SAU CFDD
Feb 242010
 

Bishop Martin Amos recites the closing blessing during the Concluding Rite at the Rite of Election of Catechumens and Call to Continuing Conversion of Candidates. Deacon Al Boboth is to the left.

By Deacon Frank Agnoli

In 2005, the World Synod of Bishops met to reflect on the place of the Eucharist in the life of the Catholic Church. At the end of the meeting, a number of propositions were presented to Pope Benedict XVI. These were worked into his follow-up Apostolic Exhortation, Sacramentum caritatis (§51):

Finally, I would like to comment briefly on the observations of the synod fathers regarding the dismissal at the end of the eucharistic celebration. After the blessing, the deacon or the priest dismisses the people with the words: Ite, missa est. (currently translated as, “The Mass is ended, go in peace.”). These words help us to grasp the relationship between the Mass just celebrated and the mission of Christians in the world. In antiquity, missa simply meant “dismissal.” However, in Christian usage it gradually took on a deeper meaning. The word “dismissal” has come to imply a “mission.” These few words succinctly express the missionary nature of the church. The people of God might be helped to understand more clearly this essential dimension of the church’s life, taking the dismissal as a starting  point. In this context, it might also be helpful to provide new texts, duly approved, for the prayer over the people and the final blessing, in order to make this connection clear.

In 2008, the Holy Father added three new dismissals to the Roman Missal in order to stress that we are sent as missionaries into the world. These are the newest words in the 2000-year history of Catholic worship. In addition to “Go forth, the Mass is ended” (which is the new translation of Ite, missa est), the new dismissals are:

• Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.

• Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.

• Go in peace.

I have always been intrigued by the fact that we name what we do — the Mass — by the final action: the dismissal, the being sent forth to proclaim the Gospel in word and deed. The church, which is all of us, is missionary in nature. In order to fulfill that calling, which comes to us through baptism, we gather together to celebrate Eucharist. Our faith tells us that this is the pre-eminent place that we encounter Christ — in each other, in the word proclaimed, in the sacrament — in order to be changed, transformed, more and more into the body of Christ that we are. Changed, we are sent back out — to encounter Christ in those whom we serve. Changed by that encounter, we return to the tables of word and sacrament to be nourished … and sent on mission again, week after week until we are all welcomed into the wedding feast of the Lamb.

In a future series, I will explore how the rites and rhythms of the Eucharist, as well as our attitudes and dispositions, can foster such a transformative encounter with Christ.

(Deacon Agnoli is director of liturgy for the Diocese of Davenport.)

NEW DISMISSAL FORMULAS:

• Go forth, the Mass is ended.

• Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.

• Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.

• Go in peace. 

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