Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This Advent is unique. As we rejoice on this Gaudete Sunday, for the coming of the Lord is very near, we look forward with hope and anticipation to the celebration of the Lord’s Nativity. Ordinarily, we have four full (or almost-full) weeks to prepare. Once every ten years or so, however, the Fourth Sunday of Advent falls on December 24. Next Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Advent, is also Christmas Eve! This will mean a unique celebration for us next weekend.
In light of a busy weekend, we are adjusting our Mass schedule. On Saturday, December 23, Mass will take place as usual at 5:15PM. On Sunday December 24, Mass for the Fourth Sunday of Advent will be held at 8AM, 10AM, and Noon. Vigil Masses for Christmas Eve will be at 4PM (in the Church, Community Room, and School), 6PM and 11PM (both in the Church). On Monday, December 25, Masses will be at 8AM, 10AM, and Noon. Twelve Masses in two days!
We are obliged to attend Mass every Sunday and on certain Holy Days of Obligation. Thus, next weekend, two distinct obligations exist – Sunday, and Christmas. The Sunday obligation is fulfilled by attending the Saturday vigil Mass at 5:15PM, or any of the morning Masses on December 24. The Sunday obligation is also fulfilled by attending one of the evening Masses on December 24, provided that Mass ends before midnight. The Christmas obligation is fulfilled by attending any vigil Mass on Christmas Eve or any Mass on Christmas Day. Should you fulfill your Sunday obligation by attending Mass on the evening of December 24, you separately should fulfill your Christmas obligation by attending Mass on December 25.
More important than obligation (a word that, in modern English usage has, unfortunately, taken on a negative and burdensome connotation), we should view these two distinct celebrations as grace-filled opportunities to worship the God who so loves the world that He takes on our human nature and enters into our human condition. He humbles Himself and freely gives us eternal salvation. Attending Mass twice is a very small return to the Lord for the tremendous, eternal gift He bestows!
Wishing you the graces of the Advent season and a very Merry Christmas,