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Today is December 8---the Feast of the Immaculate Conception---a Holy Day of obligation.

Last night, I went to what was advertised (in the bulletin) as a 7pm Vigil Mass.

However, the readings were those for December 7 and the homily had nothing to do with the Immaculate Conception. The only thing that was mentioned to that regard was at the beginning of Mass when the priest said that because the Mass started on or after 4pm, it would fulfill the Holy Day obligation.

I believe that the priest is in error.

I believe that:

  • (1) a Vigil Mass for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception must occur on or after 4pm the day before,

  • (2) that the readings will be the same as those for the actual Holy Day, and

  • (3) that (1) and (2) apply to all holy days of obligation in the Catholic Church.

Can someone either confirm this or provide evidence to the contrary? Thank you.

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  • Obligation is based upon date not liturgical text.
    – eques
    Dec 9, 2023 at 1:49
  • To be precise, several feasts have proper vigils (not just an anticipated Mass referred to as a Vigil) which has its own texts so even then (2) couldn't apply.
    – eques
    Dec 9, 2023 at 1:53

1 Answer 1

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What Constitutes a Valid Vigil Mass for Catholics?

The Vigil masses introduced under Pope Paul VI are in fact anticipated masses for the following day (Sunday or a particular Solemnity). Vigil Masses of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass are truly the day before a solemnity are were clearly not an anticipated mass. In fact they were of a different color (Violet) and were days of fasting and penance.

The Vigil Masses one questions about are a remnant of the proper ”Vigils” of the Masses of Pope Pius V and thus have different readings than that actual feast day, just as the vigils and feasts had different reading in the old rite.

More in tune with your is that the Feast of the Immaculate Conception does not have a proper Vigil Mass and as such the anticipated mass for this Feast Day must be that of the propers of the Feast itself and not those of December 7th which would be the mass in honour of St. Ambrose.

The readings should have been those for December 8 at the Vigil Mass and the homily should has been about the Immaculate Conception. In this regards your celebrant was definitely in error. Your holy day obligation nevertheless was still fulfilled.

As for your three points:

  • (1) a Vigil Mass for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception must occur on or after 4pm the day before,

  • (2) that the readings will be the same as those for the actual Holy Day, and

  • (3) that (1) and (2) apply to all holy days of obligation in the Catholic Church.

Number (1) is quite correct.

Number (2) is partially correct. Some Vigils of the Ordinary Form of the Mass do have a proper Vigil Mass which is to be employed after 4:00 pm on the eve of the feast itself. The Feast of the Assumption, for example enjoys this privilege.

Number (3) is also partially correct. Unless the Solemnity in question does not have a proper Vigil Mass, the reading will be of the actual holy day!

In the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (EF) vigils were not anticipated Masses as is found in the Mass of Pope Paul VI (Ordinary Form of the Mass (OF).

As part of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, the Church gave permission for Mass to be celebrated at night (whereas formerly Mass could only be said in the morning). Furthermore, the Church said that one can fulfill the Sunday obligation by attending Mass on Saturday evening. Some call them anticipated Masses while others prefer to call them Vigil Masses.

Over the centuries, the vigil Mass often took on a somewhat “penitential” character. Vigils for the Ascension, Christmas, and so forth were not as “bright” and “happy” as the actual feast day. - "Anticipated" Mass or "Vigil" Mass on Saturday Night?

The real Vigil Masses of Pope Paul VI are a remnant of the proper vigils of the Masses of Pope Pius V and thus have different readings than that actual feast day, just as the vigils and feasts had different reading in the old rite.

A Roman Catholic Mass which takes place the evening before a Sunday or Holy Day is sometimes called a Vigil Mass because it is celebrated within the period of time for the Vigil. The Roman Missal includes special readings for the Vigils of High Feasts: Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Ascension (where celebrated on the Thursday after the Sixth Sunday after Easter), Pentecost, St. John the Baptist, Ss. Peter and Paul, and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mother. Where there are not special readings assigned to a Vigil Mass, it may also be called an “Anticipated Mass” because the readings are simply anticipating the readings of the next day. Attending a Vigil Mass or Anticipated Mass fulfills a Catholic's obligation for attending Mass for that Sunday or Holy Day. - Vigils (Wikipedia)

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  • I suspect OP's 3 points are meant in the sense that for a Holy Day the 1 and 2 must be met for obligation to be fulfilled, but you correctly note that obligation doesn't directly require the correct texts.
    – eques
    Dec 9, 2023 at 15:39

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