Fr. Stephen Van Lal Than

An Advent wreath is seen with four lit candles. As with every year, the obligation is to attend two separate Masses for the Fourth Sunday of Advent and for the Christmas solemnity. RILEY GREIF | WKC

Mass obligation of the faithful for the Fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas Day: Yes, we get to go to Mass twice!


Christmas falls on a Monday this year, and a few questions arise: “Which Masses are the faithful obliged to attend throughout that weekend?” “Can we go once on Christmas Eve (Sunday night) to count for both?”

According to the Code of Canon Law, Canon 1246, Sunday is the “Primordial Holy Day of Obligation” and can never be abolished or lifted. Canon 1246 goes on to list ten additional Holy Days of Obligation on which the faithful are obliged to attend Mass: the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Epiphany, the Ascension, the Body and Blood of Christ, Holy Mary the Mother of God, her Immaculate Conception, her Assumption, St. Joseph, St. Peter and St. Paul the Apostles, and All Saints.

A local bishops’ conference may “suppress” specific Holy Days of Obligation while others can be transferred to Sunday, for local pastoral reasons. For example, the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops suppressed the Feasts of Saints Peter and Paul and of St. Joseph as obligatory, and moved the Feast of Corpus Christi to Sunday.

A local bishops’ conference may also lift the obligation to attend a Holy Day Mass when that day falls on a Saturday or a Monday. For example, Holy Mary Mother of God falls on Monday this year and is not obligatory for January 1, 2024.

So, since Christmas falls on a Monday, the obligation to participate in Christmas Mass must be lifted, right?

Not so fast!

From the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy Newsletter dated February 2017, “The obligation to attend Mass on Christmas is never abrogated, regardless of the day of the week. Consequently, the faithful are obliged to attend Mass for the Fourth Sunday of Advent—which is also never abrogated—and for Christmas Day.”

There is no two-for-one Mass. The obligation is to attend two (2) separate Masses.

Below is an example of Masses that allow you to fulfill your obligation. Be sure to consult your parish schedule when deciding which Masses to attend.

For the Fourth Sunday of Advent:

Saturday, December 23: Evening Mass for the Fourth Sunday of Advent.

Sunday, December 24: Morning Mass for the Fourth Sunday of Advent.

For the Solemnity of Christmas:

Sunday, December 24: Evening Mass for the Solemnity of Christmas.

Monday, December 25: Morning and Daytime Masses for the Solemnity of Christmas.

Usually, with some exceptions, you would not receive communion twice on the same day. However, since one Mass is for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, and the other is for the Solemnity of Christmas, you may receive communion twice on Sunday if you choose that option.

In this time of Eucharistic Revival, we are reminded over and over of what a tremendous gift we have in celebrating the Eucharist.  What a blessing in 2023 that we can come together in community, twice in a row to celebrate Mass and to encounter Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

Happy Advent and Merry Christmas!

Dcn. Ken Bennett is the co-coordinator of the Office of Worship in the Diocese of Owensboro. Martha Hagan is the vice-chancellor and administrative assistant in the Office of the Bishop in the Diocese of Owensboro.

Further questions may be directed to Dcn. Bennett at [email protected].

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Publisher |  Bishop William F. Medley
Editor |  Elizabeth Wong Barnstead
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