The Revised Liturgy and Being Sent Forth for Justice

by Frank Klose 

Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia delivered a paper at the Napa Institute in San Francisco on Saturday of this past weekend. Chaput’s paper, entitled, “Pope Francis and Economic Justice”, laid out Francis’ approach for the dignity of the human person and the implied need for each individual – lay and clergy alike – to take responsibility to promoting human dignity in their individual time and place.

In doing so Chaput ironically showed a flaw in the dismissal of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal:

 “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord:” We hear those words at the end of every Mass. We serve the Lord best by serving the needs of others. We love the Lord best by showing his love to others. At the heart of this pope’s thoughts about economic justice is not a theory or an ideology, but the person of Jesus Christ. And all of us who call ourselves Christians should see in that a reason to hope.

However, we no longer hear, “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord” at Mass.

The average layperson who comes to Mass would indeed benefit from hearing these words, knowing that outside of Mass service does not end.

Instead of a message of sending forth to love and serve the Lord, the new focus at dismissal was the Latin, “Ite, missa est.” The end result of the translation was four dismissals:

“Go forth, the mass is ended”

“Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord”

“Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your lives”

“Go in peace”

Stating the Mass simply has ended gives the impression that God’s work is done. That perhaps is why I have heard it used the least of the options: the deacons and priests at Mass know it is weak.

Announcing the message of the Gospel is indeed important. But, yet an “announcement” is not the same as to “love and serve the Lord” when the people are not gathered together.

Pope Benedict’s addition, “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your lives”, may be the best option of the four. However, in our English, a superficial mind could think that “glorifying the Lord” means getting good grades at school, achieving a sports championship, or getting a promotion at the office. This is about service.

“Go in peace”, is not enough on its own. No, we do not plan to leave and fight with anyone, but it gives the same impression as “the Mass is ended.” It seems to state, “Well, this was fun. Drive safely.”

On the Greek and Latin website, Vocabulary Lesson Plans, a student asks what the best translation of ite, missa est is. The teacher’s response:

There is some debate about missa, however. In late Latin, abstract nouns ending in –io came to be spelled instead with an -a. So it is possible that missa stands for missio. So says the Catholic Church. And so the best translation in ecclesiatical Latin is, “Go, it is the sending (or dismissal).”

This “sending” forth for justice in the world cannot be missed.

Chaput is right: Pope Francis wants all to go forth to love and serve the Lord. Francis’ popularity stems from his ability to deliver simple messages that all can understand and apply to their daily lives. If only the liturgy could speak to people in the same way.

 

Dr. Francis X. Klose is a parish music director and college professor in Philadelphia, PA. Frank recently completed a doctoral degree from Drew University, where his dissertation focused on liturgical music in the United States since the Second Vatican Council.

 

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11 comments

  1. Since it is only put forth as a possibility that missa=missio, I am perfectly happy to leave the precise meaning of the dismissal shrouded in a bit of mystery, much like “V/. Benedicite. R/. Deus.” But even if we agree that “Ite, missa est” definitely means “Go, it is the sending,” I hardly see how we arrive at the conclusion that all the options of MR3 are helplessly vague while “This ‘sending’ forth for justice in the world cannot be missed.” The dismissal of the unadapted Roman Rite does not clearly state that the assembly is being sent forth to love and serve the Lord by working for justice in the world. This understanding, to which I do not object, must be imported, read into, the “sending,” and the importation strikes me as no greater than that required to properly interpret “glorifying the Lord by your lives” or even simply going “in peace.”

    I’m unaware of any Latin liturgy (Roman or otherwise) that contains the sort of explicit dismissal to service Dr. Close desires, and of the Eastern liturgies know that at the very least the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom also fails to issue such a specific commission. So if there is some sort of fatal flaw in our liturgical practice preventing worship from informing the rest of our lives, it would seem that flaw lies not in the rites which have nurtured millenia of active holiness (St. Francis, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Peter Claver, St. Katherine Drexel, St. Damien of Molokai, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, etc.) but in those who can hear the exact same dismissal (Ite, missa est) without understanding its significance. Tinkering with the dismissal may alleviate the symptom, but it doesn’t seem to me that it will cure the underlying disease.

