While we're at it: Another one for the Canon Lawyers

Two events recently led me to wonder.

First: Christmas eve fell on the 4th Sunday of Advent. It is obligatory to attend mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation. Christmas is one of the latter. So you have to go to mass at least once on Christmas day–Christmas even counts as Christmas day, as liturgically we work on Jewish time where the day starts at sunset the night before. That’s why you can go to mass on Saturday night and have it count for Sunday. But you can also go to mass on Sunday evening (after sunset) and have it count for Sunday. So, here’s the question: Could I have gone to mass only on the night of Sunday 24th of December and have it count for both the Sunday in Advent and the Christmas mass?

My guess is no, and for that reason I attended mass twice on the 24th (I went to my wife’s Lutheran church on Christmas morning). Does anyone know the exact ruling on this?

The second event was the following Sunday: December 31st, First Sunday after Christmas, Sunday of the Holy Family. But that night was New Year’s eve. Now I was up country in Pinnaroo for this, and there isn’t a Catholic mass anywhere within cooee (for international readers, that is an Australian canonical term which means too far to travel without considerable inconvenience and having to pack a thermos and a sandwich), so I am free to attend church with my Lutheran family. But lo! and behold! No Sunday morning service anywhere in the three point parish. The pastor took the morning off, and led a “watchnight” service (at little early) at 7pm in Pinnaroo, and next morning (Monday, New Years Day) had a Eucharist for the Name of Jesus 40km away in Murrayville.

Tell me your opinion, but is this not rather lacksadaisacal? Of course, Lutherans have no concept of “mass obligation” (although I think they would come to this conclusion if they stopped and considered the ramifications of the 3rd Commandment). Granted, to have held two services on the same day in Pinnaroo may have affected how many would come to each service–a factor for consideration when in a very sparsely populated area such as the Mallee, but nevertheless, the day of the Lord’s resurrection is more important by far than New Year’s Eve or the Festival of the Name of Jesus, and to let it go by without the observance proper to it does seem a little odd–even for Lutherans.

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2 Responses to While we're at it: Another one for the Canon Lawyers

  1. Christine says:

    “the Festival of the Name of Jesus”

    Ah, or what is now called in the local Catholic Diocese Mary Mother of God (in the parish bulletin) and World Day of Peace (in the homily).


    My faithful Lutheran grandmother, in Germany, never missed a Sunday as far as I know.

    A great number of Catholics here in the U.S. go once a month or less (or not at all, while still keeping the name, as in my nonpracticing Catholic husband).

    I find your criticism of Lutherans condescending.

  2. Schütz says:

    Hi, Christine. As far as I can make out, there were two commemorations in ancient tradition for the 1st January–depending on the region. One was the Name of Jesus–or rather, the Circumcision and Naming of Jesus–the other was the festival of the Mother of God. The Catholic Church observes the latter and most Protestant Churches observe the former.

    I’m sorry you find my criticism condescending–it was not intended to be. All my family remain Lutheran and I regular worship at my “Church-In-Law”. Even if I were still a Lutheran (in fact even more so) I would still find this lapsidaisical attitude to the Lord’s Day worthy of criticism. “If the cap fits”… as the saying goes. Your grandmother like my own granparents and parents set a wonderful example that is unfortunately too rarely followed by any type of Christian–Catholic or Protestant–in this day and age.

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