Vigil Strikes Again – Readers Beware!! - 2nd August 2015

Soon after Pentecost this year, we received this email at Liturgy Brisbane:

I purchased the book "Break Open the Word 2015" from you. I was disappointed with the readings provided for Pentecost.  I was the first reader and the said book directed me to the Tower of Babel. I was taken on the hop when at the last minute I was given Act 2: 1-11 to read at the Mass. Similarly, the second reader given was Galatians 5:16-25, different from your recommendation.

Please check with the Authorities selecting the readings for Sundays and Holy Days before entering them into the said “Book for Readers”, to help readers prepare correctly for their readings in church.

I knew immediately what the problem was. The correspondent had prepared the readings from the page headed Pentecost – Vigil in “Break Open the Word”, whereas the passages used at the Mass were those for Pentecost Sunday which are set out on the following pages headed Pentecost – Day.

This mix-up would not have happened if we used the term “Vigil” correctly. The lady was reading at what her parish calls the “Vigil” Mass, so she prepared the readings with that label.  Sunday Masses held on Saturday evening are often termed “Vigil” Masses in parish notice boards, bulletins and websites. They are even sometimes listed under the Saturday liturgy schedule.

Sunday Masses held on Saturday evening should be described as just that, “Sunday Mass on Saturday”. The term “Vigil” applies only to those feasts where a different Mass (a separate set of readings and prayer texts) is provided for the eve of (day before) the feast, as happens for Christmas, Easter, Pentecost and the Assumption.

Because of this confusion, I anticipate getting enquiries during the coming week as to whether the texts and scripture readings for the feast of Mary MacKillop are used at the Saturday evening Mass on 8th August.

And the week after that, readers rostered for a Saturday evening Mass will be wondering whether they prepare the readings under the heading “Assumption - Vigil” for so-called “Vigil” Masses on 15th August.

A Saturday evening Mass is normally a Mass for the Sunday, so whatever is celebrated on the Sunday is also celebrated on the Saturday evening. Saturday evening Masses on 8th August are actually Sunday Masses for 9th August, so the texts of 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time will be used, not those of the feast of Mary MacKillop.

In the liturgical calendar a solemnity with obligation takes precedence over a Sunday in Ordinary Time, so Mass on the evening of 15th August should really be a Mass for the Assumption, which is both a solemnity and a holy day of obligation.  But the vast majority of people will assume that it will be a Sunday Mass.

In addition to having Mass for the Assumption on the morning of Saturday 15 August, parishes could schedule Mass for the Friday evening, a Vigil Mass in the correct sense of the term. This is when the readings and texts for the Assumption Vigil are meant to be used.

Whatever decision is made about the evening Mass on Saturday 15 August, it should be communicated to the parish clearly in advance. Of course, attending Mass on the evening of Saturday 15th August does not fulfil one’s obligation for the Assumption as well as for the Sunday!



Elizabeth Harrington