Sometimes I feel we have lost track of Sunday. Sunday just doesn’t rate. Despite Dies Domini, and all sorts of good theological reasons for honoring Sunday together as a Christian community, on the whole I think Catholics don’t have much of a sense that this day is different — that it is the high point of the week as Easter is the high point of the year. Mass on any day of the week will do, for many people, and they will say this outright. Give them Sunday Mass on Tuesday and they will consider it an even trade.

This feeling of the loss or diminishment of Sunday comes over me especially at times when I hear comments about the shortage of priests to celebrate Sunday Mass. No priest, no Mass. Church is closed. Period. When there is no priest to celebrate the Eucharist, is it still important for the community to gather to pray and to keep the Lord’s day as the center and high point of the week? I would think so…

But then the other side of the issue comes quickly to the fore. Does keeping the Lord’s Day with prayer and gathering but without Eucharist actually undermine the Catholic ethos? Will those communities that are without priests learn that they can get along without Eucharist, and simply adjust to what is — for them — the new normal? Is it better to give up Sunday gatherings altogether than to substitute a word service or a communion service?

And if we go in for Sunday gatherings without Eucharist, isn’t a TV Mass or a cyber-liturgy just as good? In some people’s minds, watching someone else celebrate Eucharist is actually seen as a better way to keep Sunday than to bodily participate in a lay-led Word service in one’s parish church — because it’s Eucharist, after all.

You can guess what my opinion is, but the point is there is no consensus. We are just drifting on some of these questions relating to Sunday. The questions will be answered one way or another, by force of circumstance, as the priest shortage in the United States (and in other places) continues to grow. But it would be good to reflect on them intentionally.

My contention is that if we lose Sunday, we lose much more than we realize. The organization of time is part of the architecture of the Christian imagination. Without Sunday we drift further into the commodification of Eucharist — a thing to be gotten when available, rather than the center of a world made new and expressed foundationally in the gathering of the People of God on the day on which Christ rose from the dead. There is a theology embodied in Sunday. I wonder if we are losing it.


  1. About two thirds of Americans pray daily, while only a third of American go to church on Sunday,

    Attendance at weekly worship only leads to greater health, life satisfaction, and giving time and money to others if it is done with family members, close friends, or small groups. In other words loving God has to be intertwined with loving others. Both biblical teaching and sociological evidence agree.

    So we need to restore the Divine Office (pray always) whether alone, in families, with friends, in small groups or congregations to the center of Christian practice.

    Yes the Eucharist and the Lord’s day can help us to transcend our lives but when they close our Christian lives up into a hour on Sunday they become a problem rather than a help.

    I think the priest shortage is from God, a direct result of the recentering the Church on baptism at Vatican II. It is notable that it mainly occurs in those countries where educated laity can readily assume the roles that priests and religious once occupied.

  2. In his 2005 pastoral letter, ( ) pope Benedict wrote:

    “Significant among other things is the answer a certain Emeritus gave to the Proconsul who asked him why on earth they had disobeyed the Emperor’s severe orders. He replied: “Sine dominico non possumus”: that is, we cannot live without joining together on Sunday to celebrate the Eucharist. We would lack the strength to face our daily problems and not to succumb. […] The Sunday precept is not, therefore, an externally imposed duty, a burden on our shoulders. On the contrary, taking part in the Celebration, being nourished by the Eucharistic Bread and experiencing the communion of their brothers and sisters in Christ is a need for Christians, it is a joy; Christians can thus replenish the energy they need to continue on the journey we must make every week. […] “How will we be able to live without him?”. In these words of St Ignatius we hear echoing the affirmation of the martyrs of Abitene: “Sine dominico non possumus”. It is this that gives rise to our prayer: that we too, Christians of today, will rediscover an awareness of the crucial importance of the Sunday Celebration […]”

    I don’t know how to square that insistence on the Eucharist source of life with the shortage of priests.

  3. Sunday eucharist is the helpless victim of the irreversible priest shortage. As long as the hierarchy refuses to address the issue, then people rightfully conclude that regular Sunday eucharist is really not that important. The pope and his bishops continue to tap dance around the crisis by repeating the apparently useless mantra that we must “pray for vocations.”

