Ite, missa est

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Ite, missa est are the concluding Latin words addressed to the people in the Mass of the Roman Rite, as well as the Lutheran Divine Service. Until the reforms of 1962, at Masses without the Gloria, Benedicamus Domino was said instead. The response of the people (or, in the Tridentine Mass, of the servers at Low Mass, the choir at Solemn Mass) is Deo gratias ("thanks be to God").

In the 19th century, it was common to explain the phrase elliptically, with missa the feminine participle of mittere, as in Ite, missa est "Go, it is dismissed". However, according to Fortescue (1910), the word missa as used in this phrase is not the feminine participle (Classical Latin missa), but rather a Late Latin form of what would be missio in classical Latin, meaning "dismissal", for a translation of "Go, the dismissal is made".

Chupungco (1999) noted that "some persons have attempted" to "sublimate" the straightforward meaning of the phrase into an interpretation of missio "dismissal" as "mission" (as in, "go and be a missionary"), but judges this interpretation as "without foundation".

The connection between the meaning "dismissal" and the 'deeper' meaning of "mission" was also discussed by Benedict XVI (without making an etymological claim) in Sacramentum caritatis (2007): "In antiquity, missa simply meant 'dismissal'. In Christian usage, however, it gradually took on a deeper meaning. The word 'dismissal' has come to imply a 'mission'. These few words succinctly express the missionary nature of the Church".

Historically, there have been other explanations of the noun missa, i. e. as not derived from the formula ite, missa est. Medieval authors took the phrase to contain the noun missa "mass". Thus Guillaume Durand (13th century) suggests that the meaning is either elliptic missa est "the mass is finished", or that est should be taken absolutely, as meaning "the mass exists, is now accomplished fact". But, in fact, the ecclesiastical Latin noun missa "mass" is itself derived from the missa in this liturgical formula.

Also Du Cange (1678) reports "various opinions on the origin" of the noun missa "mass". Fortescue (1910) cites more "fanciful" etymological explanations, notably a latinization of Hebrew matstsâh (מַצָּה) "unleavened bread; oblation", a derivation favoured in the 16th century by Reuchlin and Luther.

This page was last edited on 17 May 2018, at 18:17.
Reference:,_missa_est under CC BY-SA license.

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