With the priest’s final blessing – and a formal dismissal or “sending forth” by the deacon – comes the end of the Mass. Sometimes people are surprised that the official rules for the Catholic Eucharistic celebration do not indicate that there should be a final hymn. For this reason the procession of ministers out of the church is more usually – and properly – accompanied by instrumental music (or in Lent, by a noticeable silence).
In my opinion this is good. The final moments of the Mass are supposed to draw our attention not to what’s gone on thus far: instead, we’re deliberately pointed in a different direction. Instead of asking us to do something together, or follow someone else’s lead, like we’ve been doing the whole Mass, the emphasis now is on personal initiative. “Go forth” is the command, and that’s not something that anybody else can do for us.
But there’s a down side. The sad thing is that often we go forth from the Mass and it hardly seems to have made a difference. For instance, I’ll bet you’ve often noticed some pretty un-Christian driving before you’ve even gotten out of your parking space! More seriously, isn’t it distressing that so many people leave the Mass and go right on out to resume being greedy, impure, dishonest, abusive, racist, etc.?
Remember the next time you leave Mass that it’s not only the Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion who are leaving the church-building bringing Christ to others. All of us – especially if we have received the Lord in the Eucharist at that Mass – are supposed to have Him as our Companion as we leave. Our words, our actions, even our attitudes ought to reflect the fact that we have been prayerfully in His Presence – and in a noticeable way, for the rest of the week!