In the Eucharistic Prayer III, we read:

You are indeed Holy, O Lord, and all you have created rightly gives you praise, for through your Son our Lord Jesus Christ, by the power and working of the Holy Spirit, you give life to all things and make them holy, and you never cease to gather a people to yourself, so that from the rising of the sun to its setting a pure sacrifice may be offered to your name.

I believe the above is somehow linked to the Jewish practices of sacrifices, which seem to have taken place between the morning and the evening. For instance, in Exodus 29:38-39 we read:

This is what you are to offer regularly on the altar, each day: two lambs that are a year old. In the morning offer one lamb, and at twilight offer the other.

Is the above implying some restriction regarding the times in which Mass can be celebrated? Mass can be normally celebrated as early as 6am, and throughout the day. The latest mass I'm aware of is celebrated at midnight - the Midnight Mass, in Christmas. Is is possible for a Mass to be validly celebrated at, say, 3:00 am?

3 Answers 3


Can Mass be celebrated at any hour of the day?

The short answer is: Yes, if there is a valid reason for it.

Masses can be said at any time day or night if there is a real necessity or spiritual need for it.

This answer will be based more on actual experience than with concrete sources. For some reason rubrics on this point are quite hard to locate for those who follow the Ordinary Form of the Mass (OF). Geremia gives a good answer, but the references treated are in reference to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (EF). I can not locate any guidelines for the New Mass.

Yet the rubrics that Geremia lays out could also be altered by some real need, circumstance or local custom.

Under certain circumstances rubrics may be modified by custom, but in this respect they do not differ from laws in general. - Rubrics

I spent some 20 years affiliated with religious communities that say both forms of the Mass used in the Latin Rite. It is not uncommon for a priest in a religious community to say Mass extremely early because of the necessity of driving a great distance that day. This applies to both Forms of Mass of the Roman Rite.

New Years Day may be celebrated at midnight too. We had Mass celebrated by an Abbot in the Extraordinary Form on New Years Day 2000 as a way of welcoming in the New Millennium. I am sure some priests still do this.

In the monastery I stayed in for several years, one priest was assigned the task of saying Mass at 4:00 AM, so that the Brothers could be free to go and milk the cows. They called this the Farm Mass.

I can not tell you how many times I served a Mass (of either Form) between 2:00 AM and 5:00 AM because a priest (Religious or secular) had to leave on a long trip on that particular day.

Thus Mass may be celebrated at anytime day or night, if there is a valid reason for doing so. And that goes for both Forms of the Mass (OF and EF) in the Latin Rite.


See the § "De Hora celebrandi Missam" ("Regarding the time of celebrating Mass") of the 1957 Missale Romanum:

Missa privata saltem post Matutinum et Laudes ab una hora ante auroram usque ad unam horam post meridiem dici potest.
A private Mass can be said at least after Matins and Lauds from one hour before sunrise until 1:00 PM.

  1. Missa autem Conventualis et solemnis sequenti ordine dici debet. In Festis Duplicibus et Semiduplicibus, in Dominicis, et infra Octavas, dicta in Choro Hora Tertia. In Festis Simplicibus et in Feriis per annum, dicta Sexta. In Adventu, Quadragesima et Quatuor Temporibus, etiam infra Octavam Pentecostes, et Vigiliis quae jejunantur, quamvis sint dies solemnes, Missa de Tempore debet cantari post Nonam.
    But a Conventual solemn Mass should be said according to [the rules of] the [religious] order. On Double and Semi-double feasts, Sundays, and within Octaves, it is said in Choir during Terce. In Advent, Quadragesima, and Ember Days, even within the Octave of Pentecost, and Vigils in which one fasts, even if they are solemn days, the Proper of the Season should be sung after None.

  2. Missa autem Defunctorum dici debet post Primam diei: ubi vero dicuntur eorum Vigiliae mane post Matutinum diei, dictis hujusmodi Vigiliis cum Laudibus, immediate dici potest Missa pro Defunctis. Sed in die Commemorationis Omnium Fidelium Defunctorum Missa Conventualis dicitur post Nonam, quia eo die est principalis. In die autem Depositionis Defuncti, vel Tertio, Septimo, Trigesimo aut Anniversario solemni, in quo fit concursus populi, poterit similiter dici ultimo loco post Nonam.
    But a Mass of the Dead [requiem] should be said after Prime of the day; but where Vigils are said early after Matins of the day, so-called "Vigils of Praise," a requiem can immediately be said. But on All Souls' Day [Nov. 2], the Coventual Mass is said after None, because that day takes precedence. On a day of Burying the Dead, or on the Third, Seventh, or Thirtieth day or solemn Anniversary, in which the congregation is present, it will similarly be said last after None.

  3. Excipiuntur ab hoc ordine dicendi Missam Conventualem, Missae in Nativitate Domini, quarum prima dicitur post mediam noctem, finito Te Deum laudámus in Matutino: secunda in aurora, dictis Laudibus et Prima: tertia vero in die post Tertiam, vel ubi aliter ex dispensatione Apostolica disponatur.
    Exceptions to this order of saying Conventual Masses are the Masses of the Nativity of the Lord [Christmases], the first of which is said after midnight, finishing with the Te Deum laudámus at Matins; the second at sunrise, having said Lauds and Prime; the third during the day after Terce, or at another time with an Apostolic dispensation [bishops' dispensation].

  4. Missae Votivae, quia non correspondent Officio, si solemniter celebrentur pro re gravi, vel publica Ecclesiae causa, cum populi frequentia, dicantur post Nonam.
    Votive Masses, because they do not have a corresponding Office, if solemnly celebrated for a serious reason, or for a public cause of the Church, with the congregation present, are said after None.

  • 2
    The rubrics of the Pre-Vatican II Mass do not apply to priests of the New Rite! One must look up the rubrics of the New Missal. The old rite has only one canon for the Mass, ware as the Mass of Pope St. Paul VI has four Eucharistic Prayers.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 13:58
  • @KenGraham "The rubrics of the Pre-Vatican II Mass do not apply to priests of the New Rite!" What if he uses a pre-Vatican II, non-Novus Ordo missal?
    – Geremia
    Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 15:46
  • In that case your answer is correct but incomplete. Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 22:12
  • 2
    @Geremia The question makes quote of the New Mass (Eucharistic Prayer III).
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 23:39
  • As far as I know, the translation of "Quadragesima et Quatuor Temporibus" in item 2 should be "Lent and Ember Days". Commented Dec 30, 2018 at 23:07

Based on the summarized missal info on the USCCB's website, it seems like the Easter Vigil, at least, can take place any time between sunset and sunrise.

With respect to your quote from Eucharistic Prayer III: I think "from the rising of the sun to its setting" is meant in a geographical sense, not a time-of-day sense. The previous official translation of the prayer rendered it as "from east to west".

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