Liturgy Series Part 18

Mass takes its name from 'dismissal'

February 26, 2003
Denver Catholic Register


In our reflection on the liturgy this week, we're drawing close to the conclusion of Mass.

After Communion, when everyone has received our Lord, extraordinary ministers may be sent to visit the sick. They take with them not only the love of the assembled parish community to share with the homebound, but Christ himself in Communion. This is a privilege and also a responsibility. They should go directly to their destinations without delay — and our prayers should accompany them.

For the rest of the assembly, a moment of silent thanksgiving should follow for the gift of the Eucharist. The General Instruction on the Roman Missal also notes that this is an appropriate time for a hymn of thanksgiving or praise sung by the entire congregation (GIRM, 88).

The celebrant then stands and says, "Let us pray." The assembly also rises in momentary silence as we gather up the fruits of the Mass. We stand not only to be attentive, but also to join ourselves to the prayer of the celebrant, for the Prayer after Communion closes the Communion Rite. The text of this prayer always asks that the gift of holy Communion be made manifest in our lives. It's a short prayer, so the celebrant should pronounce it clearly while the assembly listens attentively. The assembly then gives assent with a resounding "Amen."

Brief announcements may follow. Then the priest or deacon will indicate, "Bow your head and pray for God's blessing." In a posture of reverence, we do just that: pray for His blessing. The celebrant gives the blessing and one of the following is said: "Go in the peace of Christ" or "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord" or, "The Mass is ended, go in peace." During the Easter season, we add "Alleluia," which is often sung. In fact, I think it should be sung at every Mass during this special time of rejoicing.

This simple exchange, with its several variations, speaks profoundly about the Church's understanding of the celebration of the Eucharist in our lives.

The word "Mass" actually comes from the word "dismissal." In fact, the Mass is named for the action that completes it: to dismiss or send forth the assembly.

Let's look at the words: "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord." We are invited to depart with the peace of our Lord — the peace the world cannot give. In the midst of our troubles or joy, we are encouraged to hold in our hearts the confidence that Christ remains with us. We experience this reality in an active prayer life, and we see it in the presence of Christ's Church, his mystical body, of which we're each an essential part.

"To love and serve the Lord:" This accents the common priesthood of every baptized individual. Each person leaving the Mass is urged to live out the benefits of the celebration. Whether young or old, married or single, ordained or consecrated, we are sent out to imitate the love of the Lord we have experienced in the Eucharist, through service to our neighbor.

And our response is simple and heartfelt: Together, the assembly answers, "Thanks be to God!" for the privilege to take part in the timeless gift of the Eucharist and to live it out in our lives.

The archbishop's series on the liturgy will conclude next week.