December 24, 2008

What Time is Midnight Mass?

This is everyone's favorite call to the parish office this time of year. Of course it's a legitimate question. Like a lot of places, the kairos of our "liturgical midnight" is not at chronological midnight. I've even been to the Christmas "Mass at Midnight" as early as 7 pm, which is really going too far; I think this aberration is mostly the fault of priests who are chicken to proclaim and preach on Matthew's genealogy.

Some people in the parish complain about having the Midnight Mass at 10pm. I tell them I would happily push for the restoration of the Mass at Midnight at midnight if we can also push for having the Easter Vigil at the correct time, i.e. so that it ends around first light or so. Afraid that I'm serious--and maybe I am--they back down. Despite my latent traditionalism, I'm all for having the Mass at Midnight at 10pm. The children are less sleepy and the adults are less drunk.

A lot of people complain that 10pm is too early for Midnight Mass because they can't finish their Christmas Eve dinner by then. This complaint really cracks me up, because the custom of the Mass at Midnight dates from a time when December 24 was a day of fast and abstinence, and having Mass at midnight dispenses with the old rule of having to fast from midnight before receiving Holy Communion. Ben and other readers better versed in this stuff, fill in my gaps on this one!

This year I'm grateful to be presiding at the Mass at Midnight again. (I think this is partly because my pastor is afraid that I will preach on Matthew's genealogy, which I might if I had the Vigil). I'm thinking of breaking some new ground tonight, and trying to sing the Gospel. I haven't decided yet. I'm going to wait and see how well I do with the proclamation at the Vigil:

Today, the twenty–fifth day of December,
unknown ages from the time when God created the heavens and the earth
and then formed man and woman in his own image.
Several thousand years after the flood,
when God made the rainbow shine forth
as a sign of the covenant.
Twenty–one centuries from the time of Abraham and Sarah;
thirteen centuries after Moses led the people of Israel
out of Egypt.
Eleven hundred years from the time of Ruth and the Judges;
one thousand years from the anointing of David as king;
in the sixty–fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel.
In the one hundred and ninety–fourth Olympiad;
the seven hundred and fifty–second year from the foundation
of the city of Rome.
The forty–second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus;
the whole world being at peace,
Jesus Christ, eternal God and Son of the eternal Father,
desiring to sanctify the world by his most merciful coming,
being conceived by the Holy Spirit,
and nine months having passed since his conception,
was born in Bethlehem of Judea of the Virgin Mary.
Today is the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.


Fr. Emilio Rdz. Sosa said...

I Dont' have a email to write you, so I write in your blog.

Happy christmas and, whay not, a happy new year.

That this baby that born tonight guide you to the better possible futere

Barb, sfo said...

I've never been to a midnight Mass (at 10 PM or otherwise!)

But we heard the midnight Mass readings today at 11 AM (OOPS! Lector snafu!)

May Christmas bring you many blessings! Peace and all good.

ben in denver said...

I don't get to midnight mass very often either, and I have not been to midnight mass in the EF. We went to low mass at (:00 am yesterday, because that is when the boys were scheduled to serve. Please pray for them Father, it was just their 2nd time serving the EF, and my older boy is still having difficulty remembering everytime he has to ring the bells, and once he makes his first mistake, he gets discouraged, and continues to make more.

As a family, even though we attend the EF, we follow current canon law on fasting and abstenence. We continue to keep meatless Fridays throughout the year, but we don't impose the older communion fast on the kids. Nor do I impose it on myself, for that matter. I will always have coffee before going to mass, which would have broken the older rule. I do try not to eat anything until after communion on Sundays and holy days though.

The pastor of our parish advises, but does not impose, that people observe the communion fast as it was reformed by Pius XII, where it was shortened to 3 hours.

One of the elements about the liturgical reform I like best is the restoration of vigils (which just wouldn't work with the pre-Pius XII fasting rules) and the restoration of the start of the day to dusk the night before. There really are treasusres in both forms of the roman rite.

I beleive you are correct that midnight mass developed from rules of fasting.

Since the old laws was to fast from midnight prior to communion, midnight mass would effectively dispense on from this obligation. I beleive the Crhsitmas Eve stopped being a day of required fast and abstinence a long, long time ago, but a nice residual of the required abstenence are all of the wonderful Christmas Eve Seafood dishes from Spain and Italy.

Merry Christmas! Happy Feast of St. Stephen!

Brother Charles said...

A blessed Christmas to you, Emilio, Barb, and Ben.

Ben, every time I go to a Mass in the EF, I pray for the servers, for the relaxation of their minds and the confidence of their hearts. It's not an easy ministry, and errors are harder to smooth over than in the ordinary form. I will make the same prayer for your servers too.