(OF/USA) Sunday evening Mass on Dec. 31: Feast of the Holy Family or Solemnity of Mary?
  • I always get tripped up when the calendar plays out this way. When celebrating a Sunday evening Mass on Dec. 31 (as will be the case this year), is the Mass supposed to be for the Feast of the Holy Family or the Solemnity of Mary? My home parish is having a Sunday evening Mass on Dec. 31 and has it listed as a “Vigil (read ‘Anticipated’) Mass for the Solemnity of Mary, but I thought since it’s not a holy day of obligation this year, the Sunday evening Mass would be for the Feast of the Holy Family. I thought holy days of obligation followed the “evening prior” rule, and since January 1 isn’t a holy day of obligation when it falls on a Monday, the Sunday evening Masses would be for the Feast of the Holy Family, not the Solemnity of Mary.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,409
    My understanding is that any Solemnity is in the third rank of importance, and Sundays of Christmastide are in the sixth rank. So it should be the Solemnity even though it is a Sunday, but of course attendance satisfies the Sunday obligation despite the texts.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen hilluminar
  • I would approach it in the same way that we approach Christmas and the 4th Sunday of Advent the week prior.

    The morning and up to 4pm is Holy Family, and after 4pm (or whatever time your diocese has set for Vigil Masses in general) the Solemn Vigil could be celebrated.

    I don't really buy into the whole "it's Monday, so it's not obligatory" argument. It may not be a rule, but ita a solemnity.... get your butt to Mass in the morning for Sunday, and then the evening or next day for the Solemnity. But that's my feeling, and that doesn't really help anything on the matter at hand! ;)
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Bombarde, I agree with you. Our pastoral team also was debating on whether or not to have music on Jan. 1 since it’s not a holy day of obligation. I said “Hello, it’s still the octave day of Christmas!” Maddening.
    Thanked by 2LauraKaz CHGiffen
  • Liam
    Posts: 5,003
    "I don't really buy into the whole "it's Monday, so it's not obligatory" argument."

    By its nature, an obligation is a rule set by those in authority. In the USA, those with authority have ruled that the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God is not an obligatory day of precept when it falls on a Saturday or a Monday.

    In December of 2024, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception transferred to Monday the 9th will not be an obligatory day of precept.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,409
    If you were to celebrate Evening Prayer it would certainly be First Vespers of the Solemnity, and you could use the extended Vigil form.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • I would approach it in the same way that we approach Christmas and the 4th Sunday of Advent the week prior.


    This is a good instinct, but it is comparing two things that are not exactly alike. The main difference between the two is that Christmas is a Solemnity that has its own vigil. The Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, does not. Evening Prayer I is irrelevant in this case.

    Universal Norms on the Liturgical Year #11 (emphasis mine):

    Solemnities are counted among the most important days, whose celebration begins with First Vespers (Evening Prayer I) on the preceding day. Some Solemnities are also endowed with their own Vigil Mass, which is to be used on the evening of the preceding day, if an evening Mass is celebrated.


    Since Vigils of Solemnities are explicitly to be celebrated on Sunday evenings, it stands to reason that Solemnities without their own Vigil Mass are not. The primordial day of worship, Sunday, takes precedence in this case.
    Thanked by 2Liam Bombarde16
  • Andrew, thanks for that! I was unaware of that precedent! The more you know....
    Thanked by 1Andrew Motyka
  • I was unaware of that precedent! The more you know....


    I was sure, on reading this thread, that the Sunday Mass would take precedence, but I couldn't remember exactly why, so it was a good refresher for me, too.

    Another good analog would be this: my parish has evening weekday Masses, but we wouldn't celebrate St. Joseph on the evening of March 18, nor the Annunciation on March 24.

    We often celebrate Mary, Mother of God in anticipation on December 31, but that's because it's a day of precept, which is a whole other can of worms with really weird documentation.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,409
    Andrew Motyka - I think you are mistaken. #11 clearly states that Solemnities are celebrated from EP1, even if you do not publicly celebrate Evening Prayer, after the appropriate time it is the Solemnity and you cannot revert to Sunday. The rule about the Vigil formula is just a rule about the formula and cannot be read as having other implications.
  • davido
    Posts: 895
    The short answer is: contact your local diocesan office of liturgy, and follow their direction.
    Thanked by 1a_f_hawkins
  • This was the Lansing diocese’s guidance a few years back:

    Q. Which Mass should be celebrated on the evening of December 31, keeping in mind that the celebration of solemnities normally begins with the evening of the preceding day?

    A. In answering this and similar questions, one should first consider the following principle established by the 1969 General Norms for the Liturgical Year and Calendar: “If several celebrations fall on the same day, the one that holds the highest rank according to the preceding Table of Liturgical Days is observed” (60).

    Taking this into account, it might seem at first that evening Masses on December 31, 2017 should celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, considering that Solemnities of the Blessed Virgin Mary appear higher than Feasts of the Lord on the Table of Liturgical Days. However, another lesser-known norm promulgated by the Congregation for Divine Worship must also be borne in mind. In 1984, the Congregation offered the following additional guidance on this issue: “In the celebration of Mass, precedence is always to be given (“præcedentia semper danda est”) to the feast of precept [holy day of obligation], regardless of the ranks of the two consecutive feasts....” (Congregation for Divine Worship: Notitiæ 20 [1984] 603).

    This rule appears to have been established as a way of serving the pastoral needs of the faithful who attend evening Masses and expect to celebrate the Sunday liturgy.

    To return to the particular question at hand, inasmuch as the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, falls on a Monday in 2018 and is, therefore, not a holy day of obligation, evening Masses on December 31, 2017 should celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. This is due to the fact that the solemnity of Sunday is always observed as a holy day of obligation, while the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, is not in this case.
    Thanked by 2Liam a_f_hawkins
  • Thank you!

    It seems as if it’ll be one of those things where each diocese (and really, each parish) will be doing its own thing this year. Some will celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family on Sunday evening, and some will celebrate the Solemnity of Mary.

    I guess in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really matter, but the Church calendar really interests me.
  • Liam
    Posts: 5,003
    I suspect that most parishes won't be having evening Masses on that Sunday other than in resort areas with vacationers/retirees. FWIW, my experience of places that have regularly scheduled Sunday evening Masses are places with university/college ministries, and they are suspended when classes are not in session. Given that January 1st is not a day of precept, the need for a Sunday evening Mass on the preceding evening outside such communities is likely to be atypical.
  • Lansing's reminder of the 1984 Notitiae is also apt.

    To pose an even more challenging question, what does one do on the evening of Sunday, December 7, when it falls such? The answer, in that case, is you still celebrate the 2nd Sunday of Advent, because when 2 obligatory feasts fall consecutively (and the second does not have its own Vigil, like Christmas), the calendar day takes preference.