The Roman Missal: Ite Missa Est!

ImageTHE END.  When this phrase shows up at the end of movies, it’s usually a pretty sudden dismissal.  So it might seem a bit strange that the name for the Eucharist as the “Mass”, comes from the Latin dismissal “ite missa est.”  But that word “missa” translates not only to “be dismissed,” but “be sent”.

We’ve been talking about the Mass and what kind of things the new translation has to offer us.  So if you’ve enjoyed this whole thing so far, that’s great!  Hopefully you’re going to Mass thinking less about what kind of bagel you’re going to get from Bread Co. and more about the meaning of each part of the Mass.  Hopefully, the Mass is becoming a more enriching experience.

But then it’s over.

How do we make sense of this?  How is it supposed to be less of a letdown and more of something to get us pumped up?  Pope Benedict talked about his at length, comparing the Mass to the Gospel story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24: 13-32).  The story takes place after the resurrection, with some disciples walking to Emmaus.  They’re downcast, troubled, and thinking about all the terrible things that have happened.  But then Jesus shows up, only they don’t recognize him, and he walks with them.  As he goes, he’s explaining all the scriptures to them and how they relate to his sacrifice on the Cross.  They’re intrigued, and they ask him to stay (“mane nobiscum, domine!”).  And so he does and has dinner with them.  And as they’re eating dinner, he takes bread, gives thanks, breaks it, and gives it to them.  And immediately, they realize who he is!

The same is true for us.  We probably come to Mass with a million distractions, and thoughts running through our heads.  But then as we listen to the scriptures, Christ reveals to us through the Holy Spirit all the wonderful works of God in our lives.  Then he comes to stay with us, to abide with us, acting through the priest to break bread, and he gives to us the greatest food – not bread, but his own Body and Blood.  And it’s there that we recognize him!

So then what?  The story in the Gospel continues that the disciples went out and praised God, proclaiming his great love for them.  As we are dismissed from Mass, we are to do the same!  The Mass, that intimate union with God, the greatest example of sacrifice and self-gift, is what we do.  It’s what we were created for.  And so we’re called to imitate it through our own gift of self.

So when you walk out those doors (preferably after the dismissal, please), truly we do so with new purpose, just like those disciples did.  So whether it’s the rather boring sounding “Go forth, the Mass is ended” or the coffee-induced charge “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life”, go out and do likewise, saying from your heart, “Thanks be to God!”

So there you have it.  Most of the common parts of the Mass explained with their new translations.  But that’s not all!  There’s so much more to talk about, so tune in next week!


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