Christmas this year is unique, and not for any reason you might expect – it falls on a Monday. What’s the significance of having Christmas on a Monday you might ask? It means that this year, both the fourth Sunday of Advent (24th) and Christmas (25th) are two distinct days of obligation. This poses an interesting conundrum for those who will attend a vigil Mass on Christmas Eve – can an evening Mass on the 24th fulfill the Sunday Mass Obligation and the Christmas Day Mass Obligation?

“A person who assists at a Mass celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the feast day itself or in the evening of the preceding day satisfies the obligation of participating in the Mass.” – Code of Canon Law 1248§1

According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the answer is no. In a newsletter published in February, anticipating the “relatively rare” situation, the USCCB noted a “two-for-one” Mass cannot occur. In the newsletter, they make it clear that it is a requirement to attend Mass twice.

“The prevailing view of many canon lawyers is that each obligation must be fulfilled with a separate Mass. When consecutive obligations occur on Saturday-Sunday or Sunday-Monday, the faithful must attend Mass twice to fulfill two separate obligations.”

This means that the Sunday obligation for Dec. 24 can be fulfilled on Sunday, or anytime after 4 p.m. on Dec. 23. The Christmas Mass obligation can be fulfilled on Monday, or anytime after 4 p.m. on Dec. 24.

Here are the four combinations that fulfill both Holy Days of Obligation:

• Saturday evening, Sunday evening
• Saturday evening, Monday morning
• Sunday daytime, Sunday evening
• Sunday daytime, Monday daytime

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    • No, neither one. Sunday evening if the liturgy for Christmas and fulfills only that obligation, *not* that for the Fourth Sunday of Advent.

  1. It is not about if we HAVE to go to Mass but that we GET to go to Mass and celebrate in two distinct ways. I am mourning the sudden loss of two dear family members this season, and I am grateful to have the Mass to help me mourn & celebrate.

  2. What about the following weekend, with Sunday December 31 being the Feast of the Holy Family and January 1 being a Holy Day of Obligation (Solemnity of Mary)? Does a similar two-mass obligation apply?

  3. Here’s an easy way to know if a certain Mass fulfills a certain requirement…take a look at the Readings for that Mass. You can go to Mass twice on Sunday if you want, but if the Readings for each Mass are the same, then that only fulfills one obligation. Each obligation will have its own distinct Mass Readings.

  4. Who are WE as mortal human beings to have the audacity to inflict on each other man made rules? If someone is in a remote area that does not have a RC church are they going to hell because they do not attend mass? Are the semi-annual Catholics that attend on Christmas and Easter all going to hell? If you go to mass and sit there hating every second of it do you “get credit” for being there? Who is keeping score? Does it all boil down to the fact that that means an extra collection? When I grew up there were no monetary collections during holy days. Now they have become a fund raiser! I have been a faithful and practicing catholic for 51 years. I attend a parish that has a pastor and music directer that thinks we are pre-vatican II. We really need to reflect on what God wants us to do. He wants us to love Him and come to Him because we want to NOT because some other human tells us we have too!!

    • Yes, hell. According to the Catholic Catechism one commits mortal sin if he misses Sunday Mass and one can go to hell if he has even one unrepentant mortal sin on his soul, that’s Church teaching. Now for those who live in a remote area with no Catholic Church nearby, the Catechism says that he is to devote one hour of prayer at home, let’s say the rosary prayer and reading the Mass readings for that Sunday.

    • Clancy The Classic:

      For sure you’ll go to Hell if you die in the state of Mortal Sin. To commit a Mortal Sin requires three elements: 1. A grave matter; 2. Sufficient reflection; and 3. Full consent of the will. About those “grave matters” and “what God wants us to do”, start with the First of the Ten Commandments and your own brilliant mind just might figure it all out without “other men” coming to assist your “understanding”. It just seems to me that that certain “Church Rules” (Precepts of the Catholic Church) which have been created to facilitate the salvation of men, although, perhaps, crafted by “other men”, might just exist for your eternal benefit. Good luck figuring it all out! God Bless You and all others who have become “confused” about whether The Truth has changed since Vatican II.

    • Much of what you said was addressed by Rose. However, you made a deeper, somewhat overlooked point in the questions, one which I perceive you intended to make: that God calls us to Love. However, we believe that through the Magisterium, who teaches these obligations, God has made known ways He desires us to demonstrate our Love. If I’m sitting at Mass full of hatred, I don’t get credit. On the other hand, if I fully participate in Mass with all my heart and soul, neither then do I “get credit”. I say this not to deny the principle teaching of the justice of God and merits, but to make the point that we’re not there to jump through hoops to “get credit”. We’re in the school of Love and part of love is surrendering what we want for the sake of the beloved. We moderns don’t want to hear that. We want to believe that God never wants us to suffer anything at any time, no sacrifice, no pain, nothing. We try to create a sugar-daddy God who makes no demands on us, wants nothing from us but is glad for anything we might want to give – on our own terms. What does God want? God wants us to encounter His love, His grace, to know His healing and His mercy and His justice. And he wants us to come and receive His gift of HImself through the Most Holy Eucharist. If I’m sitting at Mass hating it, I’ve missed the point entirely, and whether that’s completely my fault or not, I, at some point, have to put on my big boy pants and take responsibility to figure out whether I want to remedy that sad relationship and whether I am willing to do my part to take responsibility for my role in that relationship. The whole “obligation” rhetoric is not adult thinking. The adult has moved beyond “have to” to “desire to” or, if he is not yet there, he’s striving for it. She is too. The adult stops asking “what’s the least I have to do for this God who made me, saved me, loves me and calls me to HImself to get into heaven,” and asks, with the Psalmist, “How can I repay the Lord for the kindness He has shown? The Blessing Cup I will take and raise and call upon the name of the Lord.”


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