Liturgy Series Part 19

Mass ends as it
began, with reverence

March 5 , 2003
Denver Catholic Register


As we come to the final moments of Mass, we listen attentively to the celebrant's blessing and the words of dismissal. In response to "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord," we answer, "Thanks be to God!"

With those words, we give thanks for God's great gift of the Eucharist. We recall that many places, even in our own country, go without Mass on many Sundays because of too few priests. We remember too the many places in the world where persecution prevents the sacraments from being celebrated freely.

While we often join the celebrant, deacon and servers in a recessional hymn, no rubric actually requires one. If the parish community chooses to include a closing hymn, it should always echo the meaning of those beautiful last words of the Mass, "Thanks be to God!"

The celebrant then kisses the altar — the very last act of the Mass — just as he did at the beginning of the celebration.

Worshippers should never leave their pews before the celebrant fully exits the assembly. The liturgical procession will often move down the main aisle, with the cross leading. Then the assembly follows, or individuals may stay for further prayer. But since we're still in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, we should always do so reverently.

We should especially respect those individuals who take advantage of the sacred atmosphere to remain in prayer. As we exit, we should continue to quietly savor the love God has shown to us in the Eucharist.

If the tabernacle is in the sanctuary, we should always genuflect as we leave the pew, out of reverence for the Blessed Sacrament. If the Sacrament resides in another part of the church, we should bow to the altar and then genuflect if we pass the tabernacle when leaving the church.

Encouraged and refreshed, we leave the church grounds to bring the presence of Christ into the world through our daily lives. This is the substance of the "common priesthood" we can exercise so fruitfully outside our liturgical worship.

Our series on the Mass has touched on the high points of Catholic liturgical worship. But we can learn so much more. This week, March 7-8, we'll have that opportunity at our 2003 Liturgy Conference.

This year, as in years past, we'll host a wonderful range of speakers, with keynote presentations by Cardinal Arinze, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, several members of the Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy, and other nationally respected speakers. Local leaders in Scripture, music and theology will present workshops in tracks of English and Spanish.

This year's Liturgy Conference, "Sacraments as encounters with Christ" is not simply for specialists. It was designed for a much wider audience and will appeal to anyone eager to deepen his or her experience of worship. In fact, I hope to welcome and greet many of you who have read this series.

The speakers this year will help all of us to understand and appreciate more deeply the beauty of Catholic liturgy. Friday evening will also include a Marian prayer service where we will join our prayer to Pope John Paul II's appeal for world peace, especially in the Middle East.

Each of us is a member of the Church loved personally and eternally by Jesus. And so, as we strive to give Him glory, we ask Him to form us in His prayer to the Father, "... I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me" (Jn 17:22-23).