The top of the Christmas tree in St. Peter's Square is seen in front of the top of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Dec. 9, 2023. CNS photo/Lola Gomez

Two holy days, two Masses

By  Nicholas Elbers, Canadian Catholic News
  • December 21, 2023

Christmas obligations may appear to be a bit more confusing than usual this year, especially with a shortened Advent (the fourth week of Advent is only one day long) and Christmas Eve falling on a Sunday. 

As a result, many Catholics are wondering what it means for attending Sunday Mass on Dec. 24 and Christmas Mass the following day, a Monday.

Fortunately, there’s some clear guidance for the holiday Mass schedule: no combining obligations. 

“One Mass cannot fulfil both Sunday and Christmas,” said Vancouver’s Director of Liturgy Fr. Tien Tran. 

Local pastors have been given some scheduling guidelines that should lessen the confusion. 

All Masses offered after 4 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 24, are considered Christmas Eve Masses and fulfill parishioners’ Christmas obligation. Full stop. 

For New Year’s, however, it gets a bit tricky, and any Mass held after 4 p.m. can fulfill either attendance at Sunday Mass or the obligation for Jan. 1, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. 

If there is any confusion, parishioners should remember the simple rule that one Mass cannot fulfill two obligations to attend Mass on two separate days.

The exception is when Christmas falls on a Sunday, as it did last year, and attending Mass fulfills both obligations.

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