe it) how so many places treat Christmas Day as a postscript to Christmas Eve. Fortunately, the parish where my parents’ have moved to live in their last years does not suffer from that problem, and it’s 11:30AM Mass on Christmas Day is SRO and also the overflow Mass in the parish hall that begins 15 minutes later is also SRO. From this and other experiences, I’ve learned that parishes that misread signals can begin a cycle of deemphasis of Christmas Day that is self-reinforcing but unnecessary if you resist it with purpose and resources.

  22. Still have a Midnight Mass here in Japan. And it tends to be more popular with our regular parishioners. In previous parishes I’ve served in, the Boy Scouts or the parish youth group have provided steaming hot bowls of noodles after Mass, or a hot drink called “amazake” – the latter is a beverage made during the early stages of brewing/distilling “sake”. It’s non-alcoholic (?) so safe for children.
    An earlier Mass, at 8:00 or 9:00 will often see more non-Christians that Christians present, since going to a Church on Christmas Eve has become part the date course for December 24th. If you are single – without a girl/boyfriend on December 24th, then so will be your fate for the coming year. There is a long history behind this custom that I’ve never fully unravelled.

  23. What concerns me is the number of parishes in our diocese that have “Vigil Masses” before 4:00 PM. Some have not just one, but two or three. The rationale?? — bigger Christmas collection the earlier the folks can get to Mass in this area.

    Talk about “a war on Christmas!”

  24. @Kelly Marie Santini – comment #22:
    My late mother and grandmother often spoke of going to my great grandmother’s house after midnight Mass for the big family feast. It was served with many courses.

    Christmas day was spent taking children or younger members of the family who didn’t attend midnight Mass to the church for the 3rd Mass of Christmas ,and then it was off to visit friends and relatives. Another family celebration came in the late afternoon of the 25th, or following a “long winter’s nap”.

    I’m struck by how the whole feast of Christmas became an extended celebration starting with the preparations (wrapping gits, food preparation, and trimming the tree) . All throughout the 24th following the morning Mass for the Eve. The late afternoon and early evening of the 24th is when the tree was decorated and with real candles, as electric lights were just coming into use. The idea of putting up a Christmas tree in Advent was considered almost heretical, absolutely unthinkable. The tree had to stay up until the Epiphany, the full twelve days, or you were assured of a year of bad luck.

  25. In the southern hemisphere it is mid’ summer and can be very hot! Many parishes have outdoor Vigil Masses commencing around 6.00 p.m. as we are on daylight saving and it is still light until 8.30 p.m. These are very popular with families with children. In bigger parishes there is likely to be another Mass at 9.00 p.m. and then a Midnight Mass. For reasons given some parishes have abandoned Midnight , not least being the ‘state’ of some of the congregation! The early Masses on Christmas morning are usually very well attended – again because of the heat. This year the forecast is for 25c (77F) on Christmas Day in Sydney. That is relatively mild for Christmas Day.

    1. @Peter Williams – comment #42:
      Christmas in Argentina and Mexico often occurs in extremely warm weather. We waited in the plaza in one town in Mexico and had beer, ices and ice cream as people poured out of the multiple masses being held in the town’s principle, very large, and very unairconditioned church. The midnight Mass we went was jammed with people of all ages.

      Following midnight Mass there were fireworks, dancing in the main square and streets to roving mariachi bands until the wee hours of Christmas morn. Vendors sold traditional holiday foods and all the restaurants were filled with the town citizens.
      People in Buenos Aires never seem to go to bed. In the pope’s home town, the streets can be filled with people until all hours of the morning and not just on feast days, or public holidays.

  26. In the late 1970s the parish I attended, which had (and still has) a prominent music program, moved its midnight Mass to 7:30 p.m. because the late hour delivered many attendees from Christmas parties who were, we used to say, half in the bag. The last straw was the half-drunk fight that at the rear of the nave that a priest had to leave the altar to stop.

    Growing up, I was part of a parish that had two Midnight Masses, a high Mass in the glorious upper church for the devout, and a low Mass in the lower church — that was the one I got to serve as a pre-Vatican II altar boy — that took half as long.

  27. I’ve been watching the Mass at St. Peter’s. Certainly solemn, but also kind of a spectacle. Francis looked tired and preached briefly but inspiringly. Noticed both Cardinals Burke and Bertone among the concelebrants. I’m going to my church now to celebrate the 5pm. We will use the readings from Mass in the night at both services this evening. Merry Christmas to all!

  28. For at least the last twenty years I have begun Christmas with the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols broadcast worldwide, including by public radio. I hear it at 10 am on December 24th. That morning is usually the time that I decorate the house for Christmas.

    St Thomas Episcopal Church with its choir school broadcasts live and also archives many of its services on the Web. On this past weekend, the Fourth Sunday of Advent they did the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols instead of their 11am Eucharist and their 4pm Vespers Service. You could go to a brief low Mass after the 11am Eucharist if you wanted.

    I was intrigued by this instance of moving a Christmas Eve service done in England around sunset to the Fourth Sunday of Advent, and especially having it replace the regular services.

    On their website an explanation is given by the weekly audio message of the Reverend Andrew C. Mead, Rector of Saint Thomas Church. Saint Thomas last year did a hymn sing of hymns sung a hundred years ago. There were none at Christmas that any of us would recognize; and people from a hundred years ago would not be familiar with any used today at Christmas. Mead said that Christmas today at Saint Thomas and at many Anglican places of worship is a product of the twentieth century liturgical renewal through the choir schools of England as exemplified by the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols.

    A detailed history of the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols is given here:

    A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols is the Christmas Eve service held in King’s College Chapel. The Festival was introduced in 1918 to bring a more imaginative approach to worship. It was first broadcast in 1928 and is now broadcast to millions of people around the world.

    The service includes carols and readings from the Bible. The opening carol is always ‘Once in Royal David’s City’, and there is always a new, specially commissioned carol.

    The service was first broadcast in 1928 and, with the exception of 1930, has been broadcast annually, even during the Second World War, when the ancient glass (and also all heat) had been removed from the Chapel.

    Sometime in the early 1930’s the BBC began broadcasting the service on the World Service.

    When Stephen Cleobury came to King’s in 1982 he was keen to demonstrate a commitment to contemporary music for the College’s liturgies. He decided that one way of doing this would be to commission a new carol each year for inclusion in A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols; thus a new tradition was born.

  29. I watched and listen to the Papal Mass which was broadcast live at 3:30 pm my local time December24th. It was a very convenient extension of my preference for a quiet day getting ready for Christmas, actually letting the global celebration of Christmas prepare me. The Papal Mass finished about the time of it beginning to get dark here, and in plenty of time for the evening celebrations of possible interest to me: The Orthodox Vigil at 7pm and Masses at 8pm and 10pm.

    The Papal Mass had the most Latin of any of his Masses. With the interest of the internet in Francis, and the interest in Rome in attending his events (this was the highest number of requests for tickets for the Christmas Mass) it will be interesting to see if Francis increasing moves toward a default Latin setting given the global nature of the audience and his relative lack of language skills (e.g. he did not do the multiple languages at the urbe et orbe today).

    It would be ironic if a practical use of Latin In Papal liturgies sparks an interest in Latin in the OF that exceeds Benedict’s attempt to encourage older practices and the EF.

  30. In the diocese where I live, the earliest Christmas Eve Vigil Mass is at 2:30 in the afternoon…followed by a 4:30 in the same parish…both packed (but especially the 2:30) …

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