QUAERITUR: How early can the Easter Vigil begin?

From a reader:

There is a parish in our diocese that is advertising (in the bulletin and even in the diocesan paper) a 4:00 p.m. Easter Vigil.  Are there ANY circumstances which allow for such an exception to the rule that the Easter Vigil may not begin until after sundown?  

I seem to remember a clarification from Rome which stipulated that beginning an Easter Vigil at the same time as anticipated Masses is "reprehensible."

I cannot think of any exceptions.  Given the time of year and daylight savings time) 4:00 pm is simply too early.  It is still too light out.

Since this night is the most important of the year, you want to get it right.  Right?

That includes the time when the rite is to begin.  

The symbolism of the light in darkness is important to the meaning of the rite.  And the purpose of our liturgical rites is to have an encounter with mystery.  The signs and symbols are important.

This Vigil (which is by definition a nighttime action) is not to normal "vigil" celebrated in anticipation of a Sunday or Holy Day.  It has a unique character in the whole liturgical year.

The rubrics for this rite, as found in the 2002MR says this is "nox", night.

3. Tota celebratio Vigliae paschalis peragi debet noctu, ita ut vel non incipiatur ante initium noctis, vel finiatur ante diluculum diei dominicae.   The whole celebration of the Paschal Vigil ought to be completed at night, both so that it does not begin before the beginning of night, or and that it finishes before dawn of Sunday.

As your Lewis & Short Dictionary will indicate perago is "to complete", in other words, "to get through it".  Vel…vel… is the equivalent of et… et..

To repeat: the Vigil is to

a) gotten through entirely during nighttime
b) begun after nightfall
c) complete before dawn


4. Missa Vigiliae, etsi ante mediam noctem celebratur, est Missa pachalis dominicae Resurrectionis.   The Mass of the Vigil, even celebrated before midnight, is the Easter Mass of the Lord’s Resurrection.

In most cases you don’t have to say that a vigil Mass is for the following Sunday.  But the unique character of the Rite, different from the Sunday morning Mass, needs to be clarified.  Also, the time midnight is explicitly mentioned.  This is the traditional time to begin the Vigil Mass rites.

Also, 1988 Circular of the CDWDS called Paschale solemnitatis dealt with the time of the beginning of the Vigil,

78. This rule is to be taken according to its strictest sense. Reprehensible are those abuses and practices which have crept in many places in violation of this ruling, whereby the Easter Vigil is celebrated at the time of day that it is customary to celebrate anticipated Masses.

I suppose we can drill into initium noctis.

This is the time with daylight is no longer visible. It is after nightfall.  The Jews made all sorts of distinctions about sundown and twilight and night.  So do we when considering liturgical times.

The earliest time we can start the Vigil is initium noctis.   What does this mean?

I think it is when sunlight is no longer part of the illumination of the sky: nightfall. 

Sunset is when the upper edge of the sun finally sinks the horizon.  This is what the Jews called sunset.  There there is "civil" twighlight, that is, when the sun’s center is 6 degress below the horizon.  Of course there is still a lot of light from the sun in the sky at that time.  For Jews the evening twilight lasted until a few stars appeared.  Then it was night.  They had to figure these things out so that they knew, for example, how far they could walk to get to places, etc., before the sabbath fell.

We can go by that, but perhaps more helpful in this day of astronomical precision and electric lights is to go by astronomical twilight.  This is, techincally, when sunlight is not longer illuminated the sky.  That is a fancy way of saying: it’s night.


Astronomical twilight is helpful because we can use the calculations of, for example, the Naval Observatory to figure out with astronomical twilight takes place. 

Your nightfall (astronomical twilight) will be a little different depending on your location (latitude and longitude, etc). 

Let’s say you are in the umbilicus mundi, where I was born, Minneapolis, MN.   You summon a chart for Minneapolis and find the beginning of astronomical twilight for 11 April.  2040h + 0100h for daylight savings.

In Vatican City (41° 54′ 10.8″ N, 12° 27′ 7.2″ E) it would be 2026h. + 0100h for daylight savings.

Okay, clearly it is the Church’s intention that the rites begin when it is dark.  There can be a little flexibility.  There might still be traces of twilight but it would be black in church with the lights out, etc. 

The point is: let there be darkness!

So… if by 4:00 pm where you are night has fallen, fine!  Start the Vigil Mass.  If not, then 4:00 pm is too early.  And, given how important the Vigil is, it is a grave liturgical abuse to begin Mass at 4:00 pm.

