In our reflection
on the liturgy this week, we're drawing close to the conclusion of Mass.
After Communion, when everyone has received our Lord, extraordinary
ministers may be sent to visit the sick. They take with them not only
the love of the assembled parish community to share with the homebound,
but Christ himself in Communion. This is a privilege and also a responsibility.
They should go directly to their destinations without delay and
our prayers should accompany them.
For the rest of
the assembly, a moment of silent thanksgiving should follow for the
gift of the Eucharist. The General Instruction on the Roman Missal
also notes that this is an appropriate time for a hymn of thanksgiving
or praise sung by the entire congregation (GIRM, 88).
The celebrant then stands and says, "Let us pray." The assembly
also rises in momentary silence as we gather up the fruits of the Mass.
We stand not only to be attentive, but also to join ourselves to the
prayer of the celebrant, for the Prayer after Communion closes the Communion
Rite. The text of this prayer always asks that the gift of holy Communion
be made manifest in our lives. It's a short prayer, so the celebrant
should pronounce it clearly while the assembly listens attentively.
The assembly then gives assent with a resounding "Amen."
Brief announcements may follow. Then the priest or deacon will indicate,
"Bow your head and pray for God's blessing." In a posture
of reverence, we do just that: pray for His blessing. The celebrant
gives the blessing and one of the following is said: "Go in the
peace of Christ" or "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord"
or, "The Mass is ended, go in peace." During the Easter season,
we add "Alleluia," which is often sung. In fact, I think it
should be sung at every Mass during this special time of rejoicing.
This simple exchange, with its several variations, speaks profoundly
about the Church's understanding of the celebration of the Eucharist
in our lives.
The word "Mass" actually comes from the word "dismissal."
In fact, the Mass is named for the action that completes it: to dismiss
or send forth the assembly.
Let's look at
the words: "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord."
We are invited to depart with the peace of our Lord the peace
the world cannot give. In the midst of our troubles or joy, we are encouraged
to hold in our hearts the confidence that Christ remains with us. We
experience this reality in an active prayer life, and we see it in the
presence of Christ's Church, his mystical body, of which we're each
an essential part.
and serve the Lord:" This accents the common priesthood of
every baptized individual. Each person leaving the Mass is urged to
live out the benefits of the celebration. Whether young or old, married
or single, ordained or consecrated, we are sent out to imitate the love
of the Lord we have experienced in the Eucharist, through service to
And our response
is simple and heartfelt: Together, the assembly answers, "Thanks
be to God!" for the privilege to take part in the timeless
gift of the Eucharist and to live it out in our lives.
series on the liturgy will conclude next week.