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THE LITURGY OF THE EUCHARIST: The Concluding Rites (4)
The kissing of the altar by the Priest and the Deacon
As the recessional hymn begins the bishop or priest celebrating Mass, along with any deacons assisting, reverence the altar a final time before processing out. He came in accompanied by music as the celebration began, and now he processes out with music celebrating the gifts and blessings we have received in the Eucharist.
This is not a moment for singing that the celebration is over. Does anyone rejoice that a celebration has ended? This is a moment where we can see the dividing line between participants living a perpetual Lent and not living the joy to which they are called. As Pope Francis describes it, “There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter. I realize of course that joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life, especially at moments of great difficulty. Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved. I understand the grief of people who have to endure great suffering, yet slowly but surely we all have to let the joy of faith slowly revive as a quiet yet firm trust, even amid the greatest distress […] I can say that the most beautiful and natural expressions of joy which I have seen in my life were in poor people who had little to hold on to. I also think of the real joy shown by others who, even amid pressing professional obligations, were able to preserve, in detachment and simplicity, a heart full of faith. In their own way, all these instances of joy flow from the infinite love of God, who has revealed himself to us in Jesus Christ. […] Thanks solely to this encounter – or renewed encounter – with God’s love, which blossoms into an enriching friendship, we are liberated from our narrowness and self-absorption. We become fully human when we become more than human, when we let God bring us beyond ourselves in order to attain the fullest truth of our being. Here we find the source and inspiration of all our efforts at evangelization. For if we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others?” (Evangelii Gaudium, nn. 6-8).
Even as the celebrant processes out and we prepare to leave, we sing because we’ve had a renewed Eucharistic encounter with the love of God in Jesus Christ. Filled with Our Lord’s blessings let’s sing to revive the joy within us that not only comes from our experience of the love of God, but makes us relish sharing that love with others as well.