By Deacon Frank Agnoli
(Editor’s note: The publication of the third edition of the Roman Missal provides a great opportunity for each diocese, parish and individual Catholic to grow in their love for — and knowledge of — the liturgy. In this series Deacon Frank Agnoli, the Davenport Diocese’s director of liturgy, reflects on the parts of the Mass.)
The term “Mass” comes from the Latin dismissal (see the word in there, too?) formula: Ite, missa est (which is translated in the new Missal as “Go forth, the Mass is ended”). So we have come to name all that God has just done in the liturgy with the last thing that God does: send us on mission.
To dare to celebrate Eucharist is to consent to being changed not only for our own good, but for others. Jesuit theologian Father Larry Madden put it this way: “The only reason for the transformation of the bread and wine is our transformation; and our transformation is not just for our sake but for the sake of the world (and is a life-long project).”
As Pope Benedict XVI has reminded us, the Eucharist is not just a mystery to be believed and celebrated; it must also be a mystery to be lived. He states in Sacramentum caritatis:
In the Eucharist Jesus also makes us witnesses of God’s compassion towards all our brothers and sisters. The eucharistic mystery thus gives rise to a service of charity towards neighbour, which “consists in the very fact that, in God and with God, I love even the person whom I do not like or even know. This can only take place on the basis of an intimate encounter with God, an encounter which has become a communion of will, affecting even my feelings. Then I learn to look on this other person not simply with my eyes and my feelings, but from the perspective of Jesus Christ ….” Our communities, when they celebrate the Eucharist, must become ever more conscious that the sacrifice of Christ is for all, and that the Eucharist thus compels all who believe in him to become “bread that is broken” for others, and to work for the building of a more just and fraternal world …. Each of us is truly called, together with Jesus, to be bread broken for the life of the world (88).
“All who partake of the Eucharist must commit themselves to peacemaking in our world scarred by violence and war, and today in particular, by terrorism, economic corruption and sexual exploitation.” All these problems give rise in turn to others no less troubling and disheartening. We know that there can be no superficial solutions to these issues. Precisely because of the mystery we celebrate, we must denounce situations contrary to human dignity, since Christ shed his blood for all, and at the same time affirm the inestimable value of each individual person (89).
To emphasize this often-forgotten aspect of Eucharist, the Holy Father has added three new formulas for the dismissal. These are the newest words in the Catholic liturgy, a liturgy that has continued to evolve over 2,000 years:
Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.
OR: Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.
OR: Go in peace.
We are sent to announce the Good News of God’s justice; we are sent to glorify God by living lives of sacrificial service; we are sent to be peacemakers. We are not sent to go back to our lives as if nothing has happened.
The blessing that comes before the dismissal is one final prayer on our behalf: that we would be blessed as we are sent to be whom the celebration of Eucharist has called us to be, and to do what celebrating Eucharist has called us to do. It is a reminder, like the Sign of the Cross at the start of Mass, of who we are and whose we are!
The Ars Celebrandi
Do I respect the integrity of the Communion Rite by praying the Prayer after Communion at the proper time and not after the announcements?
Are announcements, if any, brief — and do they relate to how it is that we might live the Gospel in the coming week?
Entering the Mystery
As I listen carefully to the new dismissals, do I ask myself: Who am I being called to be? What am I being called to do?