Perhaps the local bishop should be invited to attend, given that the rite will be over before the real time to begin comes around!  Surely, His Excellency will have time!

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  1. Tina says:

    I wonder if the parish is doing this so that elderly parishoners have a chance to go to the Easter Vigil. I know many of the elderly in my parish are restricted to daytime driving, so the Church moves the anticipated Mass earlier in the winter so they can get home before full dark. With many parishes so big so that the elderly can’t reasonably walk to the Church, I could see where this would happen.

  2. JC says:

    I always find it humorous on Holy Saturday that the EWTN’s “almanac” will say “Today is Holy Saturday. There is to be no Mass before Midnight.” Then, right after, there will be a promo for “Tonight at 8, join us for the Vigil Mass of the Resurrection live from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception!”

    Here’s the thing: there’s one night of the year where Matins, which is supposed to be the midnight office, is interchangeable and identical with the Liturgy of the Word for Mass (if you don’t attend Mass, you read Matins). That should say something about when Mass is supposed to take place.

  3. Vincent says:

    Similar question: Can the vigil be done at 4:00 a.m.? I’ve heard of a parish that does this so that they can finish at sunrise.

  4. Londiniensis says:

    In London this year on Good Friday, Astronomical twilight ends at 21:54, Nautical twilight ends at 21:07, Civil twilight ends at 20:24, and Sunset is at 19:49

    The Extraordinary Form Vigil and High Mass at Corpus Christi, Maiden Lane, WC2 starts at 19:00.

    As regards the Ordinary Form, The Cathedral Easter Vigil at Westminster Cathedral starts at 18:30 and The Easter Vigil at St George’s Cathedral, Southwark begins at 20:30 p.m. At least at Brompton Oratory Solemn Vigil, Sacraments of Initiation and First Mass of Easter Day starts at 21:30.

    But according to astronomical twilight, even the Oratory Fathers have got it wrong!

  5. Londiniensis says:

    Not Good Friday, of course, but Holy Saturday!

    (My anti-spam word was “review then post”. I obviously didn’t.)

  6. Tom says:

    I don’t know if there will be any changes for Easter Vigil, but I gather that the ‘vigil’ Mass of Sunday and that of Christmas is regularly celebrated at lunch-time in some parishes of the Birmingham archdiocese here in the UK.

    An argument heard in support of this is that it is “convenient for people to pop in while they’re shopping” – nothing to do with celebrating the Dies Domini. Might not the same (bad) logic be used for the Easter Vigil?

  7. GCC Catholic says:

    Re: Tina’s comment on the elderly

    I know there’s no way to say this and not sound curmudgeonly, so I’m just going to say it:

    The Church’s requirement is that you attend one of the Masses for Easter Sunday if you are able. There should be at least one Easter Sunday Morning Mass, which would give those parishioners the ability to meet their obligation. Sometimes we don’t get the luxury to choose. (like in dioceses such as my own, where the Sunday Mass schedules were realigned to best serve the people… This included, among other things, eliminating Masses that were solely “Masses of convenience.”)

    If the reason why is for the sake of the elderly who cannot drive at night, then the appropriate avenue would be calling on other parishioners to volunteer to help bring them to Mass, not to move the Mass to an illicit hour.

  8. Father Totton says:

    Vincent asks if it is acceptable to begin the Vigil at 4am so as to conclude about sun-up. This is the practice at the Conception Abbey (and was when I attended the seminary there) but the rubric is still clear that the vigl is to be begun in the dark and concluded in the dark. It is difficult to justify anything else, particularly since the vatican II revision which effectively melded the Vigil proper and the Mass that follows. In the revised Holy Week prior to 1964, the vigil was done in violet, after which the Sacred Ministers changed to white, thus indicating a shift in the service. Perhaps THAT vigil could be begun about 4, then conclude (in the dark) to be followed by Mass which could then effectively be concluded at sun-up.

    I think the 4pm start time for the Easter Vigil in question begs the question whether it is advantageous to have ANY vigil as early as 4pm. In Europe (in my experience – Italy, Poland, Germany), where there are (weekly) vigil Masses, these usually are held in the evening (not mid-to-late afternoon as we have become accustomed to). The reason often given for the vigil Mass in the first place was the Jewish reckoning of time and day (Sabbath begins at Sundown the prior day) yet, the big yellow ball remained aloft for at least an hour and a halft after I had finihsed the vigil Mass yesterday!
    I wonder if any other priests share my apprehension about the vigil Mass (Don’t get me wrong, I love the Easter Vigil, here I am talking about the weekly “vigil” which begins at 430pm – usually HOURS before the sun actually sets.)

