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