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A theorist, organist, and conductor, Jeff Ostrowski holds his B.M. in Music Theory from the University of Kansas (2004), and did graduate work in Musicology. He serves as choirmaster for the new FSSP parish in Los Angeles, where he lives with his wife and two children.
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"The union of Christians can only be promoted by promoting the return to the one true Church of Christ of those who are separated from it, for in the past they have unhappily left it."
— Pope Pius XI (6 January 1928)

"Anticipated" Mass or "Vigil" Mass on Saturday Night?
published 19 March 2014 by Jeff Ostrowski

731 Vianney N HIS BEAUTIFUL and powerful sermons, St. John Vianney talks about how the early Christians celebrated vigils: prayer and fasting. In other words, the early Christians took vigils seriously.

As part of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, the Church gave permission for Mass to be celebrated at night (whereas formerly Mass could only be said in the morning). Furthermore, the Church said that one can fulfill the Sunday obligation by attending Mass on Saturday evening. Some call them anticipated Masses while others prefer to call them vigil Masses.

Over the centuries, the vigil Mass often took on a somewhat “penitential” character. Vigils for the Ascension, Christmas, and so forth were not as “bright” and “happy” as the actual feast day (for the reasons given by St. John Vianney).


Under the current arrangement, one could attend a “vigil” Mass for some great feast (on Saturday night) and miss out on the festivity itself. Imagine fulfilling one’s obligation by means of the “extended Pentecost Vigil” in MR3, yet not experiencing the actual Pentecost Mass! I’m told MR3 has added even more vigils (for the Epiphany and other feasts).


Can the Sunday Formulary be celebrated on the vigil? Obviously not for Easter Sunday, but I’m told “yes” for the rest. Is this true? Are the vigil Masses optional? I don’t know. Do you? How does your parish decide?

Here are some comments by Canon A. G. Martimort, Archbishop Henri Jenny (Cambrai, France), and Bishop Karel Calewaert (Ghent, Belgium):

Msgr. Jenny broached the problem of first Vespers and the Sunday precept. He proposed that the celebration of Mass on Saturday evening should be considered a Sunday Mass, following the example of the Easter Vigil. Msgr. Martimort replied that he was scandalized and said that this way of celebrating Sunday, after the fashion of the Easter Vigil, led to the suspicion that the Easter Vigil was celebrated on Saturday evening. Father Calewaert opposed the proposal because it would gravely damage Sunday. The President thought that any danger might be avoided by conceding a faculty to local Ordinaries: it would not be the first time and it would help meet pastoral needs.

Development of the Liturgical Reform (Nicola Giampietro), page 108.

WE HAVE OFTEN DISCUSSED the concept of piccoluomini logic (as Msgr. Schuler called it) and noticed the harm it has done to the liturgy. Probably the most common example of piccoluomini logic is the assertion that Mass readings are “purely didactic” whereas formerly people realized the Epistle and Gospel are, in fact, prayer.

False logic seems to have been applied to the notion of “vigil” Masses. In a superficial way, someone said, “Vigil Masses ought to be at night, because that’s what vigil means to me.” They failed to consider how the liturgy had developed over the centuries. Formerly, vigil Masses were always offered the morning before … I wish they had kept this arrangement.