A-Z of the Mass: Exit
Following the Prayer after Communion and the blessing, we come to the dismissal, which is given by the deacon or, in his absence, by the priest. The familiar Latin dismissal Ite Missa Est to which the people respond Deo Gratias, ‘thanks be to God’, is an ancient formula. The exact translation is often disputed because of the significance the word missa came to have as the technical name of the Eucharistic Liturgy in the Roman Rite. If, however, we interpret missa as dismissal, we end with something akin to ‘Go, it is the dismissal’. When Mass is celebrated in the vernacular there are a number of options available but what is perhaps more interesting is what the dismissal has come to signify, what it really means to those present.
Many have come to regard dismissal as implying mission, as not simply an ending but a starting point. As such, we should be struck by the power of this instruction as we are duly sent forth, as disciples of Christ, to bear witness to the faith in the wider world, to share the gifts and blessings which have been bestowed upon us in the Mass, and in doing so to draw others to the truth of the faith. We are, all of us, called to share in this mission, in many and various ways under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. In this way the Mass can, for each of us, mark a new departure where public worship leads definitively into Christian mission as we seek to live out our faith in our homes, workplaces and communities, and encourage others to do the same.