In many churches today midnight mass is the first liturgy or pattern or service of Christmastide and this is celebrated on the night of Christmas Eve.
Traditionally beginning at midnight when Christmas Eve turns into Christmas Day.
This service is a very happy and joyful celebration of the “Mass” or Communion service, worshipping in honor of the birth of Jesus.
It must be said that many churches don’t always use the term “Mass” for their normal Sunday communion services however they do tend to use the term “Midnight Mass” for this Christmas Eve service.
As ever, a bit of history for you.
The tradition of a midnight vigil on the eve of Christmas began in the East and was observed in the late fourth century in Jerusalem by a Christian woman named Egeria.
The tradition reached the Western world in the year 430 under Pope Sixtus III in the Basilica of St Mary Major.
By the twelfth century, the practice of midnight Mass had become more widespread as all priest had been granted the means to celebrate three masses on Christmas Day, this has only been reserved for the Pope, however only if they were done at the right time, this being midnight, dawn and during the day.
The practice of celebrating Midnight Mass in the Roman Catholic Church is a very traditional affair, although many churches now hold their midnight mass at an earlier hour, and since 2009 the Pope has celebrated this Mass at 10.00pm, and the official service name is now called Mass during the night, however when the Mass is celebrated at midnight it is still called “Midnight Mass”.
In Anglican churches such as ours, the service will start at 11.30 so by the time we arrive at the Mass, Communion, Eucharistic part of the service it will be 12.00 midnight.
The Church of Scotland also has a service at this time, like ours it involves singing carols, however they don’t celebrate Mass, so they call this service Watchnight service