Does attending Mass on Christmas Day this year fulfill one’s Sunday obligation?

| Father John Paul Erickson | December 16, 2010 | 7 Comments

The short answer is no — attending Mass on Christmas Day this year, which happens to be a Saturday, does not fulfill one’s obligation to attend Mass on Sunday, any more than attending a wedding on a Saturday afternoon fulfills one’s Sunday obligation.  But the reason behind this answer requires some explanation.

Sunday is a day of deep theological significance. It is, for the Christian, “The Lord’s Day,” a day in which we remember that great Sunday of Sundays, Easter Sunday. But this resonance with Easter Sunday that Sundays throughout the year are meant to have goes beyond the liturgy, as absolutely central as it is.

Attending Mass on Sunday, or at a Saturday Vigil for those unable to attend on Sunday itself, is meant to be but the source and summit of one’s remembrance of the Lord’s Day, a day that should also ideally include very deliberate family time, devotions, rest, meditation and real leisure, just as it should ideally be devoid of work that could be accomplished at other times during the week. The beautiful tradition of Sunday dinner is one way that the Lord’s Day is commemorated in some households, and how important this is!

The point is that Sunday is not just about fulfilling an onerous burden, a sacrifice of one hour of our time to assuage the guilty Catholic conscience. It is rather a full day of remembering — a day to remember the resurrection of Jesus Christ and its radical implications, and a day to remember that one day we will rest forever in the presence of the Father on the eternal Sabbath that is heaven.

The startling fact is that those who do not make a concerted effort to remember will forget; we will forget for whom we have been made and the promise of the mansions of the Father. Without exaggeration, despair is sure to follow the sacrifice of Sunday as a day of authentic rest, rest that must begin with the Mass, that great act of Christian remembering.

The Church therefore maintains the importance of attending Mass on Sunday so that this special day might be protected, even when we have attended Mass during the prior day.

But by upholding the necessity of attending Mass on Sunday, the Church is not simply imposing a taxing duty. Rather, she is ultimately seeking to protect the dignity and destiny of the human person, a creature who has an unavoidable need for that rest that God alone can grant.

Father Erickson is director of the archdiocesan Office of Worship.

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Category: The Lesson Plan

  • Chris B

    As a Sabbatarian protestant, I want to thank you for this article.

  • Antony

    This DUMB rule is going to simply going to "turn-off" a LOT of Catholics who are either 1) Dis-satisfied with the timing issue–especially if gasoline is $3.10 per gallon on Christmas day, and 2) simply give the Church more 'grief' because many I know SIMPLY WON'T GO on Sunday, citing the fact that "I just went yesterday." PLEASE re-consider ALLOWING the mass to be performed AFTER 4:00pm should this happen again!

  • jtowalski

    What if you looked at this situation not as an obligation but instead as an opportunity — a chance to celebrate the Incarnation, God's precious gift to us, as well as to participate in our regular Sunday worship? It is also a matter of setting priorities. I wonder how many people traveled around two days in a row for Christmas shopping. A lot, I suspect. If the real meaning of Christmas is Christ's birth, we should make time for it.

  • Catherine

    Beautifully written! Linking the Sunday liturgy with Easter is not something I was keeping in mind. At the age of 54 I am awestruck that by the Priests Sermon, I was reawakened to three reminders that personally affected me as far as pushing me towards Sainthood as we all strive for. One or two is the norm for me.

    Now this renewing article reminds me further of the weekly renewal of Easter in our hearts and minds.

    I thank you, Catherine

  • I have relative, brought Catholic Faith.  For some treason, they joined another church-not Catholic .   They have been asking the me the same question asto whether Christmas Day on Satuday fulfills Siunday-I kept saying no; sand i will.  Thank you for this article!

  • Anonymous

    I meant that I have a relative-like me,brought in Catholic Faith. For an unknown reason, they joined a non-Catholic Cchurch -of Spirituality; I stayed loyal to the fsaith, so whenever above question come up, I say no!  And I will continue to this and pray for this relative.

  • 2011

    In 2011 Christmas Eve falls on a Saturday, so it does seem to fulfill Sunday Obligation.