1. The holy sacrifice of the Mass is generally to be celebrated between sunrise and noon, and at midnight on Christmas Eve.
Mass may be said before sunrise under exceptional circumstances, such as the priest’s going on a journey, or in order to give working- people the opportunity of hearing Mass before commencing the day’s labor; or it may happen that after the consecration of a church, or a confirmation, the holy sacrifice is not commenced before twelve o’clock (noon). The early Christians celebrated Mass at night, in order to escape the persecution of the heathen. And in later years it was customary to offer the holy sacrifice during the night several times in the course of the year; at Christmas, on Holy Saturday, on St. John Baptist’s Day, and on Ember days.
2. On Sundays and holy-days of obligation the holy sacrifice of the Mass is offered at a convenient hour in all parish churches, and almost always on week-days also.
Every Catholic priest is bound to say Mass on Sundays and holy-days (Council of Trent, 23, 14). Those who have the care of souls are, in virtue of their office, under the obligation of offering the holy sacrifice every Sunday and holyday for their parishioners, both living and dead. These Masses which are binding on those who have the cure of souls are called parochial Masses, and must be said at the hour when the parishioners are best able to come to church.
3. No priest may, as a rule, say Mass more than once daily; but on Christmas Day all priests are allowed to say three Masses. And by the permission of the bishop some parish priests who have a large congregation are allowed to duplicate, that is, say two Masses on the same day.
In the commencement of the Middle Ages it was customary for priests sometimes to say one Mass after another, but this gave rise to many abuses. By a decree of Pope Innocent III. the clergy were for bidden to say more than* one Mass daily, except on Christmas Day, when three might be said. It is not, however, obligatory on priests to say three Masses on Christmas Day, any more than it is upon the laity to hear three. Priests who have a large parish obtain permission from the bishop to duplicate, if the church is too small for all the parishioners to hear one and the same Mass.
On the other hand no priest may say Mass on Good Friday. And on Holy Thursday and Holy Saturday only one solemn Mass is to be celebrated in the parish church.
The only exception to this rule is made when the feast of the Annunciation falls on Thursday in Holy Week. If it falls on Good Friday or Holy Saturday, it is transferred to the Monday in Low Week.
This article, 11. THE TIME WHEN MASS IS TO BE CELEBRATED is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
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