    While I understand the point, made above, about allowing the elderly to drive to the vigil, I must respectfully disagree. Perhaps some of our good (and good-sighted) parishioners could begin offering rides to the elderly so they can come to such Masses, or, perhaps, as older folks did for years and years, they could come to Mass in the daylight of Sunday Morning.

  9. ALL: There is a lot of confusion in the ranks about this particular of the liturgical year.

    Let’s bring more light to it than mere heat in the comments.

  10. Brian Day says:

    Attending what would be considered at mega parish, up until two years ago there were two Easter Vigil Masses (5:00pm and 8:30pm) One in English and one in Vietnamese – each with about forty candidates and catechumins.

    Now there is only one Vigil Mass starting at 20:00. Projected sunset is 19:21 and dusk is 19:46, so we are good to go.

  11. JeremyV says:

    At my in-laws parish in rural SW Missouri, they share an elderly priest with a neighboring parish and have Easter Vigil Mass at 5 or 5:30 so the priest can also have mass at the parish where he resides. In their case, it would either be this, or no Easter Vigil Mass.

  12. Fr. Dismas, OP says:

    As a student, not a priest, I participated in what was essentially a long Triduum, with little pause. We have the Mass of the Lord’s Supper Thursday evening, followed by singing until nigh midnight. We started our devotions Good Friday noonish, lasting most of the day, with the Good Friday service lasting from about 7 PM until 10 PM, then followed by an almost all-night procession (the BVM looking for her Son). Holy Saturday at 8 AM (yes, in the AM) we began the Vigil Mass.

    Now, a couple of details: (a) This was in a small, small South American mountain village not found in any map, and many came from other villages to participate those three days together, rotating host villages every year. We all crashed to sleep (as little as it was) wherever we could. Also, transportation *back* home was rather spotty. If you didn’t get in one of the tiny buses that seemed to run randomly that Saturday until noon… you weren’t going home for a few days, if not week, including the ones from other neighboring (well, a good half day’s bus ride, at least) villages. That was the only religious ceremony or Mass all most of those who came would have, except the same missionary priest leading it would try to make it for Christmas.

    That, to me, was epikeia in action, and I, for one, tend to think epikeia is horribly overused and abused. The key: it seems that all present intend to follow the Church’s law. It’s just not truly possible.

  13. Mark says:

    Meh. Before the 50’s, it was done before noon Saturday, as all Masses had to be between dawn and midday (except midnight mass) and it is after all the Mass of saturday, not Sunday. I’m glad they restored it to night, but I wouldnt call this terribly untraditional or a “grave abuse”

  14. Dove says:

    At our parish the Extraordinary Form Mass is at 4 PM and the Ordinary Form is at 8:00. I don’t know why the EF can’t be after the OF, but it’s not.

  15. Anthony says:

    I wouldn’t mind the old days (pre-1955) of a 9am Vigil.

    There are unique concerns thought in ‘biformal’ (OF and EF mixed) parishes. I realize this is mentioned in the Motu Proprio, however I know of at least one parish which on Good Friday is having the EF at 3pm and the OF around 7pm.

  16. Jason says:

    I was blessed to be in Jerusalem 2 years ago during Holy Week and Triduum. Due to the unique circumstances and scheduling among the various Christian communities that share the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Easter Vigil was offered at 8am on Holy Saturday morning!

  17. Mitchell NY says:

    Isn’t there enough bending and pushing of liturgical practice and law in the Church already? Seems like this is pretty clear cut (the Vatican’s directives) and for the one day in the year it applies to should simply be followed. Must everything law be challenged in various parishes to “accomodate” people? I would think that when the Holy Week changes came about in the 50’s it was for a reason and there was to be no service during daylight. Inch by inch, mile by mile, we will soon be back to the 9:00 Am Vigil, with some excuse or another.It is like Midnight Mass at 10:00 PM. People get tired I was told…

  18. Mike says:

    I’ll be interested to see what parishes do in 2011, when Easter falls on the last Sunday of April (April 24 – the next to last date on which Easter can occur).

    Here in Philadelphia, by that point in the calendar, the sun is setting around 7:45 p.m. 8 p.m. tends to be a popular start time for Easter Vigils – including at the Cathedral. As astronomical twilight usually occurs 45-50 minutes after sunset, I wouldn’t start the Easter Vigil until at least 9 p.m. on April 23, 2011.