  4. On a related note, I think the prevalence of Saturday afternoon and evening Masses has diluted the importance of Sunday. What may have been conceived as an exceptional practice to be offered for those who were required to work on Sunday has turned into one of the highest-attended Masses of the weekend with the “get-it-over-with” crowd.

    If we are following the old idea that the day begins at sundown, how can one explain how a single parish can have its first “Sunday” Mass at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday and its last Mass Sunday at 6:00 or 7:00 p.m.? Or even at 10:00 p.m. on college campuses? Seems like a stretch.

    1. @Scott Pluff – comment #4:
      Well, there is a big demographic bulge to the popularity of the 4pm Mass: the retiree and elder set, at least in almost every parish I’ve seen.

      I learned why my parents long preferred this Mass:
      – their morning medications had kicked in and done their work
      – it took my mother a long time to get dressed and ready, something that was dicey with the morning Mass schedule
      – the afternoon Mass is on its own, with no Masses bracketing it, so competition and timing for handicap spaces is easier to plan
      – in the winter, mid-afternoon is the time of day with the least amount of ice (it’s the warmest part of the day, after the sun has done its work)
      – 4 pm Mass is easiest to combine with confession, since it’s rare to have priests available for confession without a prior appointment on Sunday mornings.

      I could go on, as there were many more reasons, so this is just illustrative. (If my parents lived in an urban area and relied on public transportation, Saturday afternoon schedules are usually more frequent than Sunday morning schedules, for example.) As things stand now, my 89-year old parents can no longer do 4 pm Mass because the stress on the evening schedule would be too long, so they do the midday Mass (it take my mother about 6 hours to get ready to go to Mass – they don’t go when the weather is inclement, and they realize they are effectively dispensed due to infirmity, but they want to go if they can; what a mighty testament, huh?).

      (I should: when I was growing up, the boys went with my father to the *first* Mass of the day (when he grew up, that’s when his family went, and the Mass he served as acolyte for); the girls normally went to a later Mass with my mother. My father, if he could, would love a 6AM Mass….)

      1. @Karl Liam Saur – comment #7:
        Very valid points, and important considerations. IMO, it would be preferable for a parish to cancel their 4:00 p.m. Saturday Mass and move it to Sunday at 4:00 p.m. instead. This would return the emphasis to Sunday as the Lord’s Day.

        I understand, but am not persuaded by the idea that the Jewish sabbath begins at sundown–especially if we’re talking about a 4:00 or 5:00 p.m. Mass at times of the year when the sun sets at 8:00 p.m. If you asked a number of people coming out of church after a vigil Mass, “what day is it right now?” I bet they’d all say Saturday.

    2. @Scott Pluff – comment #4:
      With reference to the “get-it-over-with” crowd – to me, this captures the most important aspect of liturgy – why is there a the “get-it-over-with” crowd? Regardless of whether Mass is seen primarily as sacrifice, community gathering, opportunity for catechesis, memorial feast, worship of the Almighty or whatever emphasis is placed on any of these and other aspects, why is Mass a “have to” not a “want to”?

      1. @Brigid Rauch – comment #21:
        Unfortunately, the church is now reaping what it has sown. For many generations Mass was presented as an obligation, miss it and you’re flirting with the flames. It was presented in largely that way for hundreds of years, so it’s no surprise that it’s deeply ingrained in the popular mindset.

  5. Rita – fascinating analysis. Not sure how to reconcile your various points with my experience in Guatemala. From one central church/town, had responsibility for more than 50 catholic communities scattered over an area 30% the size of Texas. The focus was on supporting each community’s worship – thru training local leaders; organizing worship, music, liturgy (yep, Sunday liturgy w/o priest); organizing/educating local religious ed teachers; etc. Roughly once a month, each community was joined by one of two priests in that area – so, obviously, Sunday was not often that day.

    Not sure what message that sent – communities still focused on Sunday but 10-12 times a year had eucharist with a priest and most were not on Sundays.

