Ite, missa est
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).
The English word "Mass" is derived from the Latin, "misa". There are competing theories as to whether the Latin "misa" is derived from this phrase or whether the Latin "missio" is derived from the pre-existing "misa".
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the word missa, as used in this phrase is understood to be a late-Latin noun, meaning "dismissal":
It is a substantive of a late form for missio. It is a substantive of a late form for missio. There are many parallels in medieval Latin, collecta, ingressa, confessa, accessa, ascensa — all for forms in -io. It does not mean an offering (mittere, in the sense of handing over to God), but the dismissal of the people, as in the versicle: "Ite missa est" (Go, the dismissal is made).There are many parallels in medieval Latin, collecta, ingressa, confessa, accessa, ascensa—all for forms in -io. It does not mean an offering (mittere, in the sense of handing over to God), but the dismissal of the people, as in the versicle: "Ite missa est" (Go, the dismissal is made).
However, the very same article acknowledges that there are competing theories for the meaning of the word:
The origin and first meaning of the word, once much discussed, is not really doubtful. We may dismiss at once such fanciful explanations as that missa is the Hebrew missah ("oblation" — so Reuchlin and Luther), or the Greek myesis ("initiation"), or the German Mess ("assembly", "market"). Nor is it the participle feminine of mittere, with a noun understood ("oblatio missa ad Deum", "congregatio missa", i.e., dimissa — so Diez, "Etymol. Wörterbuch der roman. Sprachen", 212, and others).
However, it is difficult to understand why he so easily dismisses the Hebrew "missah" as the source of the Latin, "missa" since they both sound the same and essentially refer to the same sacrifice, the Passover. The Hebrew "missah" means "unleavened bread". It is the "missah" which God commanded to be offered with the Passover Lamb in the Exodus. See the Blue Letter Bible:
According to Strong's, the underlying Hebrew word for unleavened bread is Matsatsa H4682, transliterated "missah" in the Catholic Encyclopedia article.
And in Latin, Misa is a reference to the Christian Passover which is still offered with unleavened bread.
In fact, it is very difficult to dismiss any of those other explanations, as well.
Finally, it is also possible that the Latin, missio, is derived from the association of the pre-existing "misa" with the dismissal of the Catechumens. If we look at the etymology of the word, "mission", we find that it is traced back to the Catholic Church, in the 1500s.
mission (n.) Look up mission at Dictionary.com
1590-1600; 1925-30 for def 8; < Latin missiōn- (stem of missiō) asending off, equivalent to miss (us) (past participle of mittere to send) + -iōn- -ion
Online Etymology Dictionary
1590s, "a sending abroad," originally of Jesuits, from Latin missionem (nominative missio) "act of sending, a despatching; a release, a setting at liberty; discharge from service, dismissal," noun of action from past participle stem of mittere "to send," oldest form probably *smittere, of unknown origin.
In recent decades, attempts were made to understand missa in this phrase as meaning "mission" rather than "dismissal", so that the phrase would mean: "Go, you are sent on a mission." This interpretation lacks foundation and corresponds rather to the alternative phrases in the latest edition of the Roman Missal, Ite ad Evangelium Domini nuntiandum (Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord) and Ite in pace, glorificando vita vestra Dominum (Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life).
Since in classical Latin, missa is the feminine form of the perfect passive participle of mittere (to send), missa est could be taken to mean: "It has been sent", the "it" being something grammatically feminine in Latin, such as communio (communion), hostia (sacrificial victim), oblatio (offering), Eucharistia (Eucharist). This explanation lacks scholarly supporters.
The official English translation is: "Go forth, the Mass is ended."
History and liturgical use
After the twelfth century, accretions began to be added to the Mass after the "Ite, missa est", changing it from a dismissal to a mere formula without relation to actuality. But only in the sixteenth century, with the establishment of the Tridentine Mass (Missal of Pope Pius V), were these accretions officially accepted as part of the Mass.
In this Pope's revision of the Roman Missal, the "Ite, missa est" was followed by a silent private prayer by the priest, then by the blessing and finally by the reading of what was called the Last Gospel (usually John 1:1-14, but since, until the reform of Pope Pius X, saints' feasts came to supplant most Sunday Masses, the Last Gospel on such Sundays was that of the Sunday Mass).
With the reform of Pope Paul VI "Ite, missa est" returned to its function as a dismissal formula. It is omitted if another function follows immediately and the people are therefore not dismissed.
"Ite missa est", not being variable like the Scripture readings and the collect, is part of the Order of Mass and has always been printed in that part of the Roman Missal. Being sung by an individual (ideally the deacon), not by a choir, it cannot be part of a polyphonic musical setting of the Mass. Only the "Deo gratias" response could be set polyphonically and, because of its brevity, it rarely was, except in some early settings such as Machaut's Messe de Nostre Dame.
Other dismissal formulas
In 2008 alternative dismissal formulas were approved for Mass of the Roman Rite:
- "Ite ad Evangelium Domini nuntiandum" (Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord)
- "Ite in pace, glorificando vita vestra Dominum" (Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life)
- "Ite in pace" (Go in peace)
In each case the response is "Deo gratias" (Thanks be to God).
The dismissal formulas in other liturgical rites are:
- Ambrosian Rite: "Procedamus in pace" (Let us go forth in peace). Response: "In nomine Christi" (In the name of Christ).
- Mozarabic Rite: "Solemnia completa sunt in nomine D. N. I. C: votum nostrum sit acceptum cum pace" (The celebration is completed in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ; may our prayer be accepted with peace). Response: "Deo gratias" (Thanks be to God).
- Apostolic Constitutions: "Go in peace."
- Antiochene, Alexandrian and Byzantine liturgies: "Let us go forth in peace" (said by the deacon). Response: "In the name of the Lord." Then the priest says a short "prayer of dismissal".
- "Liturgy of the Mass". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. See also "Ite Missa Est". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.
- Jammer, Max (1997-01-01). Concepts of Mass in Classical and Modern Physics. Courier Corporation. ISBN 9780486299983.
- Liturgical Press 2000 ISBN 9780814661635), vol 3, p. 3
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