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Parts of the Mass: Concluding Rites
The Concluding Rites 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)
The announcements offer the assembly opportunities for living out during the coming week the commitment which Eucharist entails, for example, assisting refugees in the community, gathering for evening prayer on Wednesday, offering transport for the elderly.
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. The Trinitarian formula and the Sign of the Cross that accompany the blessing emphasise that God accompanies us as we continue life’s journey.
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. It is not so much an ending as a commissioning.
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. As the General Instruction puts it, the dismissal sends us ‘back to doing good works, praising and blessing God’ (#90c).
Some traditions refer to the dismissal 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.
While a song is named as one of the key elements of the Introductory Rites, a hymn is not included among the Concluding Rites but has nevertheless become common practice. It may be more effective to do simply as one form of the dismissal calls us to do: go (in silence) and announce the Gospel of the Lord.
The Concluding Rites of the Mass, though brief, remind us that we are all expected to do our part in carrying on Christ’s mission of proclaiming God’s word and serving others.