A correspondent writes:
My mother just called me with a question (I’m the family theologian, I guess!). Her pastor insisted that the Easter Vigil Mass does not count as the Easter Sunday Mass "obligation." My wife and I usually go to the Easter Vigil Mass and Easter morning Mass, so it has never been a question in our minds, but I was always under the assumption that the vigil Mass would work the same way as a Mass of anticipation. As I thought about it, though, I realized that the readings are different, and that the special rites of the Vigil Mass may make a difference. Can you help to clarify this issue for us?
Your mother’s pastor probably had the same thought that you did–that the readings, etc., for Easter Vigil are different than those of Easter Sunday and that, as a consequence, Easter Vigil might not (or, in his opinion, does not) fulfill the Sunday obligation.
The idea that the readings of a Mass must be the same as those of the Sunday or holy day following in order to fulfill the obligation is a common idea, but it is in error. There is no doubt about this in the law.
Here is what the law says:
A person who assists at a Mass celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the feast day itself or in the evening of the preceding day satisfies the obligation of participating in the Mass [CIC Can. 1248 §1].
Note that there is nothing in the law about there needing to be any particular readings or set of ceremonies needed to fulfill the obligation. Any Mass in any rite on the evening of the preceding day satisfied the obligation.
The fact that no readings or ceremonies are required in the law is itself proof of the fact that they are not required, but the matter is doubly proven by the fact that the law provides that a Mass "anywhere in a Catholic rite" is sufficient. The reason is that the different rites have different readings and ceremonies in their Masses. If I were to go across the street to the local Maronite parish, or a few miles one way to the local Chaldean parish, or a few miles the other direction to the local Ruthenian parish, I would hear completely different readings and observe different ceremonies. Yet their Masses would fulfill my Sunday obligation, as the above canon indicates.
So despite the popular misconception, no particular rites or ceremonies are needed, and any Mass on Saturday evening–Easter Vigil Mass included–will satisfy the obligation for Sunday.