Amy Sullivan of Time Magazine in her typically ignorant religion reporting concentrates on American going to a Christmas service on the vigil vice Christmas Day. Though she didn’t even manage to use the world vigil.
When did Christmas Eve displace Christmas Day as the time for Christians to observe one of the two holiest days in the church year? Some traditions, including Catholics and Anglicans, hold midnight masses on the Saturday before Easter to usher in that holiday. But everyone still shows up the next morning for the traditional Easter celebration, just as Christmas Day remains a holy day of obligation for Roman Catholics, who are likely to be found in church the day after attending a Midnight Mass. By contrast, the Christmas service everyone thinks of as “traditional” is the Service of Lessons and Carols that many Protestant congregations use on Christmas Eve.
Midnight Mass on Holy Saturday for Catholics? What world is she living in. The Easter Vigil Mass is to be passed Sunset on Holy Saturday. It is never held at 12 A.M. on the start of Holy Saturday.
She describes people going to a vigil service as an example of the triumph of culture over religion. Within the Catholic Church the history of a Midnight celebration of the Christmas Mass goes back to at least the 4th century.
Within both the Catholic Church and Protestantism the Midnight Mass and Midnight Service are the most attended. I guess Amy Sullivan forgets that the Midnight Mass actually occurs on Chrismas and is not a vigil Besides even if you go to the Vigil Mass it fulfills the obligation to attend Mass on Holy Days of Obligation. Even stranger is her description of people not attending the next day after a Midnight Mass. Well the following day December 26 is not a Holy Day of Obligation unless it falls on Sunday. Plenty of confusion in what she says in regards to a true Vigil Mass and Midnight Mass.
She also seems to forget that the idea of the vigil goes back to the Jewish accounting of the day from sunset to sunset. So this tradition is quite and old one and not because of modern Culture. The modern allowance of the Vigil Mass came about to some degree as a reaction to culture to allow those having to work on Sunday to still get to Mass. But this is no triumph of modernism but a way to accommodate. The Sabbath was made for Man and not Man for the Sabbath as Jesus said. It seems to me that Amy Sullivan has a bit of the Pharisee in her as displayed by this article.
If she really wanted to look for a trend of accommodation it is of Protestantism following the Catholic Church. Christmas celebrations in many forms of Protestantism among the colonials and start of the United States did not celebrate this feast. It was all too Romish for them.
Now a valid question would be are people going to early Masses/Services as a way to get it over with and on to a day consisting only of a family celebration. No doubt some do this as a checkmark to be checked. I would tend to doubt this as the primary motive for most people. This is just not the mood of the Christmas Masses I have observed. If this motive was the correct one than the earlier Vigil Mass would be more attended than the Midnight Mass. There is a palpable anticipation and a joyfulness that does not fit in with this secular view of things. An anticipation that does not run into just a opening or presents, but the real present of the Holy Child in swaddling clothes – Our Savior Jesus Christ.
The idea that Christmas Eve is a prime marketing opportunity to attract new members is widespread among pastors. In online forums, they give each other advice on crafting services that are broken down into digestible segments that will “hold the attention” of infrequent church-goers. (They also devote considerable space to trading concerns about the fire hazards posed by those Christmas Eve candles their congregants love holding.) One pastor said he considered regular Sunday services at his church to be “seeker-friendly,” but holidays like Christmas and Easter were “seeker-focused.” The irony is that by holding Christmas Eve services that cater to first-time visitors and shuttering their doors on Christmas Day, churches often fail to meet the spiritual needs of their longtime members on one of the holiest days of the year.
Well the shuttering of churches on Christmas is a purely Protestant thing since of course there are two Masses held on Christmas Day other than Midnight Mass. Not sure how widespread the “shuttering” of Protestant churches is on Sunday. I know a couple of years ago some articles made a big deal about some Protestant church doing this. Since it was so “newsworthy” that would seem to me to me that it isn’t all that wide spread.