    This seems to set up a whole other rhythm and pattern to the one you have analyzed.

    Any way, just some random thoughts…..guessing that the experience in Guatemala is not far from most communities in central/south America, the Far East, or Africa.

  6. A Sunday gathering without the Eucharist… I think of this as fanning the embers so that they may not darken and go cold. It is not optimal, it is not the best situation, but it is a communal gathering.

    The problem that I have – or perhaps better put as the problem that I see is the commoditization of the Eucharist. If the “store” is closed, perhaps we go to another “store.” This illustrates multiple issues actually, not just one. The biggest one for me is that this kind of thinking underscores that people so often have been taught that they have come to “get”, rather than to give , to share. It makes me very, very sad.

  7. A Sunday gathering without the Eucharist… I think of this as fanning the embers so that they may not darken and go cold. It is not optimal, it is not the best situation, but it is a communal gathering.

    If you had a choice between going to a local communal gathering without the Eucharist, and driving half an hour to get to Mass, which would you recommend? How about if the closest Mass was an hour drive away? 3 hours?

    The priest shortage will help us quantify the importance of the Sunday Eucharist. If going there is costly, how much are we willing to pay? What if it prevents us from participating in a family meal? Would we be willing to move to another town because it has a Sunday Mass? How much is too much?

    1. @Claire Mathieu – comment #8:
      Claire I agree with you – how much is too much? I live in a suburban spot with many choices. That said, as a church employee, I heard many complaints about the mass times – and the constant cry for a later Sunday mass. (Which, with one priest is not likely to happen.)

      What I was referring to was the places where there simply may be no Sunday Eucharist available. What about those who can’t drive 30 minutes, 1 hour or 3 hours because they are elderly? Poor? If they can at least gather with their people, that is all that I am saying.

  8. Amen to the 4pm for the elderly, a favorite with my elderly back in PA. Not many around here though; think someone downtown may have discouraged them.

    And timing is critical for the ice. Now that I have my walking stick, I once went to the 5 pm Mass in Winter, nice and sunny with melted ice when I entered the church. At 6pm when I exited a sheet of ice. That was the last time for that.

    I like the Notre Dame Masses on Sunday via the internet; both the 10am (what I think of as the high Anglican Mass) by Catholic TV, and the 11:45am with the ND Folk Choir (only when school is in session) on the ND website. All of this after two hours of With Heart and Voice on the Internet.

    One of my favorite images from Basil Pennington’s stay on Mt. Athos is of old monks warming themselves on the church porch around a charcoal fire listening to the Divine Office in the background. They knew it by heart with all the rubics and would rush into the church if anyone made any mistake in the complex rubrics. Some Sunday Mornings seem like that.

    The Internet is a great part of my life; I have both the Divine Office in English, and two websites for the chanted Monastic Office in Latin, and various social networks, some virtual, some real. So Sunday Internet Mass fits in well with that. It helps that I spent a lot of time at Notre Dame.

    The weather has often had me celebrating a weekday festival Liturgy at the local Orthodox Church rather than Weekend liturgy at Catholic Parishes. One of my ninety year old aunts usually asks me when and where I’ve been to church lately: “You sure make church going interesting!”

    1. @Jack Rakosky – comment #9:

      My internet pilgrimage usually starts with Greek Orthros in Arabic, a Russian Orthodox eucharist, and Anglican Evensong with full choir from some English cathedral. Most of the Roman rite offerings are dull by comparison, so I don’t bother with them very often.

      In the east, the All Night Vigil isn’t viewed as an adjunct to the liturgy, but a preface to it. As obligatory as the eucharistic rite itself. Why couldn’t the western rites take a similar approach? A vigil starting at 11pm on Saturday and ending with what some parishes in NYCity once called a “drunkard’s Mass”. For actors and actresses who could only go to church late, or when patrons on Broadway went to dinner following the theater, and then went to a midnight or early morning Mass. I think the “Actor’s Church”, in the theater district had that.

      1. @philo phillips – comment #31:

        I believe there was also a “Sunday Mass” at 2am for newspaper workers on the printline just after their shift ended, who’d sleep through Sunday morning when the evenings only hosted Vespers.

