The Advent and Christmas liturgical celebrations in the Archdiocese of Washington this year may be different in terms of the size of congregations due to the coronavirus, but even in the midst of the pandemic, the heart and mystery of the holy season – God the Father’s perfect gift of His Son Jesus Christ’s birth – remains constant, true and lasting.

“Just as God promises to faithfully stay close to us, we must recommit ourselves to faithfully stay close to God through prayer and action. During this season of Advent, I encourage you to not only pray, but to also commit yourselves to charitable works,” said Washington Cardinal Wilton Gregory in a video message for the first Sunday of Advent on the website of the annual archdiocesan Advent initiative, “Find the Perfect Gift.” 

“Let us make some spiritual resolutions to draw close to the Lord, so that we can more worthily and joyfully welcome the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas,” said the cardinal.

During Advent, the Archdiocese of Washington continues its traditional “Find the Perfect Gift” campaign to help the faithful spiritually prepare for Christmas - to pray during Advent, to find answers about what is peace and happiness, and to stay connected and involved with the archdiocese. The interactive website for “Find the Perfect Gift,” www.findtheperfectgift.org and its Spanish-language counterpart website, “Regalo Perfecto,” www.regaloperfecto.org also assist the faithful in locating Christmas Mass times throughout the archdiocese, as well as finding livestream options available for Advent and Christmas Masses.

The site features weekly spiritual reflection posts and videos from Cardinal Gregory, the Washington auxiliary bishops, and several archdiocesan priests. It also lists Mass times in the archdiocese, and offers an opportunity for users to create and share their families’ Advent and Christmas traditions. Also on the site, are links to COVID-19 friendly volunteer opportunities, both in person and virtual, such as the Catholic Charities’ Angel Tree Giving Program, which helps families in need. 

Cardinal Gregory will be the main celebrant of the 10 p.m. Christmas Eve Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew in Washington and the noon Christmas Day Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Both churches are open, however seating in the city’s houses of worship is limited to a 250-person maximum capacity due to the District of Columbia’s coronavirus restrictions, so people must register to attend Masses there in advance.

For the 10 p.m. Mass on Christmas Eve, Thursday, Dec. 24, at St. Matthew’s Cathedral, a livestream will be available on the archdiocesan YouTube page www.youtube.com/washarchdiocese , and other archdiocesan social media outlets. The Christmas Eve Cathedral Mass at 10 p.m. will also be available on the following YouTube link, youtu.be/6DeF9OSAH7c on Dec. 24. 

This year, due to the COVID-19 restriction placed upon houses of worship by the District of Columbia that now limits the number of attendees to 250 persons per service, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. is implementing, for the first time, an advance registration and ticketing system for Sundays and holy days beginning Dec. 20 throughout the Christmas season:

  • Vigil Masses of the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas Eve, December 24)
  • Masses During the Day of the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas Day, December 25)
  • Solemnity of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph (December 27)
  • Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God (January 1)
  • Epiphany of the Lord (January 3)
  • Baptism of the Lord (January 10)

Registration for attending the basilica Masses opened on Friday, Dec. 18, at 9 am ET, on a first-come, first-served basis, with a 10-person ticket limit per registration.  To register, please visit www.nationalshrine.org/mass-registration.

For the 12 noon Mass on Christmas Day, Friday, Dec. 25, at the National Shrine, a livestream will be available on the shrine’s website, www.nationalshrine.org/Mass, YouTube page, www.youtube.com/user/marysshrine and its FaceBook page. 

Bishop Mario Dorsonville will be the celebrant and homilist of the basilica’s 2:30pm Spanish-language Christmas Day Mass, which will also be livestreamed on its website, www.nationalshrine.org/Mass, its Facebook page and YouTube page, www.youtube.com/user/marysshrine and celebrated under the restriction of a 50-person limit.

This year, Arlington Bishop Michael Burbidge will be the celebrant of the Christmas TV Mass that will air on Christmas Day, Dec. 25 from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. on WDCW Channel 50.