Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 9, 2000
A Christmas-Sunday clash
Some Christmas Eve Masses rescheduled to prevent confusion with Sunday celebration
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Christmas Eve Masses will begin later than normal in some parishes this year to prevent clashing with the fourth Sunday of Advent which also falls on Dec. 24.
Christmas falls on a Monday, which means that Christmas Eve is on a Sunday.
And because the vigil Mass for a major feast cannot take precedence over a regular Sunday Mass, that means Christmas Masses cannot start before 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
In some parishes, Christmas Eve Masses have begun as early as 4 p.m. in order to accommodate the large crowds who attend.
Archdiocesan guidelines for scheduling Christmas Masses when Christmas falls on a Monday recommend suspending all Sunday evening Masses and holding Christmas Eve Masses late in the evening of Sunday, Dec. 24.
The guidelines were approved by the Council of Priests for the Archdiocese of Edmonton in 1995, when Christmas also fell on a Monday.
The recommendations follow guidelines from the National Liturgical Office, which says the celebrations of Christmas and Sunday are distinct and should be kept distinct.
"On Sunday, December 24, 2000, anticipated Sunday (Saturday evening) and Sunday morning Masses are to be celebrated according to the regular schedule," recommend the archdiocesan guidelines. "No Sunday evening Mass is celebrated."
To keep Sunday distinct from Christmas, the guidelines recommend that on Monday, Dec. 25, 2000, no anticipated Midnight Mass be celebrated before 7 p.m. (on Sunday evening) and that the number of vigil Masses not exceed the number of Masses on Christmas Day.
"What we are saying in our diocese is that because Christmas falls on a Monday that you shouldn't celebrate a vigil Mass before 7 p.m. (on Sunday evening) and that's a Christmas Mass, it's not a Sunday Mass," said Margaret O'Connell of the Archdiocesan Liturgy Commission.
"Sunday Masses will be celebrated at the regular time and there will be no Sunday evening Mass because that will be confused with Christmas."
"What the guidelines are recommending is that if your parish normally had a 5 o'clock Sunday Mass then that Mass should be eliminated because it would be perceived for Christmas Eve," explained Father Greg Bittman, the archdiocese's chancellor.
"Christmas Eve Masses should be distinct from the Masses for the Sunday. If they are too early on the Sunday, it confuses the Sunday and Christmas.
"So if you are going to have an anticipated Mass for Christmas Eve, it should not be before 7 p.m. in the evening on Sunday."
Bittman said the Church tries to keep Sunday and Christmas distinct "so you don't lose the significance of both of them. They are two separate feast days with appropriate readings for each."
Even though they are celebrated on Sunday, Christmas Eve Masses will not have the readings of the fourth Sunday of Advent but Christmas readings because they are being celebrated for Christmas, Bittman said.
"The fourth Sunday of Advent should finish whenever you finish your normal Sunday Masses."
Christmas decorations really shouldn't go up until all Sunday liturgies for the fourth Sunday of Advent are over, he said.
"It's still Advent on Sunday morning. I know my parishes will be decorating the church after the last Sunday Mass so the church will be ready for Christmas."
Does attending a Christmas Eve Mass on Sunday evening fulfill one's obligation to attend Mass on Christmas?
"Yes, it does," Bittman said, noting it is similar than when people attend an anticipated Sunday Mass on Saturday evening.
"But going to Mass on Sunday (Dec. 24) at 9 o'clock in the morning or at noon (won't do it) because that Mass is just for that Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Advent."