  9. ISTM that the general culture contributes to the diminishment of Sunday. These days women work both in and out of the home, so having groceries and drug stores and other stores open on Sundays is very useful for them. Yes, husbands help more around the house than they used to, but not nearly in equal amounts. Having Mom out at the mall helps destroy Sunday as a day of rest and worship.

  10. I attend the Saturday vigil regularly, as do many in my parish without children or with grown (adult) children. I never thought of it as something offered for those who have to work on Sunday, but always thought that it was a harkening to the Jewish concept of the Sabbath, i.e., that it begins at sundown. I go on Saturday evening, but I think of myself in regular attendance on Sunday. I don’t think I have lost anything.

  11. Anyone know when the permission for Mass of Sunday on Saturday evenings was finally made universal? It’s not yet universal even in Paul VI’s Eucharistum Mysterium in 1967:

    28. Anticipating the Sunday and Feast Day Masses on the Previous Evening

    Where permission has been granted by the Apostolic See to fulfill the Sunday obligation on the preceding Saturday evening, pastors should explain the meaning of this permission carefully to the faithful and should ensure that the significance of Sunday is not thereby obscured. The purpose of this concession is in fact to enable the Christians of today to celebrate more easily the day of the resurrection of the Lord.

    All concessions and contrary customs notwithstanding, when celebrated on Saturday this Mass may be celebrated only in the evening, at times determined by the local Ordinary.

    In these cases the Mass celebrated is that assigned in the calendar to Sunday, the homily and the prayer of the faithful are not to be omitted.

    What has been said above is equally valid for the Mass on holy days of obligation which for the same reason has been transferred to the preceding evening.

    1. @Samuel J. Howard – comment #12:
      Well, certainly by 1983: Canon 1248.1 universalizes the satisfaction of preceptual obligation.

      Bishops do have the authority to regulate the anticipated evening observance. In the US, there is a universal ruling from the USCCB, IIRC, that “evening” is no earlier than 4pm, but some bishops move that to 5pm (Rockville Centre, e.g.). When Bernard Law came to Boston, among his earliest liturgical regulations was to forbid multiple anticipated Masses except in the case of genuine need (like accommodating different foreign vernaculars, or a parish with a census that had grown much larger than its available space); he was successful with that – his other early initiative, to wean parish finances off reliance on bingo, was much less successful…

  12. Many thanks, Rita, for highlighting this. It does seem to me that this is a particularly Catholic phenomenon. Anglicans and Protestants have no competition for Sunday worship. Sunday IS the Lord’s Day. IT is when the community worship together at the unique Sunday eucharist or service. I have always been puzzled about this. Only the Catholic Church would offer people the option of attending a ‘vigil’ instead of the communal (‘conventual’) mass on Sunday. Reading the above remarks about parking, women who need time to dress and cosmeticise themselves (Protestant women seem to manage this quite well!), or any of the other ‘excuses’ offered above just don’t keep Protestants from going to church on the Lord’s Day. Going to mass through the week on a feria or saint’s day is NOT a substitute for Sunday mass. Furthermore, only Catholics have the notion that attendance at worship is an obligation which they must fulfill, rather than echoing the psalmist who said ‘I was GLAD when they said unto me, we will go into the house of the Lord’. Of course Sunday mass IS an obligation. This is echoed in the BCP and the Anglican Ordinariate’s BDW with the words ‘our bounden duty and service’. But, one can only ask: what kind of a Christian is it who only goes to church to fulfill an ‘obligation’. This is so weirdly ‘pro forma’ amongst Catholics. Hordes of them would never think of going to church but to fulfill their ‘obligation’.

    This profanation is, of course, mirrored in the secular world. One could even posit that it is borrowed from the secular world. My memory recalls a time (hardly 30 years ago) when all the stores were closed on Sunday. Now, Sunday is just another business day. Not only do we copy the secularists by celebrating Christmas before it gets here, we have all but lost the experience of Sunday as the Lord’s Day, sacred to him. Benedict was spot on about relativism. It took Christianity a few centuries to Christianise the Roman empire. Now, caesar is taking it back and secularising Christianity.

