Can One Mass Satisfy Both My Sunday and Christmas Obligation in 2023?

By Jenna Marie Cooper

In 2023 Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday (which is also the Fourth Sunday of Advent). And like all Sundays, Catholics are required to attend Mass in person, unless there is some legitimate reason (like illness or inclement weather) that makes attending Mass unduly difficult or impossible.

Of course, the next day, Monday, Dec. 25, is Christmas Day, which is also a holy day of obligation.

You might be wondering, since Christmas is on Monday, can you go to a Christmas vigil Mass on Sunday and have it fulfill your Sunday and Christmas obligations? However, because there are two days of obligation – i.e., Sunday and Christmas – this means that there are two distinct obligations.

Each separate obligation needs to be fulfilled by attending a separate Mass. That is, you cannot “double dip” by attending a Christmas Eve Mass that happens to be on Sunday and have this one Mass fulfill two obligations. (Note: In years when Christmas Day falls on a Sunday, Christmas essentially replaces the Sunday liturgically, which means there is only one obligation.)

Now for the part that can get confusing: even though you must attend two Masses to fulfill the two obligations, all this means is that you must go to Mass on that calendar day or attend a vigil Mass the evening before. The readings and prayers do not necessarily need to match the day whose obligation you are fulfilling.

So you could go to a Christmas vigil Mass on Sunday, Dec. 24, and have it count as your Fourth Sunday of Advent obligation this year; but if you intend for it to fulfill your Sunday obligation, then you must also attend another Mass on Christmas Day to fulfill your obligation for the holy day.

Of course, if you were to attend a vigil Mass on Saturday, Dec. 23, for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, and then the Christmas vigil Mass on Sunday (Christmas Eve) for Christmas Day, then you’ve got it all covered.

Jenna Marie Cooper, who holds a licentiate in canon law, is a consecrated virgin and a canonist whose column appears weekly at OSV News.

Photo: Pope Francis visits the Nativity scene at the conclusion of Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Dec. 24, 2022. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)


Mass Livestream