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The Mass – Part 6: How is the end of Mass really just the beginning?

txt-17thirdcommand1-usccaAfter receiving Holy Communion, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal invites us to observe “sacred silence.” Pope Benedict XVI has encouraged the same: “The precious time of thanksgiving after Communion should not be neglected: besides the singing of an appropriate hymn, it can also be most helpful to remain recollected in silence.”

Then, we are ready to ask ourselves: Have we encountered the Beloved? He has given himself to us, and how have we responded? Has it changed us? Are we ready to bring him to others?

As St. Thomas Aquinas said, “Nemo dat quod non habet” — “No one gives what she or he does not have.”

This is the point of the closing rites: Because we’ve been changed, we are sent to bring Christ to the world.

After the silence, the priest prays that the Communion we have received will make a difference in our lives. Even in Mass, the silence does not last forever: Our parish is very much a part of the world. So we make announcements — how can our eucharistic faith be lived in our parish, our community, our world?

That’s why the priest finally calls down God’s blessing: to help us accomplish God’s will in the world. Thus we are dismissed.

The Latin words for the dismissal — “Ite, missa est” — literally mean not “The Mass is ended,” but “Go, you are sent.”

The dismissal is not so much a signal that something is ending (as the English might suggest), but something is beginning: our mission in the world. If we rush out of the church doors, it should not be because we want to beat other cars out of the parking lot, but because we can’t wait to tell others about Jesus.

When the two on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24) finally recognized Jesus in the burning Word of God and the breaking of the bread, they ran seven miles back to Jerusalem to tell the others how Jesus had changed them. The closing rites are short, so we can get to evangelizing right away. We’ve got work to do.

But not on Sunday — this is the Lord’s Day. The whole day should be a kind of divine afterglow: We spend it in holy leisure to give ample time for the Eucharist to change our families and our parish.

Even for those who have to work on Sunday, making room for Saturday evening or Sunday Mass reminds them that their lives don’t revolve around work, but work must make room for God.

To read about the other parts of the Mass and what’s happening, and why, check out the other articles in this series under the Related Content section below.

About Father Tom Margevicius

Father Tom Margevičius worked for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources before joining the National Evangelization Teams (NET) and working for St. Paul’s Outreach in the Twin Cities. He is a full-time instructor at the St. Paul Seminary. He has served the parishes of Nativity in St. Paul, St. John the Baptist in Dayton, and currently is also pastor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Northeast Minneapolis, where he celebrates the sacraments in Sign Language for the deaf.

© 2007 Rev. Thomas Margevicius
Used with permission.