    1. @M. Jackson Osborn – comment #14:

      Just FYI: My mother’s six-hours of preparation comprises little of cosmetizing. Her now very severe macular generation, arthritis and other ailments means it just takes her a LONG time to bath, dress, say her daily rosary and prayers, do necessarily isometric exercises, get things together for the wheelchair used for church (as opposed to the one used indoors) and otherwise prepare herself. It’s exhausting to observe, but her ability to do these things – however glacially and often vexing (to herself) – is to her a sign of what vitality she has. It’s far from vanity or self-indulgence. My mother is far from alone in this regard. It’s hard to translate this for people who’ve not lived with it.

      In the US, urban and suburban Catholic parishes, historically, have had too many parishioners to accommodate at only one or two Sunday morning Masses. Many many habits were established during the Baby Boom, when teeming parishes had to get 6 or more Masses in (sometimes 12, using a lower church or school auditorium) before the Tridentine-imposed midday cutoff in order to accommodate the throngs under preceptual obligation – and manage automotive ballet at the same time.

      A genuinely conservative temperament should be able to appreciate how circumstances such as this inflects a culture for the long-term without holding it in utter contempt.

    2. @M. Jackson Osborn – comment #14:

      Going to church on Sunday in America has a lot to do with the “voluntary” nature of religion in America, namely that congregations and denominations, especially Protestant ones that do not have the advantage of numbers, have to raise time and talent to stay in existence since they are not subsidized by the wealthy, the government or endowments.

      Catholicism, of course, had to compete with Protestants in this country. Hence, both the emphasis upon obligation and the Protestant threat to support a wide variety of institutions. And we Catholics certainly outdid the Protestants in church attendance before the 1960’s!. Of course, a lot of that was helped by our immigrant status and threats to ethnicity. In Ireland and Poland where there was another type of ethnic threat, there was also high church attendance since it symbolized ethnicity as well as religion.

      We should be very wary about identifying religiosity with church attendance; that value may be more of a cultural one than a religious one. Why not identify religiosity with daily prayer since about two thirds of Americans pray daily while only a third worship every weekend. If I were in charge of New Evangelization I would put up a big sign in front of the church saying “Do you pray daily? Come worship with us this weekend.” I would also provide people with a wide variety of daily prayer materials to emphasize that their daily prayer is deeply valued even if they do not come every Sunday.

      This big emphasis upon Sunday attendance is contributing to the alienation of the young and Democrats of all ages, who read the repeated polls which correlate churchgoing with voting Republican, and being anti-gay and anti-women. Of course much of that is more stereotype than reality, part of the media hype about liberals and conservatives, but many people are buying into those media stereotypes and deciding they are not the “church going type” even though they continue to pray daily.

      I suspect a large amount of the Rise of the Nones has do to this redefintion of religion as Sunday church attendance. In the sixties many Catholics ceased to attend church in their 20s, but continued to say they were Catholic. Today similar people would likely list their religion as None.

      1. @Jack Rakosky – comment #16:
        And if we go in for Sunday gatherings without Eucharist, isn’t a TV Mass or a cyber-liturgy just as good? In some people’s minds, watching someone else celebrate Eucharist is actually seen as a better way to keep Sunday than to bodily participate in a lay-led Word service in one’s parish church — because it’s Eucharist, after all
        I’m reminded of a cartoon where everyone was sitting in a Catholic church on Sunday watching an Internet Liturgy on the big screen. There was no Catholic liturgy celebrated, just a selection of services from other churches.

        This could be the wave of the future. As parishes close the USCCB sets up a studio for Youtubing the Mass. Holy Communion is mailed to you, or eventually is transmitted by some other means.

      2. @philo phillips – comment #32:
        It just occurred to me, the Congregation for the Faith examining the issue, is Jesus physically present in a hologram?

