Most Christian traditions celebrate Eucharist in the morning hours. In the Roman Catholic Church Eucharistic celebrations in the afternoon, in the evening, or at night were not permitted until the 20th century. Many Eastern Churches demand that the Eucharist be finished before 12 p.m. Something else might be permitted by the bishop – e.g. when an Orthodox community has no other option than using a Catholic church at a given time in the evening –, but this feels somehow irregular, and some texts of the liturgy make little sense when spoken at the end of the day.
Since Roman Catholics have received permission to celebrate Eucharist at other times of the day, this practice has become more and more common – at least on business days, but also on Sundays.
I remember a Benedictine monk – by the way: he is a professor in Rome now – saying: “Jesus instituted a supper, not a breakfast!” He grinned when he said this. Of course this was not meant to be a serious argument. It was rather an ironic expression of his own experience. He was one of the many people who simply cannot sing well in the morning and who can hardly concentrate on anything within the first hours after awakening. So he prefers to do complex things like celebrating Eucharist later in the day.
Like him, I am more of on urban guy: I prefer to go to bed late and sleep long in the morning, and I reserve my evenings for the more interesting things. On the other hand, my inner theologian prefers the morning hours for the Eucharist. Here is why.
The Eucharist is not an imitation of the Last Supper. At what time Jesus celebrated with the Twelve is simply irrelevant. The Eucharist is a celebration of the entire paschal mystery, and the most important aspect of that is the resurrection. Christian liturgy has always seen a connection between sunrise and resurrection: the natural rhythm of creation around us is an integral element of liturgical symbolism. Sunrise is a divine revelation, and its symbolic meaning (the victory of light over darkness) differs from the sunset’s meaning (everything is mortal, everything needs help in the darkness).
The juridical approach of prescription, permission, and prohibition is not entirely adequate, although it has a kernel of truth. I do not see any theological reason why celebrating Eucharist should be prohibited at certain times of the day. But if resurrection is the deepest focus of the Eucharist, the morning time befits its meaning much better. The morning draws a connection between the liturgical symbolism and the nature around us – both of which are of divine origin and belong together.
Maybe the Eastern approach that I mentioned above is the most suitable: for good reason, you may celebrate Eucharist at any time of the day. But the hours of the rising sun (from daybreak to the highest point of the sun’s cycle) are the best choice.