ASK FATHER: One Mass for the obligation for Sunday, Christmas Eve and Monday, Christmas Day?

Under another post someone asked:

Father, would can. 1248.1 apply to the case of a double obligation, e.g., an evening Mass for Sunday also satisfying a Holy Day obligation for Monday (as Christmas this year)?

I’ve written about this situation before and I have had a change of position.  I was of the mind that, in this situation, one Mass in the evening could satisfy two obligations.  It just makes sense.  However, I’ve learned that this has been ruled on.

In 1970, Paul VI approved a response to a “dubium” – those were the days – about double fulfillment by one Mass which bridges two days of precept: negative. We have two days of precept. That means two Masses.

There are the usual exceptions for the sick and shut in, etc. Also, parish priests can give individual dispensations for real necessities, as always.

No, we have to attend two Mass for the two obligations.

However, you could attend a Mass in the morning on Sunday, Christmas Eve Day, and fulfill that obligation, and then go again in the evening of the same day and fulfill the Christmas Day obligation.

Furthermore, if you go to Mass twice on Sunday (for the two obligations), you can also receive Holy Communion at both of those Masses.  Canon Law says you can receive twice in a day, so long as the second time is in the context of Mass.  So, if you went to two Masses in the morning on Christmas Eve Day, you could receive twice.  You would have fulfilled your obligation.  But if you went again, to a third Mass, in the evening of Sunday, Christmas Eve, you could fulfill your Christmas Day obligation, but you could not go to Communion a third time… unless you were in danger of death.   Merry Christmas!

Or, just be a regular person who lets Sunday be Sunday and Christmas be Christmas and go on both Sunday and on Christmas.  Right?

To make this more interesting, on Christmas, priests can celebrate three Masses and keep all three stipends!  However, while the priest saying Masses can receive Communion three times on Christmas Day, you can’t.  If you are at all three of Father’s Christmas Day Masses, you get Communion twice, not thrice.

Clear, right?



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  2. Traductora says:

    I think it only became an obligation (not in the canon law sense, but in the “burdensome” sense of the word in English) after VII, when the Novus Ordo or its interpretation made masses a serious trial for anybody who believed anything. People like to avoid it because it gives them absolutely nothing, in most cases. While some parishes are probably fine, I virtually have an aneurysm every time I hear our heterodox priests preach and have to suffer through what is an entirely dreary “rite.”

    However, the thing that really bothers me is that the clergy are really the ones who consider it a burdensome obligation. I think in many parishes, they literally fight to see who will get to be the one who doesn’t have to say mass. That’s because the entire purpose and action of the Mass has been devalued and priests just regard this as another tedious thing they have to do to get a salary, like attending the parish council meeting. They don’t regard the Mass as something only they can provide, thanks to many years of VII indoctrination and doctrinal undermining.

    And the bishops have gone along with this by “dispensing” from Mass for any cause, and by permitting the reduction of masses even in those situations where there exist more than enough priests in the parish to provide them.

  3. Legisperitus says:

    Father, thank you for this thoughtful and informative answer.

  4. Sword40 says:

    We are thinking of going to the 24th’s 0800 low Mass, then driving the 60 miles back home, spend the afternoon with my sister then driving back the 60 miles in the evening for mid-night Solemn High Mass, then driving the 60 miles home to open packages with my sister. Then crash and burn until early afternoon for Christmas dinner.

    Going to consume lots of vitamin D and C before hand. will need the extra protection.

  5. beelady says:


    I believe something – that the Novus Ordo Mass provides me the body, blood,soul,and divinity of Jesus! That not nothing,it’s everything!
    It may not be perfect (few things are in this imperfect world) but it certainly isn’t what I would call a “serious trial”.
    Perhaps you could avoid an aneurysm by meditating on Jesus’ suffering and dying for you the next time you are “forced” to “suffer” through that “dreary” rite that brings you his body and blood.
    Fasting and praying for all clergy (especially those most in need of God’s mercy) is always a good idea as well.

  6. Josephus Corvus says:

    The good old days…when the first Mass of Christmas was the Midnight Mass – and it was held at midnight….

  7. TonyO says:

    I always thought that the “receiving twice in one day” rule was just as Fr. Z says, above. If a second time, it must be in the course of assisting at mass. But when I fielded the question again from my kids, and I went and looked up the canon law (I’m going by memory here, so please take it with caution), I didn’t get the same conclusion. That is, yes, the law does explicitly say a second time must be at mass. But there is simply no language that LIMITS it to 2 times. [Ooops. No.]

    Could one say that the general rule is, then, that the FIRST reception of communion might be not in mass, but any later one must be?

    Even if there were some way to read the rule that way, I suspect that (a) generally, it would still seem to amount to some kind of oddity of spiritual sense to keep on going to mass to receive over and over in the same day – but not necessarily for some unusual situation (say, the only organist for the parish, who plays for the 8:00 am Mass, the 12:00 pm noon Mass, and the 7:30 evening Mass on some holy day), and / or (b) the current lack of precision in the language may merely disguise what is actually a very old tradition (and former canon law, such as 1917) that DID explicitly limit it to 2 times.

    [I am glad that you are so engaged. However, TWICE is the rule. That Latin “iterum” means “again’ as in “one more time”.]

  8. Imrahil says:

    As for what the dear TonyO said,

    it is true – at least I think so – that the wording of the Codex makes this a bit ambiguous.

    However, that’s what we have these nice “authentic interpretations” for, which have just the same force as law itself. There has been an authentic interpretation, and it says explicitly, twice only (except for danger of death). According to the nice wikipedia list, it is the AAS, v. 76 (1984), p. 746-747 authentic interpretation to can. 917.

    (I personally wondered, when, say, an eventual Sunday duty has been fulfilled with a Mass where I arrived in time and stayed until the end: what point of delay marks the difference between “assisting at Mass” that allows an iterum reception, and, well, just happening to be present for Communion?

    I personally use for this – not for many things, but for this – a rigorist approach and receive iterum only when I really was in time for the bell, or at least in time for the first sign of the Cross, and [of course] intend to stay until the end.)

  9. Daniel B says:

    The response approved by Paul VI regarding this situation was directed to a dubium regarding the obligation in the previous Code. In the present code, things were deliberately simplified. The new law is written to indicate one simple obligation: to attend Mass on holy days of obligation (or the evening of the preceding day). If you attend the Vigil for Christmas you are attending Mass on Sunday as required. Its not a matter of a legal loophole, the code speaks of a single obligation to attend Mass, it does not indicate an obligation to attend Mass once for each feast.

    As the USCCB indicated in February, canon lawyers have differing opinions on this issue.
    Fr Z, I agree with your previous interpretation, and am sure that the response to the dubium you mention applies to a dubium raised by the wording of the previous code.
    Nevertheless, I’ll be worshipping the Christchild at at least two Masses!!

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