Ite, missa est

Let me state that I love the Tridentine Mass. I love the reverence and the beauty of the liturgy and the rubrics.

However there is something that I don’t understand.

Near the end of the Mass the Priest (or if there is a Deacon) says, Ite, missa est. Now in my Missal that translates into Go, the Mass is ended.

Is that an accurate translation? Because if it is, it makes no sense. The Priest would seem to be telling us that we can leave. But the final blessing and the Last Gospel, which is part of the Mass hasn’t been done yet and we should be there for that.

Granted, I have never seen a person leave the Church after the Priest says that but it just doesn’t make much sense to me.

It’s more a poetic translation. The problem is that the word missa is to be understood in the sense of “mission” – so the dismissal is really to go and serve the people of God, to be “on mission” or to assist the Church in carrying out her mission to build up the Kingdom of God.

As for the Mass not being over – you’re right. It’s really a preparation for dismissal. A related item takes placein the Divine Liturgy (and Vespers and other major hours) where the deacon says “let us complete our … prayer to the Lord.” When you hear that you know there’s still 15-20 minutes to go!

Deacon Ed

Now, I’m digging back on this one but I was told once that “Ite, missa est” is not for the congregation but is instead being said to the “Angel of the Mass”. I’m not sure if that is doctrinal or what but an Old Priest told me that.

Interesting thank you rtconstant:thumbsup:

It’s a bit due to the former conservativeness of the Roman liturgy which retained things that took on different significance e.g. the *Oremus * before the Offertory when there is no prayer following. Originally Ite Missa Est meant exactly that: you can go. And as the Roman Ordo’s, the earliest ceremonial manuals, record, the Pope would usually depart blessing people as he went (much like how in Traditional Masses the bishop recesses blessing people semicircularly). Bishops also had this privilege but not priests. Gradually it was extended to them: first once a year, then great feasts and so on. But they could not leave the altar and bless as they went. So they just blessed where they stood (and this is perhaps clearer in places where the triple blessing was done-they blessed people on all sides) and in the same position of the Mass where the bishop would have blessed people. Innate conservativeness prevented it changing.

If you will look in the Traditonal Missal, in Lent there is the* Super Populum *, before which the deacon (or priest) announces: Humilate capita vestra Deo- Bow your heads before God. The reason for this gesture was that it was like a primitive blessing before the blessing by the priest became common.It comes perhaps, in a more logical place.

As regards the Placeat tibi, it is a private prayer of the priest that dignifies the action of the kissing of the altar. The same is with the Last Gospel: it was a devotional text of the celebrant (St. John was the most popular given the association of the Incarnation with the Eucharist: another popular one was the one of the Mass of the BVM: *Loquente Iesu…Beatus venter… * ) Originally it was ranked among the purely devotional elements and sometimes said while recessing: the Missal of 1570 put it as a part of the Ordinary to be said at the altar. It was regarded a a form of blessing itself

Actually, Ite, missa est has no “ended” or “finished” in it. It is only implied “Go it is the dismissal.” is the literal.This form/phrase is so old that even in Modern Latin it is archaic.

It was not till the sixteenth century (Missal of Pius V) that the additions to the Mass that had gradually been introduced (Placeat, blessing, last Gospel – all originally private prayers) were definitely recognized as part of the liturgy to be said at the altar.
Ite missa est certainly precedes the Tridentine Ordinary by many centuries.

At Requiems (since they have no preceding Gloria) Ite missa est is not said. In this case the versicle is Requiescant in pace. The response is “Amen” instead of Deo Gratias.

Actually, the literal is “Go, the Mass is”


John, R U sur Missa always meant the Catholic Mass?

Never said that. Obviously missa has the same root as dismiss mittere to send.

Here’s a quote from which says it well.

Missa is a Latin word that comes from an earlier Latin word: mittere, which means “to send.”

Mittere is also the same root word that gives us our English words: “mission,” "commission and “dismiss.”

Now we begin to see a pattern: “Ite, Missa est” comes at the end of Mass, during what we call “the dismissal rite.” It’s the part of the mass where we are sent back into our daily lives.

Let’s look at the other part of the phrase: Ite. This is another Latin word, which translates well as “Go” or “You, go.” (It’s related to the Latin word iter, from which we get itinerary.) Ite is the imperative form of the word, which means it’s an order. Sort of like the military command: “Company dismissed!”

