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Ite, Missa Est

by Steve
(San Francisco)

Dear Latin Teacher,

How would you translate the sentence, "Ite, Missa est?" Thank you.


Dear Steve,

Ite is the plural imperative from ire and means "Go", commanding the people to go at the end of mass. Missa est is the third person feminine singular passive of mittere and means "it has been sent". What "it" refers to must feminine and singular, such as the host or offering, perhaps.

So, as a classical Latinist, I would say that ite, missa est means "Go, it has been sent".

There is some debate about missa, however. In late Latin, abstract nouns ending in -io came to be spelled instead with an -a. So it is possible that missa stands for missio. So says the Catholic Church. And so the best translation in ecclesiatical Latin is, "Go, it is the sending (or dismissal)".

Here is a link to the Catholic Encyclopedia: The form missa for missio is like that of collecta (for collectio), ascensa (ascensio), etc. So Ite missa est should be translated "Go it is the dismissal."

And this does make more sense to me. Why would the priest mention the host again at the dismissal? It is far more logical to treat missa as missio.

Hope this helps, and thanks for asking a Latin teacher.



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more literal?
by: Kemon

if the implied subject is hostia, couldn't it be much more literal? "We sent what we came here to send (i.e, have pinged God on the Mass-modem), g'wan now."

Could "it" refer to eccelsia=assembly?
by: Anonymous

To me, the "it" in "it is sent" could refer to "ecclesia" which takes a singular verb even though it refers to a group, a lot like the word "populus" meaning "people" takes the 3rd person singular verb, but I don't know enough Latin to know that "ecclesia" takes the 3rd singular.
Anybody else comment?

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