Go Now, You Are Sent Forth


The Concluding Rite is the shortest and simplest part of the Mass. According to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, it consists of: brief announcements (if necessary), the priest’s greeting and blessing, the dismissal of the people, and the reverencing of the altar by the priest, deacon and other ministers. (#90)
Although blessings had been used in the Church for many centuries, they were not incorporated into the Mass until the 1570 Missal of Pius V when a blessing was added after the dismissal. In the current order of Mass, the blessing comes before the dismissal.
Three options are given for the blessing: Simple Blessing, where the priest blesses the assembly in the name of Father, Son and Spirit; Solemn Blessing, which includes three invocations that vary according to the season or feast and to which the people answer Amen; Prayer over the People, which consists of a collect to which the assembly responds Amen. Both the Solemn Blessing and Prayer over the People conclude with the simple blessing.
When Mass was celebrated in Latin, the words used as the dismissal were Ite, missa est. By the fifth century, the word missa was used to describe both the dismissal, its original meaning, and the entire celebration. The fact that the word ‘Mass’ derives from the dismissal underlines the fact that this part of the Mass is very important. The dismissal is not just a way to end the celebration and say farewell to those who have gathered, although both of these are included. As the General Instruction puts it, the dismissal sends each member out ‘to do good works, praising and blessing God’ (#90).
The dismissal is not so much an ending as a commissioning. Some traditions refer to it as the ‘charge’, not because it is when we ‘charge’ out of the church (as some seem to believe!), but to reflect the fact that we who have united ourselves to Christ’s sacrifice in the Eucharist have a duty and responsibility to live the mystery we have just celebrated, to be the Body of Christ in our homes, communities and workplaces.
In many places, the Prayer after Communion and the announcements are swapped around. This means that both lose the context which gives them their meaning. The Prayer after Communion is connected to the eucharistic sharing and so rightly comes immediately after Communion.
The announcements offer the assembly opportunities for mission during the coming week, for example, assisting at the food pantry for the needy and visiting the sick and housebound, so they are best placed in the Concluding Rites.
While a song is named as one of the key elements of the Introductory Rites, a hymn is not included among the concluding rites. Because a recessional hymn has become such common practice, people assume that it is a requirement.
The General Instruction suggests that a psalm, canticle or hymn of praise be sung by the whole congregation after communion (#88). If this is done, it seems superfluous to sing another hymn after the blessing and dismissal. It may be more effective to do as we have been charged to do: to go in peace (and silence?) to love and serve the Lord.

Elizabeth Harrington