  13. Not only Sunday but even entire seasons, especially Lent, seem to have lost any practical meaning. In most parishes, I’d guess, Lent is pretty much “business as usual”, except maybe some parishes might not baptize during this season. There is very little in the parish lifestyle to indicate they are intent on preparing to celebrate the Three Days. There is no feeling of being “on retreat”. An abundance of purple drapery and cactus plants do not a Lent make. Sunday a day of rest? How many parish lawns are mowed on Sunday? Pardon the heresy but does every parish actually need a Saturday vigil Mass? We’re not good at honoring sacred time/celebrating holy days, even moving them from a weekday to a Sunday. I have this “thing” about regularly televised Masses; it’s like showing a movie of a sumptuous banquet to a group of starving people.

    1. @John Swencki – comment #18:
      About televised Masses: it’s been touching “participating” with my parents when they have to stay home instead of go to Mass, typically due to inclement weather or temporary illness): I would actually go to 7AM Mass and return home, and then join my parents as they watch Mass on TV at 9AM – they make all the responses, actively. They know they are not at Mass, and do not confuse the two things in any way. But they value the cultivation of communal prayer – in addition to private prayer – even in this very attenuated way.

    2. @John Swencki – comment #18:
      I’m not sure where you live John, but I am inclined to disagree with you about Lent. In my experience, at least in the parishes where I have been, Lent is hardly “business as usual.”

      Sunday as a day of rest? That fight was lost long ago. I do not disagree with the notion that Sunday is meant to be a day of rest, but our culture at large has lost that battle. People, often making very little money, are the ones stuck working that day – but that is the (regrettable) “American way.” I don’t like it.

      As for televised masses, the feedback that is most often received, from those who are completely homebound or hospitalized, is good. And I have the experience of speaking with at least two people who based their own return to church on having caught the televised mass, and something touched them. God uses all things for good in the end. That is a bit pat, but I think that it is true.

  14. When are such debates as the Saturday Vigil going to cease being argued from Ideological maxims peppered, of course, with “how we do it at ‘my’ place’ is the right/wrong (choose one) way, period?”


    I will bespeak two aspects of the Saturday Vigil that auger for its maintenance: 1. In my 43 years at 4 major parishes, they sing their glut’s off; 2. No priest will cancel a well attended Vigil Mass because they aren’t exempt from first and second collections. Just saying.

    1. @Charles Culbreth – comment #24:
      Amen, on both points. Particularly the collection. Our Saturday vigil often out-donates the Sunday Masses (individually, of course, not collectively).

      But I think the main point that I wanted to make before was that the original post was concerned with what happens when we have no Masses or TV Masses. I don’t think it was intended to be a sounding board opposing the vigil liturgy. Nor should it be: The Saturday vigil is approved; most of the time the readings and the prayers are identical to the Sunday Mass; it is not killing the Sunday Mass, it is the Sunday Mass at the earliest possible time, and it is helping to preserve it.

      1. @Charles Day – comment #25:
        Charles Day is correct.

        I have no problem with Saturday evening celebrations of Sunday Mass. In writing this post, I had no intention to denigrate that practice. Frankly, although it’s certainly possible to argue that this practice was the first step on a slippery slope, to discuss the pros and cons of anticipated Masses feels like a safe subject, and pretty tame to me.

        My primary point was bigger: what it means to gather as a community to celebrate our salvation in time, versus accommodating church to consumer culture, which sees objects and experiences as commodities, to be gotten whenever available.

        My secondary point is the one that Jan Larson raised, that the priest shortage has thrust us into a new sphere, holding Sunday Mass hostage. We are drifting into a new normal while hoping that either the problem will go away, or that we’ll get used to whatever happens next and not ever have to face it squarely.

        Claire Matthieu, when she asks “how much” and “how far” are we willing to go for Sunday Eucharist, has illustrated the sort of testing ground we are on in many communities. Tacitly, people are being tested, without any real help or support or alternatives, and as the screw tightens the same old answers — try harder, it’s your own fault if you miss Mass, pray harder for vocations — will not suffice.

