Thursday, April 05, 2012

Anticipated Masses or Vigils

I was interested by the following little article on Chant Cafe.
It is a very bad habit of all Catholics to refer to the Saturday evening Mass as the "vigil" Mass even though most of the time it is nothing of the kind. It is the Sunday Mass said on Saturday. This makes it an "anticipated" Mass.

I was glad to see that the new issue of Today's Liturgy (OCP) actually pointed this out with absolutely clarity. It stated without any vagueness that the practice of calling every Saturday evening Mass a vigil is completely wrong.

There are Vigil Masses such as the Easter Vigil or the Vigil of St. John Baptist. The vigil Mass is a specific thing and it is different from the Sunday Mass.

I'm as guilty of this mistake as anyone. I'm going to try to fix this but more consistently calling the even time slot for Mass the "anticipated" Mass.

Join me in this effort?
I am in favour of offering Mass at times people will come, in the 1970s when the "Anticipated Mass" was introduced it was for those unable to attend Mass on the Lord's Day itself, there was mention of doctors and nurses and people who had to work. Now most seem to have people who no longer work but want Sundays free of Mass for some other purpose.
For the most part the Saturday Mass is not the one which is attended by young people or by those who are actually forced to work.
If Saturday Mass is a true "Vigil" the same rubrics should presumably apply, as apply to the Easter Vigil, namely that it should start after sunset, on what would be considered according to Jewish chronology the First Day of the week, a day being from sunset to sunset.


Anonymous said...

Should it not be properly called "First Mass of Sunday" ?

Good Scriptural authority for it might be "Of the evening and the morning was the first day made".

Best wishes for Easter

johnf said...

'First Mass of Sunday' sounds right to me

Anonymous said...

I meant should be, not " should it not be"

Fr Seán Coyle said...

Thanks for this clarification. On two occasions I found myself doing mission appeals in two different English dioceses on Pentecost weekend. In both, the parish priest insisted on the Sunday Mass being used on Saturday evening instead of the Vigil Mass, which Pentecost has. One parish priest said the obligation was attached to the Sunday. He seemed to think that the Vigil Mass of Pentecost didn't fulfil the Sunday obligation. When you're a visitor you just meekly say 'Yes, Father'. And there was no danger to souls.

But I remember being very annoyed in Manila some years ago when I saw a banner across a street advertising the Easter Vigil as an 'anticipated Mass'. The priest whose name was on the banner was a religious, to some degree a minor 'celebrity', associated with a charismatic group.

A Happy Easter!

Anonymous said...

Here is a helpful post by FrDavid96 at (

First, the Saturday evening Mass is not an "anticipated" Mass. It is the festive Mass of Sunday. The liturgical day of Sunday has already begun, so we are not "anticipating" anything. This language is a hold-over from the old 1917 code of canon law (when such Masses were "anticipating" Sunday).

From the "General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar"
#3 "The liturgical day runs from midnight to midnight, but the observance of Sunday and solemnities begins with the evening of the preceding day."

Since Sunday has begun, Saturday is over--it's a thing of the past. Whatever liturgical day Saturday "was" no longer matters.

Once evening has begun (4 PM) Sunday has begun, and therefore the Sunday Mass text is the "Mass of the day."

Here's Pope Benedict
...recognizing that Saturday evening, beginning with First Vespers, is already a part of Sunday and a time when the Sunday obligation can be fulfilled...

And here's Pope John Paul II
From a liturgical point of view, in fact, holy days begin with First Vespers. Consequently, the liturgy of what is sometimes called the "Vigil Mass" is in effect the "festive" Mass of Sunday, at which the celebrant is required to preach the homily and recite the Prayer of the Faithful.

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