So translating Ite, Missa est, in terms of our modern liturgy, comes out something like this: “Go, you’re being sent on a mission.” Mass, coming from the word missa can be looked at as a type of code word for this command.

We can understand what we’re being told a bit more clearly when we look another modern form of the dismissal rite: “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”

That’s the mission we’re being sent on: to love and serve God. It’s the same mission Christ entrusted to his disciples: “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” (Act. 1:8). These words, and similar ones in Jn 20:21, Mt 28:19-20 and Mk 16:15 – tell us that the Lord commissioned his disciples to proclaim the Gospel, the Good News of the Kingdom, to everyone, in every place and time.


Ite Missa Est at least rubrically linked to the congregation rather as a prayer. In the Mass before 1960, the priest would say all the parts of the Mass that were prayers, even if others said/sang them. There was a question posed to the Congregation of Rites regarding these words of the Mass: Ite Missa Est, Benedicamus Domino (which at that time replaced it during Lent and many other days) and Requiescant in pace (for Masses of the Dead)-should they be said silently by the pirest when sung by a deacon? They answered that it was not to be done for the Ite Missa Est and the interpretation was because it didn’t have the character of prayer.

Die 17 Sept. 1816.
An Sacerdos dicere debeat in Missa Solemni, Ite Missa Est, Bendicamus Domino and Requiescant in pace, vel dicantur tantum a Diacono?
R. Quoad Ite Missa Est, negative, quoad Benedicamus Domino et Requiescant in pace, affirmative…

I would translate it as: “Go, you are sent.”

Or even better…“Go, you are sent forth.”

A bit different here Fr Deacon. One seems to be saying that the Mass is over, the other just says that we are completing our prayers, not that we are done.

Also, depending on how much of the Divine Liturgy is take, this could come at the half way point.

“Missa est” is a construction called an impersonal passive, something which has no equivalent in English (although other languages have it), and therefore is difficult to translate into English. The best way to translate “Ite, missa est” literally would be “Go, there is a sending forth.” There’s no specification of who is being sent forth (hence the term “impersonal”) but the object of the phrase can be understood as the people who are receiving the command to “go”, so Ham1’s translation works well. :thumbsup:

BTW, this phrase is where the word “Mass” derives from (“missa”), so it doesn’t refer to the Mass being ended, since this phrase existed before the word “Mass” did.

Also, there is the prayer at the end where the priest comes out onto the amvon and reads what used to be the final prayer of the Liturgy (Liturgy of J.C.), but which now has a few more prayers following it-- the other following prayers are reletively more “recent” additions. This almost parallels what the OP was talking about, with the Ite, missa est being followed by other prayers. I agree with a PP that this is what happened with the Ite as well.

Translating it in any way with “Mass” is literally wrong, because the word Mass derives from the “missa est” and not the other way around.

It literally means something like, “Go, it is sent.” Or, “Go forth, this is a sending”. In this sense, you can see why it does not necessarily have to be the very last words at mass.

Still, its location is a historical anomally, and moving it to after the last gospel would not be a terrible change, or even adding a “bookend” sign of the cross at the end. Mass is literally a “sending”…

But the final blessing and the Last Gospel, which is part of the Mass hasn’t been done yet and we should be there for that.

They are part of the Mass, but not in the most proper sense which starts at the sign of the cross and ends at the ite missa est. The prayers at the foot of the altar, and the last gospel, are additions that came over the years…and eventually were fully incorporated in the liturgy of the Mass. The Asperges and Leonine prayers are similar additions to the beginning and end which, while not strictly speaking part of the traditional “mass” would have likely gradually become if they had survived and been popular enough.

Not so-

The accurate translation I have heard, from a FSSP priest mind you is, “It has been sent”- meaning the Sacrifice - has been sent- to God.

It is in fact from those words we get the word “Mass”, a code word used to call the Sacred Liturgy during the Roman persecutions.


You should review post# 13 in this thread. I understand what your priest is trying to say, but his translation is not really literal. Personally, I like the idea that the congregation is being sent forth. It makes more sense theologically.

One other question…in the TLM are these words spoken ad orientum? Or is this where the priest is facing the people?

The Priest turns and faces the people.

Then it would seem he is addressing the people and not the “Angel of the Mass.” So, it would mean, “Go, you (implied by the priests position) are sent forth.”

Theologically, it makes sense then as the priest (as Christ) is sending us out into the world to continue His work.

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