12. The Communion Rite and Dismissal, Twelfth in a Series on the Roman Missal
By Ron Lewinski S.T.L.
The Communion Rite
The Communion Rite begins with the Lord's Prayer and concludes with the Prayer after Communion. During this time we prepare for receiving the Body and Blood of Christ by praying the Our Father, and extending a sign of peace and communion with one another. The translation of the Lord's Prayer remains the same. The prayer that immediately follows, which is said by the priest, will sound slightly different in the new translation, but our response remains the same: "For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours now and forever".
The sign of peace also remains the same. In extending Christ's peace to others we are pledging ourselves to be peacemakers and to honor at all times the unity by which we are bound in our communion with Christ.
The Invitation to Communion will be strikingly different from what we have been used to. Instead of saying, "This is the Lamb of God", the priest will now say "Behold the Lamb of God". "Behold" is a far more fitting introduction to announcing the presence of Christ in the Eucharist than "this is". "Behold" is both an invitation and an admonition to make an active response to the Lord given to us in the Eucharist. The admonition to "behold" also reminds us of John the Baptist who in John 1:29 introduced Jesus to his followers with the same words.
The second change in the invitation is significant and worthy of catechesis and reflection. In the previous translation we heard "Happy are those who are called to his supper". In the revised translation we will hear the priest say "Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb." The word, "blessed", reminds us of the Beatitudes which promise us that when we live for the kingdom of God we will be blessed. Being called to the supper of the Lamb we are reminded of the beautiful metaphor in Revelation 19:9 where John has a vision of the blessed sharing in the wedding feast of the Lamb. The imagery should not be overlooked for it reveals the intimate relationship that Christ, the Lamb of God, has with the Church, his bride. Being called to the supper of the Lamb is being called into a unique covenant with God. What we experience now at the altar is a taste of what is yet to come at the end of time.
Our response to the communion invitation more clearly reflects the Latin text and links us to the rich biblical story in Mt 8:8 and Lk 7:6 where the Gentile centurion asks Jesus to heal his servant. The centurion's faith is strong and he feels unworthy to have Jesus come to his house. So the centurion says to Jesus, "Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed". The response we will now make clearly matches the centurion's response: "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed."
Our roof in this case is neither our house nor the roof of our mouth, but our interior self, our whole being. We are inspired by the centurion's faith to be more humble as we recognize our sinfulness and our unworthiness to receive the Lord. In praying that our "soul" would be healed we are asking for a healing that runs deep and goes far beyond a mere physical healing.
The Mass comes to end rather quickly after receiving Communion. The significance of what we have done and what we have shared at the Lord's Table must now be extended outward. Eucharist calls us to mission, to put into practice the Love we have encountered in celebrating the sacrifice of Christ. The four options for the Dismissal of the congregation by the deacon or priest are intended to capture the call to mission that naturally flows from our participation in the Mass.
We will hear one of the following:
- Go forth, the Mass is ended.
- Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.
- Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.
- Go in peace.
Our study of the revised edition of the Roman Missal will hopefully help us to pray the Mass more fervently and with greater appreciation for its richness and depth of meaning. While the new translation may feel a bit awkward in the beginning, we can trust that with time the new words and new phrases will become a natural expression of our communal faith.
Getting ready for the changes at Mass
1. Review now all the segments of this series from archived material. Try to see all the changes as part of one whole initiative to help us enter more deeply into the mystery of Christ.
2. Share with family or friends what it means to you to respond to the invitation to come to the "supper of the Lamb."
3. What do we miss when we leave Mass early? How does the dismissal rite link the altar with everything else we do all week?