Ite Missa Est

Letter from the District Superior, Rev. Robert Brucciani, November 2015

My Dear Faithful,

The Most Beautiful Thing?

We come to Mass every Sunday because we know it is our duty and we feel the spiritual need to worship our Creator, but when we come, do we really have a sense of the grandeur of what is before us?

It is often said that the Mass is the most beautiful thing this side of heaven (Fr Faber). It is beautiful because prayer is the noblest act of man, and the Mass is the noblest of all prayers; it is Christ’s prayer, which He offers in His Mystical Body; it is Christ’s greatest prayer—the sacrifice of Himself—extended through time; it is the continuation of Christ’s mission on earth.

Mass Reconciles All Things In Christ

Christ came into the world to bring it back to Himself; to draw all things to Himself.

And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he may hold the primacy: Because in him, it hath well pleased the Father that all fulness should dwell: And through him to reconcile all things unto himself, making peace through the blood of his cross, both as to the things that are on earth and the things that are in heaven. (Col 1:18–20)

This drawing or reconciling back to Himself is effected through the Mass by calling all men to join Him in His prayer to the Father, to join Him, not as associates offering a gift alongside Him, but by becoming part of Him, by sharing in His life so that the gift of Himself and the gift of ourselves form one sacrifice: Jesus offering Himself to His Father.

And it is not only those who assist at the Mass who are reconciled to Him, but all creation in a certain way. For Man is the summit of the material universe: all we can see or sense, God made for Man. So when He draws mankind back to Himself, He draws all creation with Him. When you participate in the Sacrifice of the Mass, therefore, you are participating in the return of the universe back to its Creator. Indeed, this is our highest duty. St. Thomas Aquinas, in his Summa Theologica, envisages the created universe as an emanation from God and, through Christ, a return back to God.

By being incorporated into Christ, we offer the perfect prayer of the Mass through Him, with Him and in Him.

How should we pray the Mass to participate in Christ’s Mission?

We should follow the Mass attentively; raising our hearts and minds to God, offering our will to the Father by uniting it to Jesus’ will.

We should not only see the Mass as a slice of time; we should see the Mass as the summit of our lives. We should live for the Mass; not just for an hour or so each Sunday, but during our every waking moment. Our Lives Should be the Extension of the Mass.

In our catechism we read:

The Mass is the sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, really present on the altar under the appearances of bread and wine, and offered to God for the living and the dead.

It is the perpetuation of the Sacrifice of Calvary through time; it is Christ offering Himself to His Father until the end of time in His Mystical Body (as opposed to His physical body).

Now, just as the Mass is the extension of Calvary, so should our lives be the extension of the Mass.

How can the Mass be extended?

Spiritually: by the continual offering of self. This is expressed in the Morning offering:

O my God, in union with the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer Thee the Precious Blood of Jesus from all the altars throughout the world, joining with It the offering of my every thought, word and action of this day.

St. John Berchmanns used to offer every thought word and deed from vespers in preparation for the following day’s Mass; and then from Mass until Vespers in thanksgiving for the Mass.

Materially: by participation in the Mass; by making the Mass the cultural, aesthetic and social high point of our lives, by:

a) the beauty of the liturgy: serving and chant;

b) the beauty and care of the church, the altar, the linens, the vestments;

c) the beauty of ourselves by a return to the practice wearing our “Sunday best” to church.

The Mass is the prayer of the community, not an isolated island of time within the busy week of an individual. It is an outward expression of a society by the interior motion of its individual lives towards God.

Ite Missa est

At the end of Mass, the priest says, “Ite Missa Est”, which literally means, “This is the dismissal.”

Why the word “Mass” is chosen to signify the Holy Sacrifice is a bit of a mystery, but one which has happy consequences.

The Baltimore Catechism says it was because the Ite missa est was the announcement of the end of the Sacrifice (probably like an artist who unveils his finished painting might say, “This is the painting!”) people began to refer to the ceremonies of the Holy Sacrifice as the "Missa" because, at the end of the ceremonies, it could be understood that the priest or deacon used to announce, “Go. This is the Missa!”

Appropriateness of the word "Missa"

The sacramental offering of Christ is made at the moment of consecration—the actual Holy Sacrifice is completed with the words of consecration of the Precious Blood—but the offering of ourselves should continue in our every thought, word and deed. And, as we share in the life of Christ (if we are in a state of grace), the offering of Christ to the Father therefore continues with our continued offering of ourselves.

This means that, when the priest says, “This is the dismissal,” he might just as well be understood as saying, “This is the time to go and live the Holy Sacrifice” or “This is the Holy Sacrifice, accomplished sacramentally as public worship, but now it should be prolonged in our own lives.”

The word Missa therefore is not wholly inappropriate, because the dismissal is always accompanied by the mission (missio) to live the Holy Sacrifice.

Of all those who lived the Holy Sacrifice, none other did so more fully than the Blessed Virgin Mary. Let us turn to her so that assisted by the grace that comes through her hands, we might reconcile all things to her Son.

In Jesu et Maria,

Rev Robert Brucciani

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