    In the parish where I grew up, I remember some of the older folks who liked going to the Saturday evening Mass for whatever reason (the 7:30 a.m. tee times on Sunday being among the excuses), would get upset that the Easter Vigil would start after sundown/in total darkness and that it would go so long. And that was only with THREE Old Testament readings!

    Personally, I tend not to care about Mass times during the year – the church where I go to Mass on any given Sunday/holy day depends on my schedule – but I’m real particular about times of service during the Triduum. IMHO, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper shouldn’t start before 6 p.m., the commemoration of the Lord’s Passion and Death should be at 3 p.m., and the Easter Vigil shouldn’t begin until at least 8 p.m. or at the next hour/half hour after astrological twilight, whichever is later. When Easter falls early (at the end of March), an 8 p.m. start time works well. But when Easter falls late, as it will in 2011, you gotta adjust! Other than the start of the anticipated Saturday Masses (shouldn’t be earlier than 4 p.m., in most cases), nowhere else do the rubrics say when Masses/liturgies are to occur – or not occur – except during the Triduum. Is it too hard to follow those specifics for three or four days a year?

    BTW: Father Z, I think the times you use for April 11’s sunset in both Minneapolis and Rome already account for Daylight Saving/Summer Time. If you add an hour, astronomical twilight would be between 9:30 and 10 p.m. Maybe in June, but not yet in April. :-) [Well… perhaps. But the table does say to apply the hour shift. And we are talking about “astronomical twilight”, by which time it is pretty dark. Perhaps we need to have some additional discussion to get to shed some light on this puzzle.]

  19. ChrisDaCatholic says:

    I got you all beat….. 3pm at one of the local parishes in my area…

    One soon after that at 5pm..

    My parish, however, has a Vigil at 7pm.

    I can’t really express my feelings adequately. Fr. Z you should add emote smilies to your site so I could append an angry face to this post. >:-(

  20. Bill White says:

    Also see the last page of this pdf file from the USCCB: http://www.usccb.org/liturgy/innews/Dec2001.pdf – here’s an excerpt of the notice about the Easter Vigil:

    The intention of the is clear: the Easter Vigil is to take place in darkness. Thus the approved translation of is after nightfall, that is, after the time in the evening when daylight is last visible. This time is roughly equivalent to astronomical twilight, which is defined by the Naval Observatory as the time after which “the Sun does not contribute to sky illumination.” Tables of sunset and astronomical twilight for each locality in the United States are available at http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/RS_OneYear.html.

  21. Ann says:

    Our Bishop is wonderful, he ordered that all Easter Vigils were to begin no earlier than 8PM

    It should be wonderful!

  22. Fr. AJ says:

    Our bishop ordered that the Easter Vigil cannot begin before 8:30 PM in the diocese.

  23. This reminds me of the continual push for convenience over the appropriate symbolism and small sacrifice that it may entail having a night vigil. Just like Bishops moving Ascension from Thursday to Sunday. Convenience. It’s just “too hard” otherwise is the claim.

  24. Mary B says:

    I wonder if the reader who sent the comment is in my diocese since I read the same thing in our diocese newspaper. There are vigils listed for various churches the earliest is 4 p.m. there are some at 6 or 6:30 p.m. most are listed 9 p.m. or later.

    Our parish is at 9:30 p.m. and the Pastor announced the earliest it’s allowed this year is 9:06 p.m.

  25. Maureen says:

    Even the most well-educated Catholics have often been ill-formed and ill-informed in some area, these days. Sad but true. So it’s not really a surprise that bishops also suffer from this disease of bad data.

  26. Vernon says:

    Since the Gospel quotes Christ as saying that he will rise on the third day it is totally illogical to perform the Holy Saturday liturgy in the morning as Christ would then have only been ‘in the tomb’ for less than 24 hours. Indeed, any time before 3pm would have the same effect.

    As has been rightly pointed out too, the whole significance of the New Light of Christ is lost when the scene is illuminated by sunlight. The detail of the rubrics aside, I would be reasonably happy for the Vigil to commence about 1 hour after basic sunset (ie in twilight) but must say that I much preferred the form where the Vigil and Mass were partially separated and Mass was timed to start at midnight – that automatically placed the start of the Vigil at around 10:30pm, allowing about 15 minutes after it to prepare the sanctuary for the Mass and for the clergy and servers to change vestments.

    Finally of course one must be pleased that there are so many EF Triduum celebrations taking place, but again the rubrics need to be followed in that any one Parish may only celebrate the Triduum ONCE (ie either OF or EF, not both). Neighbouring parishes need to get together on this and arrange the EF in one and the OF in the other. This arrangement not only meets Canon Law but also allows both forms to be celebrated at the correct hours.

