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!