December 13, 2009

Vindicated at 10 p.m.

"What time is Midnight Mass?"

It's one of the standard questions--and not really a joke--one gets this time of year.

The year before my arrival here in the parish where I work, the traditional Midnight Mass at midnight was moved to 10 p.m. It was observed that attendance was not injured, so we've kept it that way.

For all of my taste for doing things in the classical or traditional way, I am entirely committed to the Mass at Midnight at 10 p.m. Children are less cranky, adults are less drunk, and fewer of both go to sleep. The 10 p.m. time is also a help to clerical traditions surrounding Christmas Eve television: One can watch the Midnight Mass from St. Peter's Basilica a little earlier in the day, and still catch the Midnight Mass from St. Patrick's Cathedral here in New York after locking up the church.

Sometimes people complain about the Mass at Midnight at 10 p.m. For this argument I have two strategies. For the casual complainer, I explain that the Mass is designed to end at midnight, and is thus a Midnight Mass in another form. For the more advanced or sophisticated, I explain that I would happily invite a trade: I will lobby for the Midnight Mass at midnight, if we can also have the Easter Vigil in the most proper spirit of veritas horarum and schedule it so that it ends right around first light on Easter morning. At this unimaginable suggestion, folks usually realize it is hardly worth the trouble of arguing with me.

Anyway, all this just to say that I feel vindicated by the Holy Father himself, as I read that Benedict XVI has decided that the Midnight Mass at St. Peter's Basilica will be at 10 p.m. This will make the television schedule even better on Christmas Eve, because it means that the Papal Mass can be viewed before the traditional priestly meal of Chinese take-out. (This is a way of being in touch with our Jewish roots as we celebrate the Lord's Nativity.)

We're on the same page, this Pope and I.

Update: My canonical counsel, having consulted his rubrical counsel, delivers this critical reminder: Though the (lame duck) American Sacramentary calls the Mass formulary in question, "Mass at Midnight," the actual rubric is "Ad Missam in nocte." Just night, not midnight.


Elizabeth Mahlou said...

Our midnight mass is sometimes at midnight and sometimes at 11:00 p.m., so we do have to ask what sounds like a silly question! We have had a series of priests in recent years, and they have each had their preference. Our current priest has promised to stay at least 35 years, so maybe the future will not hold such a question for the midnight mass will be at 11, and we will all know that. As for me, as long as we have a priest and a mass, I am happy. All is well with my world, and timing does not matter.

Tina aka Snupnjake said...

With there being less priests available, although I roll my eyes at Midnight Mass not being at midnight, it is understandable. That same priest will have to get up and prepare for the 7:30 or 8 am Mass. And, if that priest is in charge of 2 or more parishes, there could be some serious travel involved...

Qualis Rex said...

This is why my heart sincerely goes out to our clergy; I cringe at the amount of sleep deprivation they must endure. There have been few midnight masses at midnight I have ever gone to (I can count them on two hands). Usually they were either in Eastern Rite churches or in the middle East. I think in our modern industrialized age, it's not such a good idea to make the populace at large get even less sleep than we already get. If you devote your life to asceticism, of course you keep your own schedule. If you live in a country with a slower pace of living, you can accomodate late night liturgies and early matins. But in the US, where the majority of the working population is diagnosed sleep deprived as is (yours truly included) I welcome 10pm masses.

Thanks, Father Charles.

Jeanne said...

We're with you on this one. St. Theresa's has midnight Mass at 10 am. It's the favorite question that draws a raised eyebrow from non Catholics, "What time is midnight mass?" People think it's a trick like "Who's buried in Grant's Tomb?"

Warren said...

I should rather like to attend the Circa AD 100 Era version of the Easter Vigil.

And I rather do like the option to go to a midnight mass at midnight, sans ankle-biters, or an even earlier one, like 7 PM, if I have a cadre of ankle-biting sandwich-munchkins in tow.

Those of us who attend at midnight enjoy the sound of 12 fewer whining and crying voices (and those were just the adults, mind you) at the later mass.

Our parish has 10PM "demi-midnight" AND a "veritable" midnight mass.


Anonymous said...

I think that 10PM Mass works just fine. To me, the hour is somewhat irrelevant as we are still waiting, in the darkness of night, the birth of our Savior. Plus. my own observation is that Midnight Mass tended to attract too many people who were at festivities earlier that evening and were either sleepy or buzzed. Most were non-parishoners (or at least non-regulars) as well, as evidenced by the proliferation of dollar bills you would see in the basket. I also think it is beneficial to be leaving Mass at midnight, rather than 2AM. For the clergy, this must be especially welcome given that they need to be up again a few hours later to celebrate the Christmas Day Masses.

Kevin F said...

My biggest concern about having the Christmas vigil at ten is that I must then begin my pre-eucharist fast (which I understand should be three hours in the best of worlds) at 7PM. This seriously cuts into my cookie eating time.

On the plus side though I can eat brownies while watching the pope so not all is lost.

Br. Tom Forde OFMCap said...

Here in Ireland our Capuchin tradition is for spiced beef after the Vigil Mass and again for breakfast. Just gorgeous with brown bread or white along with pickles etc... Can't wait.