  27. paul says:

    Just a side note- the Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate easter starting around 11:30pm and then the Divine Liturgy has to start at midnight- this year april 19. They have a midnight Mass on Easter whereas the latins have midnight Mass on Christmas.

  28. Mary says:

    Bishop Serratelli has put out an “order” or mandate, I assume would be the better word, that the Easter Vigil can not start before 8pm. He’s done this pretty much as long as he has been Bishop of Paterson.

  29. JaneC says:

    Astronomical twilight: 20:49
    Easter Vigil begins: 19:45

    Perhaps our priest forgot to add one hour for daylight savings time? But I have to say, to the naked eye, it did appear to be nighttime at 7:45 tonight. Of course, it never is completely dark in Los Angeles–the end of twilight is hard to judge. I am also inclined to be somewhat lenient with the priests at my parish; there are two of them, but they are both elderly and frail, and it is rare that someone more hale can be spared to come and help.

    A little crew of us are going to the Russian Catholic parish for their Resurrection Matins and Divine Liturgy after our Roman-Rite Easter Vigil. It’s going to be an appropriately long and celebratory night!

  30. Angelica says:

    In our parish the EF vigil will be at 1:00 pm – sometimes you have to take what you can get…

  31. Archbishop Pilarczyk is insistent that the Vigil shall not commence sooner than 30 minutes following sunset.

  32. Joe says:

    Jane – you are very lucky to be near one of the rare Russian Catholic parishes!
    Paul, the Greeks tend to do it that way (Resurrection Mattins and Divine Liturgy starting before midnight). The Slavs often have a Vigil Service on Holy Saturday, with Liturgy of St Basil, in the afternoon (or in the morning), with Royal Hours following, and the continuous Reading of the Acts of the Apostles. Those who need to have something to eat after the Liturgy of St Basil. Resurrection Matins are sung at dawn followed by Divine Liturgy. I attended a Coptic Easter service one year; it started Saturday evening at 7 and finished about 2 a.m., when we had lunch.
    I remember one year driving out at 4 am to get to church for dawn (this was old-calendar Eastern Catholic, not Orthodox) and driving by the Greeks coming home with lit candles.

  33. SinSevern says:

    I guess it would depend on where exactly you are located.

    I do like Father’s graphics explaining the difference between Sunset, Twilight, and Full Dark or Night.

    While stationed overseas in some austere locations, we still managed to have Easter Vigil Services in FULL NIGHT, that were completed before Dawn. Of course sometimes that was the ONLY Easter Service for that geographical location too.

    Our parish is starting theirs at 8pm. which for our location is NOT full dark, that would be after 9:30pm.

    Civil Twilight: 6:08 AM EDT 8:07 PM EDT
    Nautical Twilight: 5:35 AM EDT 8:40 PM EDT
    Astronomical Twilight: 5:01 AM EDT 9:14 PM EDT

    When I was living in Germany, a group of us went to Easter Vigil at our local Cathedral, that service started at 10pm. The Recessional happened at 4am and the Dawn of Easter Sunday was starting in another 40 minutes or so.

  34. Charivari Rob says:

    The Archdiocese of Boston issued a specific memo back around Ash Wednesday with instructions for Holy Week. It included a specific reference to the time of sunset and restrictions on the start time of Vigil – No pastoral discretion allowed in this matter. Similar instructions on a liturgical year calendar supplement also available on their website.

  35. Londiniensis says:

    Now, when I was a lad (no, this is not the “Four Yorkshiremen” sketch) I seem to remember that the Easter Vigil started at 11.00pm, and I think it was explained to me that this was so that Mass would finish after midnight. As regards Christmas, Midnight Mass was just that, starting at midnight. The church was always packed, Easter and Christmas, standing room only.

    The rot set in in the late 60’s, when start times began inexorably creeping back. Time for a new Leo the Great to say “this far and no further” to the advancing hordes of the new barbarism.

  36. Mark Polo says:

    There are some exceptions that allow the Easter Vigil to be celebrated that early. By tradition it is celebrated at noon (or maybe even morning) in Jerusalem, for instance. Also, priests who are serving many parishes in the missions (with appropriate permissions) can celebrate multiple Vigils in multiple places, not always respecting the times. But these are all exceptions that don’t really apply to the quaeritur given.

    Here, the Bishop has determined that no Easter Vigil may begin less than 1/2 hour after sunset. Most of the parishes go for 8:30 or so, though we do it at 9:00 to guarantee darkness.

