Go the Mass is Ended … Thanks be to God!
Children are often bemused by this strange dialogue at the end of Mass, thanking God that the Mass is ended. At the end of some Masses it comes as a cry of relief! But the force of the original Latin text, Ite missa est, Deo gratias, seems inadequately expressed in our English translation. Not that its meaning is definitively agreed or understood by the best of scholars: the Latin text is one of the most ancient and archaic in the Roman Missal and defies analysis with our current knowledge of archaic Latin.
Recently, I attended a course run by Catholic Institute of Sydney titled "The Roman Missal." After a few days the students came to affectionately call the course "the Roman Missile." Interestingly, this adaptation gives some insight into the original meaning of the words "Missal" and "Mass." The word, Missa, is the perfect passive participle of the Latin verb Mitto, which means "to send off," "to send forth" or "to despatch." As a noun, Missa has the sense of something that causes one to be sent forth. It is the event that launches the missiles! It is the source of all Church life and mission (Lumen Gentium, 11). In this context, a more meaningful translation of the dismissal would be: "Go! You have been launched!" or "Go! You have been sent!" We are sent to be what we have become in the Eucharistic event, a communion in the body of Christ, the salt of the earth, the light of the world rising in the darkness.
Our communion in Christ leads us into the world in acts of charity, almsgiving, prayer, compassion and the promotion of social justice for the poor. In this way we are the leaven for the whole world, bringing it into the cosmic liturgy of praise and thanks to God, making the world holy. Our response "Thanks be to God!" is the acknowledgment of our participation in this liturgy of the world.
4. Go the Mass is Ended … Thanks be to God!
Why We Do the Things We Do © 2005 Paul Mason
Paul Mason is Pastoral Associate at Naremburn and Northbridge parishes. He is a member of the Australian Academy of Liturgy and the Diocesan Liturgical Commission of Broken Bay.
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