December 22, 2011

Christmas Mass Dubia

The ordinary rule of the Church is that one priest should only offer one Mass each day. They may be given faculties for offer Mass twice on weekdays and thrice on Sundays, should there be a pastoral need in a certain place. In fact, such faculties are pretty much the norm nowadays.

There are two days a year when priests have the right to offer three Masses as a given: All Souls Day and Christmas. On All Souls, a stipend may be taken only for the first Mass, and it is also the only one for which the priest may decide upon or accept an intention. The second Mass is to be offered for all the faithful departed, and the third for the intentions of the pope. On Christmas, as far as I know, there is no such restriction on intentions, and stipends may be accepted for all of the Masses. Another difference is that the three Masses of All Souls, should a priest decide to celebrate all of them, could be offered in succession. The three Masses of Christmas must be offered at the times of day to which they are assigned.

The Christmas situation raises some questions for me, however.

1. From the missal it seems that the 'three Masses' begin after the vigil Mass, and therefore would be the Mass at night, the Mass at dawn, and the Mass during the day. These three are the 'traditional' Masses of Christmas, i.e. midnight, dawn, and day. So my first question is that it would seem a priest could celebrate the vigil Mass, and then still be able to celebrate the three Masses of Christmas Day proper. That would be four Masses over the whole of the liturgical day. Is that still o.k.? Would it be an abuse of the tradition?

2. Traditionally, the Mass during the night was the Mass at Midnight. Now, at least in the Ordinary Form, it is only the Mass in nocte, and can be celebrated during the night prior to midnight. So, would it be o.k. to celebrate the Mass in nocte as one of the 'three traditional Masses' even if this were before midnight? In other words, if someone were taking up the traditional practice of the 'three Masses, ' ought he also to follow the traditional rubric for the time?

3. For pastoral purposes, the different readings for the Masses of Christmas may be switched around. For example, if you attend Christmas Mass at 4 or 5 pm on Christmas eve, you probably won't hear the gospel for the vigil Mass, but the gospel for the night Mass. The angels and the shepherds from St. Luke, which everyone knows if only from A Charlie Brown Christmas, just says Christmas in a much more accessible way that St. Matthew's genealogy. So let's say you were going to celebrate the vigil Mass in a parish complete the readings for the night Mass. If you were going to offer the night Mass later on privately, should you use the night readings again, back-fill the liturgy with the vigil readings, or go ahead to the readings for dawn?


carl said...

Do people dislike the genealogy? I find it kind of just speaks so richly of the Incarnation. yeah it happened all at once at the Annunciation, but Christ became .fully. human, so he has this long rich family tree, that just like each of ours, has all these kinks in it...the wife of Uriah the Hittite. His humility is shown not only in coming as a baby, but coming into a family with all that messy history of sin. And then all the generations after the exile wouldn't have been publicly known to Jews and the earliest Christians, so that last section is pretty exciting. I think you could come up with a very pastoral homily with that gospel. imho.

Brother Charles said...

I've got nothing against the genealogy. I've even sung it and preached on it on Christmas eve. But now that I'm a 'help out' priest, I conform to local custom as much as I am able.

Judy Kallmeyer said...

Oh my! I am glad that I am not a priest. I am totally confused. I will leave you clerical minds to figure it all out.

I wish you a very holy and happy Christmas!

carl said...

You're a very good example of the pastoral mean between doing whatever one wants and being 'rigidly orthodox', Father. I'm thankful to be so often in dialogue with you.

Brother Charles said...

'Pastoral' has to be one of the most abused terms in pastoral care, and so many people are failed with 'being pastoral' as the excuse.

Lee Gilbert said...

"'Pastoral' has to be one of the most abused terms in pastoral care, and so many people are failed with 'being pastoral' as the excuse."

Some years ago our parish had a series of discernment meetings on what sort of a bishop we wanted our new bishop to be, since the see was vacant. This was all under some offical aegis. After three or four such meetings, much prayer,cogitation and endless discussion, we decided that we would like a pastoral bishop. It would have made a cat laugh.