  37. Maureen says:

    You want to know what’s funny?

    Secular society keeps pushing for 24-hour restaurants and grocery stores and other activities. This makes people like my nightowl brother happy, because they can go out and do stuff at midnight or three in the morning.

    Religion responds by deciding that people don’t want to do anything at midnight or three in the morning, even on holidays or special occasions.

    Me no get it.

  38. Origen Adamantius says:

    The exceptions at the Holy Sepulcher are due to the “status quo” agreement which regulates when and where the various Orthodox Churches and the Catholics (Franciscans) can celebrate liturgies. The Franciscans cannot celebrate the Easter vigil in the evening at the Sepulcher because of this concordat.

  39. “Just a side note- the Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate easter starting around 11:30pm and then the Divine Liturgy has to start at midnight- this year april 19. They have a midnight Mass on Easter whereas the latins have midnight Mass on Christmas.”

    Since I’m in the choir, I got a sign-up sheet for Holy Week last week, so checking, Holy Saturday Liturgy is at 10 am, baptisms and chrismations are at 4 pm (we have 12 catechumens, and I have no idea how many infant baptisms), and Holy Saturday Nocturns begin at 11:30 pm. The Paschal Liturgy will begin midnight-ish, probably a bit after, and will be a good three hours as it always is. We will then break the long fast together, and get home somewhere after 4 am. The Paschal Agape is at 4 pm.

    Some Orthodox parishes, primarily in the US and Canada, do more or less the same thing for Nativity, although this is due to Western influence. Pascha is the greatest feast of the Eastern calendar, and Nativity is comparatively minor (Theophany is the great feast of the Christmas season).

    Of course, I’m operating from a different context, but how can one do the Pascha Vigil before dark? Doesn’t that screw up the symbolism of the beginning of the Liturgy?

    Pray for me, brothers and sisters, or my feet. I will be standing a good thirty hours at least during Holy Week!

  40. Liam says:

    As a practical matter, nautical twilight is a better approximation of the ancient understanding of darkness than the more modern astronomical twilight. By nautical twilight, one would have great difficult discerning the horizon line at sea.

    The Muslims have a great way of discerning darkness – the point at which you cannot tell the difference between a black and a white thread in natural light outdoors.

  41. chironomo says:

    Sadly, this was somewhat normative in our Diocese until only a few years ago. The Parish where I served prior to my current position also had a regular 2:00 Saturday anticipated Mass, and on Holy Saturday, there was a 2:00, 4:30, 7:00 and 9:00PM Mass, the first three of which were the Mass of Easter Day, the 9:00 was a seriously truncated and neutered Easter Vigil. This, happily has been brought to an end by the new Bishop, although there were a few locations last year that continued with the early Vigil and simply didn’t advertise it in the bulletin.

    I would not even begin to try and justify the above practice, however it should be noted that this was at a rather non-conventional parish on a popular tourist island. The expected Easter crowd was upward of 14000 or so, and the church only seated 1100, but the real problem was the parking spaces for only about 300 cars. It was a no-win situation on Easter morning… too many people and not enough seats or parking. And no, there really is nowhere else to park… most of the island is private property and the neighbors are not Church-friendly…I have a good friend who is still active in the parish… I have NO IDEA what they do now to accomodate the Easter crowds. This seems like one of those problems you’d “love to have”… but believe me, it’s not!

  42. Flabellum says:

    Can I correct Londiniensis, the Westminster Cathedral vigil is 20.30. My local parish is at 19.30 which is a bit on the early side, but the PP says he is ‘not a liturgical purist’ (and it shows).

  43. Immaculatae says:

    Our Easter Vigil is scheduled for 8:00 P.M.

  44. Londiniensis says:

    Flabellum, Just to prove that I’m not going completely mad I rechecked the Westminster Cathedral information. Yes, the printed leaflet, which I’ve just seen, gives 20:30, but the Newsletter, from which I got my information and which I reproduce below, gives the following:

    Saturday 11 April HOLY SATURDAY
    10.00 Cathedral Office of Readings
    10.00 Hinsley Room Centering Prayer Group
    18.30 Cathedral Easter Vigil

    The link is here: http://www.westminstercathedral.org.uk/home/home_newsletter.html

    I grant that 20:30 is 99.9% more likely.

    But hey, what do you think of the “centering prayer” group? Will the new Metropolitan allow this to continue? Watch this space. (Sorry for diverting off-topic.)

