Over the last several weeks we have traveled through the various parts of the Mass. Recall, the image I started with, “a good pot of Gumbo.” Just as there are various parts to a good pot of Gumbo the same is true when celebrating the Mass. A good pot of Gumbo begins with the “Roux”. The same is true with the celebration of the Mass. The “Roux” for the Mass is the Gathering Rite. It is during the “Gathering Rite” that as the faith community begins to gather, everyone is welcomed and made to feel a vital part of the worshipping experience. Also, during this part of the Mass there is the “Signing of the Cross,” which reminds us that we have been claimed for Christ. This leads into the “Penitential Rite,” which calls us to acknowledge our sins to celebrate God’s Mercy. Finally, there is the “Collect” or opening prayer when all our personal prayers are gathered by the celebrant and offered up to God. This prayer then leads us to the First Major Part of the Mass, “The Liturgy of the Word.”
Just as in a good pot of Gumbo, there are many ingredients, which can range from various sausage meats, shrimp, chicken, crabs, and oysters, the same is true in the celebration of the Mass. The first ingredient that we receive is found in the Liturgy of the Word. It is God’s Word that comes to us from the Old Testament and New Testament which provides us with the needed nourishment to receive God’s active grace in our life. The other source of nourishment comes from the Liturgy of the Eucharist. It is the Eucharist, the real presence of Jesus Christ in the form of bread and wine, that comes daily to us in the Mass to nourish us with the Bread that has come down from heaven.
This brings us to the final part of the Mass, which in comparison is the shortest, the “Concluding Rite.” This part of the Mass consists of three elements: “Announcements,” “Final Blessing,” and “Dismissal.”
I like to call this element “the housekeeping” part of the Mass or the “Announcements.” The announcements follow the Prayer after Communion, which concludes the Eucharistic Prayer. This is the time when important information or special events taking place within the parish are publicly announced. As a rule, they should be few and brief in nature. Therefore, I operate with the understanding, that there is a parish bulletin, where most of the parish life information is located, so there is no need to read what is already printed to the people. However, this is the time to highlight those important and special notices to make sure that everyone is aware of what is occurring within the parish. (The Concluding Rites of the Mass - Adoremus)
After announcements, the priest stands and imparts the blessings of the Church to the faithful who have gathered to celebrate the Eucharist. It is important for us to understand that a blessing is a solemn act which calls upon God to invoke His aid and care upon a person so that His divine favor and sanctification might be realized in their life. In the context of the Mass, the blessing is a calling upon the people for the purpose of sanctification, so that they may go forth renewed and strengthened in their mission to resist evil and to grow in their spiritual life. (The Mass Explained: Final blessing and dismissal - Clarion Herald - New Orleans, LA)
After receiving the Final Blessing, those who are gathered are now dismissed and sent forth into the community to bring to life what was celebrated in the Liturgy of the Word and in the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
The “Catechism of the Catholic Church,” explains that “the liturgy in which the mystery of salvation is accomplished concludes with the sending forth (mission) of the faithful, so that they may fulfill God’s will in their daily lives” (CCC 1332). Our mission is more properly concerned with an authentic life that is lived in accord with the Gospel, and through a life service to others. Thus, everyone is called to carry the Gospel message to their families, their neighbors, and to the world. In doing so we are fulfilling command to His Disciples, “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. (Mt. 28:19 – 20) With the dismissal, “Go in Peace,” we are all called to become witnesses to the Gospel Message, and to become “Eucharist” to others.
The celebrant, and the minister of the altar now process from the altar, back to the main entrance of the Church. This action re-enforces our call to action. For now, we are called to take what was celebrated at the Altar during the Mass back out into the World.