Liturgy Matters - Part XI
My Training Incumbent used to say that he loved the fact that at the heart of our faith and worship the church has a service called 'Go on, get out of here!' By this he meant that one of the names for the Eucharist is 'Mass', and mass is Latin for 'Go, she is sent,' meaning the Church is sent out into the world.
We have reached the final phase of the service, the fourth section called The Dismissal, and this is far more than just saying goodbye to one another. As classroom teacher, I used to sometimes say the classic, 'Class dismissed!' when the bell rang. The liturgical final movement of the Dismissal does not just mean it is time to go home and the service is finally over. Rather, it means it is time to go out, and to do and be in the world all the things we have learnt and taken in at church. In other words, our Christian life does not start and stop on Sunday. Rather we are called to be Monday to Saturday Christians, living out the Gospel daily in our communities, being part of God's mission in the world. Sunday is the day we gather together to celebrate what has taken place all week, to learn once again, to encounter God in our worship, to give thanks, to seek forgiveness, to be nurtured on Christ himself in bread and wine - so that we are strengthened to go out and do it all again, Monday to Saturday. If we have not grasped this, we have not grasped Christianity. It is impossible to be a Sunday Christian alone.
This movement is a short and final one, for we have done what we came to do. The service ends in the blessing of all present, and the sending out: Go in peace to love and serve the Lord - liturgical language for saying, 'Go on, get out of here!'
As the Common Worship Companion says, 'In the Eucharist we proclaim that now we are the body of Christ. Teresa of Avila (1515 - 82) put this forcefully when she wrote:
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks out with compassion on this world.
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good.
Yours are the arms with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, you are his eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now on earth, but yours.
We are the body of Christ. We are sent out to do the work of Christ in a broken world. In the words of Timothy Radcliffe, 'Why go to church? To be sent from it.'
This concludes our study of the Eucharist, the service, the action, the drama, at the heart of our faith.