  45. Jane Teresa says:

    When it used to be harder to find a Easter Vigil according to the 1962 Missal, they used to occur in England any time after 12 noon. The only TLMs you could get to were typically between 12 and 5 pm. Things are not so bad now, but it was a trade off between a TLM in the mid-afternoon or none at all.

  46. MAJ Tony says:

    I’m with Liam on using nautical twilight. It runs about one hour after sunset, and 30 minutes or so before “End of Evening Civil Twilight” (which is what the table shows). To borrow from the military, hold your “stand to” for Christ’s resurrection.

    Background: In the services, we use “EENT” or “End of Evening Nautical Twilight as a “hit time” for attacking an objective because it allows us to get close to the objective (especially by air) with some bit of light, but makes it very difficult for the target to see us, especially when we leave the objective. If we do a ground attack in full cover of darkness, it’s been popular to do it just prior to “BMNT” (about 2 minutes ahead) or “Beginning of Morning Nautical Twilight,” as once you’re done attacking, you’re not so worried about being seen, and it’s easy to account for your troops and “get out of Dodge.” We learned this from the French and Indian War, because that’s when the natives would attack. Thus the term “stand to” which is what troops in encampment started to do around the BMNT and EENT times, to keep from getting caught unawares by a raiding party.

  47. MAJ Tony says:

    All-Night Psalms Vigil set for Holy Saturday (St. Meinrad, IN, Monastery)

    An all-night Psalms vigil will be held at Saint Meinrad Archabbey, St. Meinrad, IN, on Holy Saturday, April 11, in St. Joseph Oratory (the crypt area of the Archabbey Church).

    The vigil service begins at 8 p.m. CDT with a hymn, prayer, Scripture reading and response. Then, the reading of the Book of Psalms will begin.

    The service will conclude at about 2:30 a.m. Sunday, about a half hour before the Easter Vigil Mass begins. Guests are welcome to attend any part of the all-night vigil.

    Parking is available in the Guest House parking lot.

  48. Tertulian el Mexicano says:

    Dear Fr. Z;

    I read with great interest this particular post and its timing. Virtually every community would have set their times for the liturgical actions for the Triduum. In those communities that are biformal, it is of neccessity that Traditionalist and those attached to the Pian-Johannine Mass are like the Syro-Phoenician woman, and we have to eat the crumbs that fall from the table of our masters (Matt 15:22-28). many of our communities have to share a church where the Ordinary Form is celebrated, and the Extraorinary Form, if we are to have it at all, is at a time that perhaps is not the best. Not all Tradtional communities have acces to a private Chapel or Oratory where the timing can be ajusted.

    Should we eat the crumbs that fall from the table of our masters, or is it better to not have the venerable Rites of antiquity, and to not have the faithful nourished, and building for the next year? Do we Traditionalists not have to tread lightly with the powers that be in those communities that are biformal? Otherwise I can see some being told that they are just not welcomed anymore in that church. Where do those Faithful go then?

    If it is a grave liturgical abuse to have an Easter Vigil at 6, 4, 1PM or at 8:50 in the morning as we formerly did ( https://wdtprs.com/2009/04/a-1943-parish-holy-week-schedule/ ), are not even more Traditionalist commiting a grave liturgical abuse by continuing to say the Second Confiteor after the Communion of the Priest? [Absolutely NOTHING to do with the topic of this entry.] My Spanish Missal from 1926 (Latin-Spanish Missals are hard to come by) have this, but the English language Baronius and Angelus Press Missals do not have the second Confiteor in them. Yet in every Church I have been to in Mexico, the United States, Canada, and elsewhere, the Servers begin to say the second Confiteor right after the Priest has finished Communicating. If the Servers omitted this, would that Traditional community not be seen as perhaps inauthentic? It would be seen likely, as if the three year cycle of readings were introduced with the Traditional Liturgy.

    Just where is that Papal document that is supposed to clear up a whole bunch of these issues?!?

  49. MAJ Tony says:


    Who defines Traditional? Until recently, our pastor, the VG, held the OF Vigil at a cemetary chapel (which is an interesting and somewhat appropriate place) and the EF was held in the Parish Church. This year, I guess, the native parishioners wanted their church back, so, for the first time since I’ve been going, 7 years, our EF Vigil will be held at 4:30 PM. Not the greatest situation, but we’ll get by.