        Finally, I would respectfully take a different view of the “get it over with crowd” that Brigid Rausch references in her comment. The existence of partially disaffected participants points to a number of factors that are not all bad. Our lives, after all, are not all bounded by the unsatisfactory present. There’s the past and the future. To participate in rituals because of history or because of future hope, despite present dissatisfaction or a sense of aridity, is a strength. Yet it can be too much tested, and that’s something we need to watch.

  15. Encouraging celebration of the vigil Mass has the advantage of according with the Jewish manner of reckoning dusk as the ending of that day and nightfall as the beginning of the next.

    1. @Gerard Flynn – comment #26:
      So, are you against Sunday evening Masses?

      The Church’s usage of the Vigil is not so much derived directly from Jewish practice but from the pattern of the Paschal Triduum echoed in the ordinary weekly pattern, but without a proper vigil.

      Sunday evening, of course, has the resonance of Emmaus and Jesus’ appearance to his disciples in the Upper Room after his Resurrection.

  16. I though the anticipated Mass permission was given for selected groups — pilgrims, travelers, those who had to work on Sunday. Am I right or did I miss something?
    If anticipated Masses are not permitted before 4 PM, why can Masses on Sunday be celebrated after 4 PM, if we are staying true to the Jewish night-day schema?

    1. @Lee Bacchi – comment #27:
      The permission is not limited to those groups. It also accommodates the reality of single priests serving multiple chapels.

  17. Sidebar on my Emmaus reference: I am not a fan of Baroque furnishings, but this (sadly former) tabernacle from Neuzelle Abbey is da bomb:

    Too often, we tend to reduce the Mass to a re-presentation of (i) Calvary, or (ii) the Last Supper; rather, it is a re-presentation of the entire Paschal Mystery, and a foretaste of the Wedding Banquet of the Lamb. The ikonography offered by Emmaus is too often overlooked.

  18. When I was a little altar boy in the early 1960s, a visiting priest at one weekday morning Mass asked if our parish distributed Communion before Mass began or at the regular time. I had never heard of that and replied with a rather unsophisticated, “Huh??” The priest said that some parishes do that so that working people who have to leave early may still receive Communion. Upon his return, my pastor said, sadly, that some parishes in our area did indeed have such a practice but that it was wrong.
    Thank heaven that practice no longer happens… I hope. But there are, in my opinion, some efforts at accommodation that are borderline neurotic. Does a midafternoon Vigil Mass really make sense? People whose jobs unavoidably cause them to miss Mass do not have any obligation to attend. A 1am Last Supper is odd. It is sad to hear a guilt ridden person confess that they were ill and “even missed the Mass on TV”.
    Our pastoral practice, evangelistic witness and theological understanding need to be in better sync, I think.

  19. “Anticipated Masses” and “Vigil Masses” are misleading terms for the Mass of the Lord’s Day celebrated during the civil Saturday. The better term would be Vesperal or Evening Masses for all Masses celebrated after noon on either civil Saturdy or civil Sunday that celebrate the Lord’s Day.

    Vespers has in recent centuries been celebrated as early as noon; and given our capacity for artificial light there seems no reason not to celebrate it up to midnight. Again given our technology, I see Matins as the main service of the hours celebrated in the AM, while Vespers is the main service of the hours celebrated in the PM. Given the relative suppression of the little hours, I see no reason to somehow peg these major hours to sunrise and sunset, especially given that they have long wondered far from those solar times.

    Given the Western pattern of celebrating both first and second Vespers, I would see the Dies Domini as extending from noon on civil Saturday through to Sunday midnight, i.e. 36 hours. Given the theological nature of the Dies Domini, I see no reason why it has to conform to civil notions of the day.

    This period corresponds closely to the modern notion of Weekend, a time of change from our customary work week patterns. Saturday (the Sabbath) was also the first week day to get a regular Eucharist so it is appropriate that we extend our notion of Dies Domini over part of Saturday.

    Pastorally I would see priests celebrating three or four Masses over that 36 hour period. People would be encouraged to get married at one of the Dies Domini Masses just as we now encourage people to be baptized at these Masses.

