21 Sunday, 4th of Advent, semidouble. Second prayers of the BVM, third prayers for the Church or Pope. Violet. First Vespers of St Thomas the Apostle with commemoration of Sunday. Antiphon O Oriens. Red.
22 Monday, St Thomas the Apostle, double of second class (transferred from yesterday). Red.
23 Tuesday, Feria. Violet.
24 Wednesday, Vigil of the Nativity. Violet. FAST.
The Indulgence begins.
25 Thursday, THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, double of the first class with an Octave, during which second prayers are of the Octave, the Creed is recited in each Mass and the Preface of Christmas is said. Three Masses, in the second of which there is a commemoration of St Anastasia. The third Mass has as the last Gospel the Gospel of the feast of the Epiphany. Vespers are Second Vespers of the feast, with commemoration of St Stephen. Plenary Indulgence.
26 Friday, (Feast of Devotion) St STEPHEN, Proto-Martyr, double of second class with an Octave during which fourth prayers are of the Octave. Red. Abstinence.
27 Saturday, (Feast of Devotion) St JOHN, Apostle and Evangelist, double of second class with an Octave during which fifth prayers are of the Octave. White.
The preparation for Christmas is completed by the fourth Sunday, which displaces the feast of St Thomas the Apostle to Monday (which should be a feria). Tuesday is another feria (so priests will say a votive Mass), and on Wednesday, Christmas Eve, there is a mass for the Vigil of the Nativity. This is a very simple Mass, with only one prayer. The Nativity is a feast on whose Vigil we are obliged to fast, but as it is a Wednesday in Advent, it is a day of fasting, anyway.
The Indulgence begins: there are eight periods in the year during which plenary indulgences can be obtained as long as certain conditions are met. This was a way of encouraging people to receive Holy Communion more than once a year. The conditions always include Confession and Holy Communion, but the other conditions fall into three categories according to the grant of the Indulgence. The Christmas indulgence, which lasts until the Epiphany is one of four granted by Pope Benedict XIV (Fr Hunwicke's ghostly counsellor): Christmas, Easter, the Assumption and St Michael: whose third condition is to visit a Church or Chapel in which Mass is celebrated to pray for the peace of God's Church; and fourth, to assist the poor with alms, or to attend catechism or sermons as often as possible, or to assist the sick or those who are near to their end. (The fourth condition doesn't have to be met on the same day as Communion is received, but Communion must be received by somebody disposed to fulfil the condition if the Indulgence is to be obtained.)
Christmas Day is the only day on which priests can say three Masses: there are three proper Masses, of midnight, of dawn and of daytime. (The concession for All Souls' Day dates from 1915.) In a parish or foundation with many priests, they can be said by each priest one after the other, with special rubrics associated with eg purification of the chalice, or they can be said at the appropriate times. St Anastasia, whose feast is today, is commemorated at the Dawn mass. As the Gospel for the daytime Mass is the first part of the first chapter of St John's Gospel, which is the default Last Gospel, the Last Gospel at this Mass is the Gospel of the Epiphany.
Christmas has its own Octave, but unlike the Octaves of the Epiphany, Easter and Pentecost, which are (figuratively) weeks on which the principal feast is relived on each day, the Christmas Octave has various major feasts each of which carries its own Octave. These would all have been Holydays prior to the Reformation and are marked as Feasts of devotion so that those who are able should treat them as such. As they are Octaves, they are commemorated each day: this means that the nativity will be commemorated every day until 1 January, St Stephen until 2 January, etc. Already by Saturday this means that there are five sets of prayers, and next week will be busier still!
Separate from the period of indulgence, there is a plenary indulgence available on Christmas Day itself to all who confess, receive Communion, and pray for the Pope's intentions.
Remember that Friday is still a day of Abstinence, and that means no eggs as well as no meat. Next year we will see the only occasion on which the rule of Friday abstinence is abrogated: when Christmas Day fall on a Friday. (Remember that I'm talking about the immemorial customs of the Church here, not about the Catholic Church in England and Wales in 2014.)
St Mary Magdalene, Mortlake is served by the Missionary Rector, Rev J G Wenham, and the Rev Sylvester Donnelly. Mass on Sundays is at 8.00 and 10.30, on weekdays at 7.30 and 8.00. Vespers, Catechism and Benediction on Sundays at 6.30. On Thursdays and Feasts of Devotion, Benediction at 7.30 pm. Exposition on Sunday in the Octave of the Epiphany, on the Fourth Sunday of Lent, and the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost. There is a Catholic Boarding School for Young Gentlemen in the parish, as well as a cemetery. (Click on the image to view the school's prospectus if it isn't clear otherwise.)
Though there is no information about Mortlake Cemetery, the two public Catholic cemeteries in London, St Mary's Kensal-green and St Patrick's at Leyton, have chaplains in attendance for interments between 2.00 pm and 4.00 pm every day. Single interments, all fees included, are a guinea (£1.05) for adults, and 15/- (75p) for children under 10.
(I offered a few weeks ago to include such details as are available for any parish which was open in 1862 or 1863: let me know if there's one you are interested in.)