    It’s a matter of church discipline, not a doctrinal issue. How else do you suggest we do it? Do we cease worship and wait for Rome to pass official judgement? How valid is that option? Seriously, sir, I THINK you’re making Fr. Z say things he’s not saying. Of course, the good Father will correct me if I spoke “out of school.” This article was in the context of a typical parish that has one or the other form, not both. Mono-Formal Churches have no valid reason to hold an Easter Vigil before dark. Bi-Formal Parishes are an exceedingly rare exception that the folks who wrote the rules likely never would have thought about. I attend one (Holy Rosary, Indianapolis, IN) that happens to be the Italian parish.

  50. Mike says:

    Astronomical twilight would be an interesting discussion. (And, btw, I meant “astronomical,” not “astrological” twilight, as I wrote the first time in my earlier comment.)

    (Father Z: On second look, I noticed the footnote you mentioned in the table – it being from the Naval Observatory, I’ll trust that they (and you) are correct. I used that site to calculate Philadelphia for April 11, with adjustments for daylight saving time:
    – Sunset: 7:35 PM
    – Civil Twilight: 8:03 PM
    – Nautical Twilight: 8:36 PM
    – Astronomical Twilight: 9:11 PM)

    I never knew that the time between Sunset and Astronomical Twlight is more than 90 minutes!

    Now, to the topic at hand: The parish closest to me has their vigil at 7:30 PM. The sun hasn’t set yet. The cathedral has it’s vigil at 8 PM. The sun is barely below the horizon, and – on a clear day – there can be vivid colors in the western sky. By 8:30 PM, the sky is quite dark, but you could still – in theory – see some light. By 9 PM, the sky is darker still, but you could still – in theory – see some light. By 9:30 PM, all traces of light are gone.

    If you go by the approach several people above suggested – nautical twilight – the earliest a Vigil should begin is 8:45 PM (using start times at the quarter hour). Now if it’s a cloudy day or evening, the effect of nautical or astronomical twlight could be there long before either point is reached.

    So let’s say we use nautical twilight to determine the start time of the Easter Vigil. And let’s say we use all nine readings. Then let’s say we have a few Baptisms, a few Receptions, a few Confirmations, and we use the Roman Canon instead of a shorter Eucharistic prayer. At that point, you’re probably looking at three hours – which, of course, will lead some to complain that the Vigil is too long and others to complain it ended too late. But…

    …this is the most important day of the year and we’re not willing to give three hours to celebrate the Lord’s resurrection in all its fullness?!? How ironic – he spent three hours on the cross for us, and many grumble at the thought of a regular Mass being longer than an hour. Hey, I’m all for a short weekday Masses (20-25 minutes is usual average, from what I’ve seen) and shorter Sunday Masses during the summer, but there are times when the event requires spending a longer time. It’s like baseball: regular season games can end (occasionally) in under 2.5 hours, while the average World Series game can last 3-3.5 hours because they’re EVENTS. The Easter Vigil is an EVENT. It should be approached and treated that way. But I digress…

    The Archdiocese of Newark has an excellent series of resources on their website (www.rcan.org). The page for the Office of Divine Worship has a tremendous series of resources about the entire liturgical year, including the Vigil. One such document can be found at http://www.rcan.org/images//worship/lenttridrem09.pdf. If you read the Easter Vigil article on page 2 of said document, you will note that they say the Vigil should not begin before 8:15 PM this year. They publish such a reminder every year. I don’t know if other dioceses do something similar, but it would be interesting to know.

  51. MikeD says:

    I think you got the calculations correct, but astronomical twilight seems a bit extreme.

    From the website you link I think Civil Twilight is the better measure. Civil twilight is when “terrestrial objects [can] be clearly distinguished.”

  52. Glenn says:

    Thanks, I enjoyed your post. It’s nice to see someone writing something worth reading.

  53. MAJ Tony says:

    MikeD, I think it depends on the surrounding environmental light. IF you’re in a city with lots of streetlights, or are surrounded by the woods/have a large hill mass to your west, CT might make sense, but most places, NT is probably safest for travel TO the church. We held our EF Vigil at 4:30 PM Indy time, and got out at about 7:45 PM (15 mins before the OF Vigil). There was still light in the sky at that time. I arrived at my sister’s house about 2115 and I could still make out the horizon, but barely. Per the USNO, EENT is 2121 EDT at her house. Civil Twilight was about 2047, which would’ve sufficed at the location of the Church, which is in a downtown area (streetlights).

    I think the spirit of the rule is it should be dark enough that, taking local surroundings into account, it is dark enough outside that not much is visible outside without artificial light sources (non-celestial sources) and more or less pitch black in the church itself.

    More explanation from the Naval Observatory http://www.usno.navy.mil/USNO/astronomical-applications/astronomical-information-center/rise-set-twi-defs

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