The Tradition of Midnight Mass

 
The History of Midnight Mass

Catholic LifeThroughout the years, Midnight Mass has been a popular Christmas Mass choice for many Catholics. But how did the tradition of this Mass begin?

In the early history of the Church, vigils were held before every feast for the purpose of preparing for the feast itself. Mass would be held in the evening, followed by a period of prayer and contemplation. Solemn services were then held the next morning. As more feasts arose, the number of vigils kept was decreased. In the current Roman Calendar, there are six Masses designated as vigils to proceed the feasts the next day: vigils for Easter, Christmas, Pentecost, Ascension, Nativity of St. John the Baptist, and the Feasts of Saints Peter and Paul. Vigil Masses are so designated because their propers and readings differ from the Masses for those feasts themselves, while remaining tied to the feasts. Vigil Masses therefore differ from normal anticipated Masses, which are the same as the Mass taking place the next day, but held the preceding evening.

The vigil Mass for Christmas, held Christmas Eve, also differs from the Christmas Midnight Mass. Christmas Day actually has three separate Masses that are or can be held, in addition to the vigil – at midnight, at dawn, and during the day. It is not known exactly how the tradition of the three Masses originated, as even the origin of the feast of Christmas itself isn't certain – depending on the city, something resembling a Christmas celebration started in different years (and at varying times of the year, as well). By the end of the fourth century it was almost universally held on December 25, with Rome having started celebrating it on that date before 354, and Constantinople not before 379. The celebration of Epiphany on January 6 had previously been the major Christmas-like celebration, but once December 25 became the widely agreed-upon date of Christmas the celebrations moved to that date as well.

In the 380s, a Christian woman named Egeria made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, observing for three years and keeping a journal of the customs and liturgies she saw there. She witnessed the Christians celebrating the birth of Christ on January 6, since it appears the tradition of celebrating Christmas on December 25 had not yet begun there, beginning with a midnight vigil in Bethlehem, which was followed by a torchlight procession to Jerusalem culminating with a gathering in Jerusalem at dawn. When the basilica of St. Mary Major was built in Rome around 430, Pope Sixtus III included a replica chapel of the Bethlehem cave where Jesus was born, and much like had been the practice in Jerusalem when Egeria visited, he instituted the celebration of a midnight Mass in this chapel.

Why Do Catholics Eat Fish on Friday?Around 550 AD, the Pope began to celebrate a Mass in the Church of St. Anastasia before dawn on Christmas Day, initially because the feast of St. Anastasia was celebrated on December 25. Eventually, though, this evolved into a second Christmas Mass that seemed to replicate the dawn celebrations that Egeria witnessed in Jerusalem. This Christmas Mass would be followed by the Pope going to St. Peter's to celebrate the dawn office of Christmas with the faithful. Until sometime before 1156, only Popes were allowed to celebrate the three Christmas Masses, but by 1156 there is evidence that priests began to say all three as well, which still occurs today. A single priest can celebrate all three Christmas Day Masses, provided they follow the correct times (midnight, dawn, and sometime during the day). The midnight Mass is different from Christmas vigil Masses held earlier in the evening of Christmas Eve. Any of the four types of Christmas Masses (vigil, midnight, dawn, or day) is valid for fulfilling the Christmas Mass obligation.

 

Adapted from the article "Three Masses on Christmas" and the Catholic Encyclopedia article on Christmas.

Search for an Article
  


 

Search results for christmas, mass:

List display as list Grid display as grid  Go back several pages.Page  Go back one page.Page  6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 Go forward one page. Go forward several pages.
Displaying 61-72 of 232 items.
Home For Christmas
Home For Christmas - CD 
Price: $16.95

Item Number: 95753
Add to order

Franciscan Christmas
A Franciscan Christmas - Paperback 
Price: $12.99
This item carries the Aquinas and More Good Faith Guarantee.
Item Number: 92933
Add to order

Michael's Abbey Anthology
St. Michael's Abbey Anthology - CD 
Price: $16.99

Item Number: 62602
Add to order

Oplatki Christmas Wafers - 24 White
Oplatki Christmas Wafers - 24 White
Price: $11.99

Item Number: 95962
Add to order

Angel Wreath
Angel Wreath
Price: $48.25

Item Number: 10549
Add to order

Sister Wendy on the Art of Christmas
Sister Wendy on the Art of Christmas - Paperback 
Price: $14.99
This item carries the Aquinas and More Good Faith Guarantee.
Item Number: 12897
Add to order

My First Pictures of Christmas
My First Pictures of Christmas - Hardcover 
Price: $6.99

Item Number: 24462
Add to order

Madonna and Child Christmas Cross
Madonna and Child Christmas Cross
Price: $27.55

Item Number: 24527
Add to order

Babys 1st Christmas Pewter Ornament
Baby's 1st Christmas Pewter Ornament
Price: $18.00

Item Number: 24523
Add to order

Names of Jesus Christmas Cards
Names of Jesus Christmas Cards
Price: $19.00

Item Number: 95957
Add to order

Christmas Carol
A Christmas Carol - DVD 
Price: $19.95

Item Number: 60102
Add to order

Pascha Java Medium Grind Coffee
Pascha Java Medium Grind Coffee
Price: $12.00

Item Number: 93711
Add to order

Go back several pages.Page  Go back one page.Page  6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 Go forward one page. Go forward several pages.
Displaying 61-72 of 232 items.
 

Find a Wish List
Find a Registry



We accept Visa, Mastercard, Discover, American Express, Checks, Money Orders and Paypal.

 
Information
Nextag Seller


By using our site you agree to our terms of use.
All content copyright 2016.
Special Features