Inside the Mass: Concluding Rites

The grace and peace of God the Father and the Lord Jesus be with you all!

Today, we reflect on the last part of the Mass: The Concluding Rites, that includes the following:

  1. post-communion prayer followed by brief announcements, should they be necessary
  2. the Priest’s Greeting and Blessing, which on certain days and occasions is expanded and expressed by the Prayer over the People or another more solemn formula
  3. the Dismissal of the people by the Deacon or the Priest, so that each may go back to doing good works, praising and blessing God
  4. the kissing of the altar by the Priest and the Deacon, followed by a profound bow to the altar by the Priest, the Deacon, and the other ministers or a genuflection to the tabernacle if it is behind the altar.

Mass does not end with the reception of Holy Eucharist. You have become a tabernacle of the most precious Body and Blood of Jesus and should reflect on that and all gifts God has given you. What remains after the Liturgy of the Eucharist – the Concluding Rites – are very short but are still an important part of the Mass. After Communion, it is convenient to leave a time of silence so that both the priest and the faithful can take advantage of those moments of intimacy with the Lord. The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI in his apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis speaks about this: "Furthermore, the precious time of thanksgiving after Communion should not be neglected: besides the singing of an appropriate hymn, it can also be most helpful to remain recollected in silence." (SC, 50)

If there are special events happening within the parish that the priest wishes to be called to your attention, he may give brief announcements before the final blessing. To complete the prayer of the people of God and to conclude the whole Communion Rite, the priest says the post-Communion prayer, in which we ask that the Mystery we have celebrated produce abundant fruit in the faithful and in the Church.

The priest then gives us God’s blessing in which we receive God’s grace that we need as we live out our lives during the week, when he says: “May almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

The priest or deacon then invokes the dismissal saying, “go forth, the Mass is ended” or similar prescribed words. The dismissal reminds us that, while the Mass may be concluded, our real purpose begins – to live out our lives as Catholic disciples of Jesus through our words and actions at home, at work or school, and with family and friends. Each person who truly receives the Body of the Lord, should necessarily be a witness of His love in the world. They should be a candle placed on top of the candlestick to shine for all of those in the house.

When the final song is being sung, the priest and deacon approach and kiss the altar, then line up with the other assisting ministers at the foot of the sanctuary, where they make a profound bow or genuflection and then turn to exit the church. As a sign of respect, the congregation remains in the pews until the priest and assisting ministers have left the church. The congregation then genuflects toward the tabernacle housing the Blessed Sacrament (or make a profound bow if genuflection is not possible) before leaving the church.

In brief:

As we conclude our “Inside the Mass” series today, it would be good to summarily state what Holy Mass is. As Catholics, we know that the Holy Mass is the center of our faith and the source of divine life. Hence, the Church teaches us to participate in the Holy Mass regularly on Sundays and on Holydays of obligation and also on weekdays, whenever possible. If we understand the value of the Mass, we would certainly participate in it actively and regularly.

Holy Mass is, first of all, a holy celebration, because it is Christ who acts in the person of a priest. Jesus Christ offers himself for us, as he offered on the Cross. Hence, we say that Mass is the same sacrifice of Jesus Christ, offered on the altar in an unbloody manner. Just like Jesus offered His body and blood on the Cross, He offers for us on the altar. The difference is that Jesus offered himself visibly on the Cross but on our altar, He offers himself invisibly and in an unbloody manner, hidden under the appearance of bread and wine.

A Catholic who says that he/she loves Christ would not fail to love the Mass. To love the Mass does not mean just being present and nothing more; it means to be present with faith and devotion and to take part actively in the Mass realizing that it is the Sacrifice of the Cross being renewed on the altar. Participation in the Mass involves basically our faith. Without faith, all that one would see on the altar is just bread and wine; just gestures, symbols and nothing more. It is only through faith, we acknowledge that at the consecration of the bread and wine, they are changed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. If one would come for Mass without faith, the person would easily feel bored or get distracted. Without faith, one would fail to understand what Christ’s death on the Cross would mean for us. Hence Faith is the most required disposition when we come to participate in the Mass.

We feel that the explanation given on the Mass over the past few weekends has helped, and will help us, appreciate better the gift of the Eucharist especially during this year dedicated to the Eucharist in our diocese, and will help us commit ourselves more and more to our commissioning as disciples of Christ.

Peace and blessings!
Fr. Augustin