    Giving its likely origin at an evening meal, I see no difficulty at celebrating the Lord’s Day Mass in the evening, or celebrating it in the morning (the time of the resurrection) or in the afternoon (at the time of the crucifixion).

  20. While my Comment 38 suggests a pastorally feasible model for the present, my longer term preference would be to adopt a more Eastern pattern, namely that First Vespers, Matins, the Eucharist and in our case Second Vespers would all be seen as part of the community Lord’s Day celebration, and that the “obligation” is to contribute to community worship by coming to at least one of them.

    While I don’t think we will be able for at least decades to get down to only one Eucharist per Lord’s Day per congregation, I would try to reduce that to first three, and then perhaps two per congregation, with perhaps neighbor parish staggering the times to accommodate people who think the Mass is necessary to observe the Lord’s Day.

    Probably the most controversial part of this long term plan would be that although I would combine Vespers and Matins with the Lord’s Day Service of the Word (making it a 45 to 60 minute service) I would not combine it with communion!!!

    As I understand it ,the Byzantine tradition sees Vespers Combined with Communion (The Liturgy of the Presanctified) to be a penitential service, i.e. we receive communion as food for the journey rather than as eschatological banquet. Therefore communion services are incompatible with the Dies Domini or major feasts which image the banquet.

    I think sanctifying the whole Lord’s Day, actually superabundantly, would get us away from limiting our Lord’s Day observance to just an hour, or just a particular type of liturgical service. On the Dies Domini the parish enacts more closely what our whole lives should be, a sacrifice of praise and not just for a hour.

    The Liturgy of the Hours combined with the Service of the Word would allow us to make far better use of our deacons and lay ministers, and burden less our priests. We might find it is very adaptable to many pastoral needs rather than trying to put everything in the Mass

    Finally, I think traditionalist have a point when they say we have become too casual about communion. I don’t think we should encourage people to come to the Eucharist and abstain from communion, however we might encourage them as a spiritual practice (known mainly to themselves) to take part in one of the other services of the Lord’s Day.

    1. @Jack Rakosky – comment #39:
      Jack–I think that you have it a bit backwards. In Churches using the Byzantine rite, the Divine Liturgy is too joyful to be celebrated during the weekdays of the Fast, not that the Presanctified is penitential. But, so that the faithful have the nourishment and sustinence to get through the Fast, the Church combined Communion with the species sanctified on the previous Sunday, with the celebration of Vespers, “presanctified.” Therefore, they are able to maintain the rigor of the spiritual battle of the Fast by the nourishment of the Lord’s own Body and Blood.
      You are right however, that the Sunday Vigil (Vespers and Matins combined) is not the Liturgy, but the prelude to it, and every bit as necessary as the Liturgy itself. Presenting oneself for Holy Communion at the Liturgy without having celebrated the Vigil is unheard of. But the Roman “vigil” Mass is not the Vigil of the Eastern Churches, and one would be hard pressed to try to revive (Roman rite) first Vespers now that the “vigil” Mass has held sway for 40 plus years.

  21. Karl Liam Saur : @Lee Bacchi – comment #27: The permission is not limited to those groups. It also accommodates the reality of single priests serving multiple chapels.

    Karl: My fault — I should have written “I thought that the permission for anticipated Masses was originally given with pilgrims, those who had to work on Sundays . . . ‘ etc. I was referring to the historical reasoning. I know that now there are other reasons (such as the one you mentioned), but I was interested in the historical origins of the permission given for the anticipated Mass in our day and age.

    The situation of older folks finding it easier to attend a Saturday anticipated/vigil/vesperal Mass rather than on Sunday AM is one I had not thought of.

  22. There is of course the practice of “Masspers” that you find in more than a few monasteries. GILH gives detailed instructions for this (Chapter 2, section VII, ## 93-99).

    Most places begin with the opening of the office, followed by the office hymn and psalms. Then comes the Gloria (only if the day demands it) and the Liturgy of the Word (often minus responsorial psalm, since there have already been several, but with plenty of silence for reflection instead). The office intercessions may be used instead of the prayer of the faithful, and the NT canticle (Magnificat) is used as the song of thanksgiving after Communion.

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