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The Dismissal and the word Mass

​March 29, 2020

The priest or deacon, who gives the final dismissal at the end of Mass, could say one of 4 things: Go forth, the Mass is ended; Go, and announce the Gospel of the Lord; Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life; or simply, Go in peace.  These options exist not because it is nice to have options but because the original Latin, from which these possible translations come from, is somewhat obscure.  The Latin, “Ite, Missa est”, could have a number of possible meanings, and may purposely be somewhat obscure so that more than one meaning is conveyed at the same time.  A very literal translation of the Latin would be, “Go, is sent” or “Go, has been sent”.  Obviously the noun or object of what is sent is missing.  Traditionally the Latin was translated in people’s small Missals as “Go, the Mass is ended.”  While this is a somewhat correct meaning of what is trying to be conveyed, it falls short of what is literally being said.  By the way, it is from the word “missa” that we get the word “Mass”.  The word “missa” is from the verb “to send”.  Since we understand “The Mass” as the entire celebration of the Eucharist, or the Sacrifice of the Mass, it is not wrong to have the translation “Go, the Mass is ended”.  According to experts, the noun that is missing from the Latin phrase is either “ecclesia” meaning church or assembly of people, or “hostia” meaning victim, in the sense of The Victim (Christ) who has offered Himself as a Victim for our sins.  The noun may be purposely omitted so that both nouns would be understood in this ‘sending’.  In the first case, the assembly of people (ecclesia) are now sent out into the world.  They have benefited by their participation in the Mass - from the readings, the homily, the example of fellow believers, the prayers, the presence of the Sacrifice of Calvary on our altars, the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and their Communion with Him - and with the dismissal they are sent out to share all they have received with everyone they encounter.  In the second case, the Victim on the Cross (the Hostia) has been offered up, or literally sent, to His Heavenly Father, which means the Sacrifice of the Mass is ended or completed in our presence, which means we can now go out.  Christ crucified has been sent, and we too are sent out to share with others the spiritual goods we have received.