Vigil Masses or Anticipated Masses?

The new Roman Missal (editio typica tertia) is not very new. But two new features are: a Vigil of the Epiphany and a Vigil of the Ascension, each with their own euchology and lectionary texts. But will these vigils be as unused as the ones already in the missal, such as tonight’s.

If you went to Mass the evening of August 14, what euchology was used, what lectionary readings?

Tell us, monks and nuns, what does your monastery do about celebrating vigil Masses? What, pray tell, does your monastery do on the typical December 24–25? A Mass of the 24th? A Vigil Mass? A Midnight Mass? A Dawn Mass? A Day Mass? Are any of these combined with the Liturgy of the Hours?


  1. And this year, we get the joy of the evening of Saturday December 25, and the idea that the first vespers of the Feast of the Holy Family would trump the second vespers of Christmas is jarring….

  2. We used the Vigil Mass prayers and scriptures. Why not? Also, if I understand the GNLY correctly, the Feast of the Holy Family does not have a Vigil Mass this year because Christmas cannot be trumped.

    1. And yet, in years past, the USCCB calendar has indicated that late afternoon Masses on Christmas when it falls on a Saturday take the mass of the Feast, not the Solemnity, which strikes me as a rather uncritical expansion of the idea that Sunday is anticipated to the idea of how euchologies are chosen….

  3. In our area Masses of Christmas are shifting to the 24th. Surveying four very large parishes, there were 11 Masses on the 24th, three at Midnight, and 11 Masses on the 25th.

    The most popular time was 4:00 pm on the 24th with three parishes offering two Masses at that time. The second Mass being offered in places other than the church. There were abundant warnings in the bulletins that 4:00 pm was the most popular time with suggestions and pleadings that you might want to think about alternatives.

    And we are concerned about commercialization in our stores and homes during Christmas!

    Our diocese is recommending that for the coming year Masses not be offered on Saturday evening for Sunday December 26th, but that late Sunday afternoon Masses be scheduled.

  4. Could I return the conversation to the question of celebrating vigils, rather than Masses of anticipation, on solemnities that actually have vigils?

    Yes, I know: I did mention the special circumstance of December 24-25 but I was asking the general question about these four Masses and not about this coming December 24-25.

  5. The vigils will be celebrated by ordained priests and congregations. Why does it matter how well attended they are?

  6. Michael, I am not sure of the point you are making. I LOVE the vigils because of what their prayers and readings say about the mystery we are celebrating. When priests and people are deprived of these texts in favor of the the texts from the Mass of the Day, the solemnity is in some way diminished.

  7. Well, as Director for Worship, I felt there was no choice on Saturday Evening. I celebrated the Vigil, which probalby irratated the lector who only prepared the readings of the Day. I do think those readings in particular had great things to say about our belief in Mary. A number of people commented that it was a good homily – though I was visiting that parish and they were probably just being nice! 😉

  8. Paul, I was just answering the implied question at the head of this thread, which was “Is there a need for a Vigil that will always fall on Saturday evening?” Even Ascension is not immune in many dioceses. I agree with you. The Vigil texts offer much to those who will hear them.

  9. Periodically I lament that one’s Sunday obligation may be fulfilled on Saturday evening with an anticipated mass. Usually I get these feelings when I page through my missal looking for Holy Family and I flip and flip through Christmas Vigil, Midnight, Dawn, Day. At my parish, we celebrate Christmas Midnight four times, including once Christmas morning!
    I also lament the anticipated mass when feasts with vigils pop up, such as the Assumption, or even when a big feast occurs on a Saturday–like when All Saints Day fell on a Saturday a couple years ago but we anticipated All Souls.

    I guess my point is that everyone is so accustomed to anticipating Sunday, that vigils don’t/won’t work. I’m assuming that attending the vigil mass would not fulfill the obligation since the texts are all different and it’s a totally different “feast.” If that’s the case, good luck convincing folks to attend mass twice in honor of the same occasion. I myself would love to if I knew I would hear the different readings, etc. But I’ve heard too many repetitions of Christmas Midnight mass at any time of day to trust that an advertised vigil and a.m. mass would actually be different.

    1. The fulfillment of the preceptual obligation is an entirely separate issue from the euchology or propers of the liturgy, so you can cancel your assumption on that score.

  10. This is perhaps a naïve question from a non-Catholic perspective: What is essentially different about a vigil verses the “day of” mass? I have attended several and it seems to me that the difference is in words only (ie lections and prayers).

    Coming from an open-liturgical tradition I would expect a vigil to present a different purpose (theme?) which would complement the day yet to come.

    I absolutely love the Easter vigil because it feels to me to be quite different from an ordinary Sunday mass and does an excellent job of anticipating the resurrection, with plenty of “extras” you only have for this occasion. Are there other vigils which are inherently different from their “day of” masses like Easter is with respect to its vigil? Are there other “extras” or “themes” that only happen on a given vigil?

    Vigils for other feasts and solemnities (the ones I have experienced) just don’t seem to do this in the same way that the Easter vigil does. What might it look like to watch vigil with Mary the Mother of Our Lord the evening before she gives birth? To watch vigil while anticipating the (not yet) outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost?

    1. Well, Pentecost has a Vigil which is an extended Liturgy of the Word and so feels different from a regular Sunday Mass.

  11. I have gone both ways in my parish ministry. If I am able to prepare two homilies, I celebrate the Vigil Mass and the Mass of the Day. If not, I celebrate only the Mass of the Day. Now that I am a “weekend assistant”, the pastor whom I most consistently assist always celebrates the Vigil. It was much simpler when I was in the monastery, of course.

  12. Once in my catholic lifetime, I experienced the sequence of Christmas [a] vigil, [b] midnight [c] dawn and [d] day. Perhaps because I was the musician at all of these I enjoyed that the sequence of readings was followed.

    For most people if they come on Christmas and do NOT hear the “Midnight” readings, they feel their church has let them down. Who wants to hear Jesus’ pedigree in place of baby Jesus in the manger?

    In my present place of employment, the first Mass of Christmas begins at 3:30PM [!] on Dec 24th and the Midnight readings are used.

    As for the Vigil of Pentecost, this is brought up annually, but the priest does not want to make two homilies, so the “anticipated” Mass trumps the “vigil.”

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