December 6, 2010

What Time is Midnight Mass?

This is the time of year when rectory phones begin to ring with the great question titled above. Even though it might sound funny, it's a darn good question, as evidenced by this Mass schedule from one of the places I celebrate these days:



After all, the rubric only says, "at night," so at the end of December in the northern hemisphere, 7:00 pm certainly qualifies.

At the parish where I was most recently assigned, the pastor moved the Christmas Mass in nocte to 10 pm, taking his lead from no less a brother pastor than His Holiness Benedict XVI.

Some of the parishioners were horrified. Knowing that I can sometimes have traditionalist leanings, they tried to make an ally out of me in their campaign to restore the Mass in nocte at midnight. I tried to make a deal with them: I would support their efforts, if they would support me in agitating for the Easter Vigil to be celebrated also at the most traditional time, i.e. such that it would end right before dawn on Easter Sunday. They did not accept my offer.

7 comments:

Jeanne said...

It's absolutely a valid question and I'm sure the source of much confusion in many parishes! Our new pastor moved it BACK to midnight and now many of us in the rural hinterlands (who have to drive back roads in the pitch black to get to church) are bummed out....earlier times meant safer driving for us....but really, it seems as if any time is a good time for midnight mass as long as it's evening!

Cole Matson said...

The first Christmas after my family moved to a new state, my mom was asked if she would play the piano for the (Presbyterian) church's midnight Christmas Eve service. She agreed, and showed up at 10 minutes to midnight, only to find the closing prayers being said and the postlude being played by a lone fiddle. After inquiring, she learned that the "midnight service" ENDED at midnight, instead of beginning at midnight, so she was an hour late. They had assumed she had forgotten, so a member of the congregation pulled his fiddle out of his car to provide the music. Thankfully, she and the fiddle player became fast friends, and they still joke about it 17 years on.:-)

My Feminine Mind said...

Haha! Great response!

Anonymous said...

I would be more than happy to join you at the break of dawn on Easter Sunday. I can't think of a more beautiful way to transition from the darkness of sin to the resurrected light of Christ, candle in hand.

Anonymous said...

I don't think your response was so great. It trivializes the issue.

I understand the change from the pastor's perspective. But, I also can see that signs and customs are important to people and should not be arbitrarily changed. (We are reaping the fruit of 40+ years of liturgical arbitrariness, and sadly, it is a bad crop.) Changes in things that are meaningful to people -even if warranted or sanctioned - can harm faith.

Now I understand the pastor of a parish has the authority to change the time, but he should get a consensus and clearly explain why - especially to those who may not understand. Moreover, presumption should go to the longstanding custom of the place (which is why your comeback was not helpful; probably no parish has or had a custom of celebrating the Easter Vigil that way. It also reminded me of friends who asked for Mass in Latin and had the priest chime back with arrogance that he would then also preach in Latin. I know you are certainly not like that, so I write this with all respect.).

Brother Charles said...

Dear Anonymous: Thanks for the comment. To give an account of myself in a fuller way, I have to say that for all of my occasional traditionalist tendencies, I support the Mass in nocte earlier than midnight mostly because children are less cranky and adults are less drunk.

verbumveritatis said...

Hopefully the Mass will be at midnight when I go home