Wednesday, December 31, 2014
TO WATCHNIGHT OR NOT TO NIGHTWATCH ON NEW YEAR'S EVE; THAT IS THE QUESTION!
Then when I came to St. Joseph Church in 2004 with two brand newly ordained parochial vicars, they insisted on a midnight Mass on New Year's Eve and I allowed them the luxury but told them that one Midnight Mass a year was more than enough for me and my constitution and that they could go it alone and with anyone else who cared to show up. They may have gotten a hundred or more. I don't know, because when 2005 woke up I was sound asleep!
Liturgically, Mass can be celebrated at any time of day or night. In Baltimore there was at St. Vincent de Paul Church downtown a midnight Mass each Sunday morning. This was in the 1970's and I believe this tradition with the same pastor continues to this day. If someone knows, please let me know. Some classmates and I went to the Midnight Mass there on a regular Sunday and the pastor was kind enough to invite us into the rectory kitchen afterward for some fixings. I can't remember his name, but he had a beard!
There are only two times a year that a "night" or midnight Mass are prescribed. The first of course is Christmas and the second is the Great Vigil of Easter. Most of us, though, celebrate the Easter Vigil right at sundown rather than late in the night. But technically the vigil should take place around 11 PM Holy Saturday with the blessing of the fire and Paschal candle, procession, lengthy, extended Liturgy of the Word, Holy Baptism and Confirmation. Then the Liturgy of the Eucharist ideally begins Easter Sunday at 12 midnight. But whoa! I don't think most can handle it. I know I can't.
But what about midnight Mass on New Year's Eve/Day? Is Christmas Midnight Mass enough or do we need another one a week later?
A watchnight service is a late-night Christian church service. In many different Christian traditions, a watchnight service is held late on New Year's Eve, and ends after midnight. This provides the opportunity for Christians to review the year that has passed and make confession, and then prepare for the year ahead by praying and resolving. The services often include singing, praying, exhorting, and preaching.
The founder of the Methodist Church, John Wesley, originated watch night services in 1740, sometimes calling them Covenant Renewal Services. The services provided Methodist Christians with a godly alternative to times of drunken revelry, such as Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. Today, a Methodist watchnight service includes singing, spontaneous prayers and testimonials, as well as scripture readings; the liturgy for this service is found in The United Methodist Book of Worship.
In Anglican or Roman Catholic churches, this ceremony is often replicated in the form of a Midnight Mass or Eucharist.