  2. Dr. Klose you have one dismissal that is incorrect from the Third Typical Edition of the Roman Missal. The correct dismissal is: “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”

  3. We often dismiss the people with “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord” because no one is reading it from a page in the missal. We’ve been sending the people forth for years and years and do it by heart. We sometimes say, “Let us go in peace to glorify God by the way we live our lives”. At other times we say, “The mass is never ended for it must be lived, go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” Why would we need precise translations from Latin to send people forth? Wait a minute, I forgot, there are some who believe that validity rests on a precise word for word reading of the authorized texts. Oops. I begin every Mass by saying “Let us give thanks to God in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” My bad?

  4. Finally, someone who translates “Ite, missa est” properly and puts the bald faced lie to literal translation. Thank you. For all those who argue that this iteration of the Mass is somehow more holy, more accurate, I give you this holy paraphrase. Is that the devil creeping in to the Word? Or can we finally pray with confidence like Fr. Jack, knowing that perfection is God’s and not ours?

    PS Rant aside, I’m not trying to start an argument here. Let me say that if this translation leads you to worship, to a selfless love in Christ, God bless you and good on you. I’m just tired of pretending in front of the God who knows us so well.

  5. Jesus Christ: “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

    Matt Connolly: “We’re not perfect, so screw all this stuff.”

    Hmmm….

    1. @Dwayne Bartles – comment #5:
      The Greek word, τέλειός in Matthew 5.48 may be translated as complete, or mature or perfect and its use there is in the context of love of enemies. So maturity comes to mind more than perfection or completion, as the most appropriate translation.

      To interpret Matthew 5.48 as a criticism of everything human which is not faultless is to take the word out of context and a recipe for neurosis.

    2. @Dwayne Bartles – comment #5:
      Aw, Dwayne, is that what you got out of what I wrote? That admitting my lack of perfection means “screw all this stuff”? I tire of this constant wrangling over who is doing it better. You are doing it better if you are led to a selfless love, whatever style of liturgy helps you. Same for me. Which words come closer to perfect is a red herring at least.

      And thanks, Gerard, for a gentle explanation. Truthfully, I question the perfection of a God who makes imperfect me. Seems pretty far off, don’t you think?

  6. Father Jack, the question that comes to me is whether there’s a sort of redundancy in your phraseology? Is the ritual (imperative) language of “In the name of the Father….” insufficient to the act that one has to “name” the action in addition to just doing it? Not ragging at all, it just seems curious.

    1. @Charles Culbreth – comment #6:
      Good question. A number of years ago, I suggested the clergy not use any words at all during Lent. We know what the sign of the cross is. I think the gesture is more powerful if not prompted by “In the name …”

      As for the dismissal, I’m of two minds on this.

      First, I somewhat like the “Benedictine” additions to the Roman Missal. My pastor still uses “love and peace,” though he’s insisted on implementation of MR3 otherwise. The sending song/hymn dominates the end of the Mass, text-wise anyway. Does it require lyrics, Scriptural or otherwise, to be a little more explicit? I’m thinking not: I don’t like music that preaches, especially if I have to sing it. But more texts oriented to mission and discipleship? Maybe that.

      On second thought, maybe I don’t like the MR3 additions so much. Maybe the end of Mass in our age requires something with a little more spiritual heft, or texts that address God directly:

      P: All power, Lord Jesus, has been given to you. In turn, you direct us to be disciples and to make disciples in the world.

      R. You are with us always, until the end of the age.

      Or:

      P: Lord Jesus, you sent your disciples throughout the whole world to proclaim the Gospel to every creature.

      R. Lord Jesus, send us this day and help our unbelief.

      But it’s not like my suggestions are going to supplant B16’s.

  7. Fr. Jack Feehily : We often dismiss the people with “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord” because no one is reading it from a page in the missal. We’ve been sending the people forth for years and years and do it by heart. We sometimes say, “Let us go in peace to glorify God by the way we live our lives”. At other times we say, “The mass is never ended for it must be lived, go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” Why would we need precise translations from Latin to send people forth? Wait a minute, I forgot, there are some who believe that validity rests on a precise word for word reading of the authorized texts. Oops. I begin every Mass by saying “Let us give thanks to God in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” My bad?

    @ Fr Jack Feehily

    In this Parish (in the UK) we are being sent forth thus:

    ‘Go in peace and glorify The Lord by your life’

  8. I always use “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life” (except during easter, when we sing the dismissal) because it strikes me as the one that says the most and doesn’t make the congregation’s “Thanks be to God” sound like “thank God that’s over.” I like the idea of “God and announce the Gospel of the Lord” but find the wording odd — maybe it’s the connotations of “announce” in modern English; I think “proclaim” or even “share” would sound better.

    Almost every priest I know still uses “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”

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