Of all the questions I’ve had about the New Translation of the Roman Missal the most common revolves around the response of the people “And with your spirit” as a replacement for the current “And also with you.” One woman said to me, “It sounds as if our bodies no longer matter?”
Flawed Premise? Most of the controversy around the issue is based on a notion that the current expression “And also with you” is a more formal equivalent of “Same to you.” As if when the Priest says, “The Lord be with you” the congregation is responding, “Same to you, Father.” But this is not really what is being said by the congregation or what is meant by the Latin response et cum spiritu tuo (and with your spirit). The current translation is not only inaccurate, it is misleading, because most people think they are saying, “Same to you, Father.”
Well, if that isn’t what is being said, what really is being said? In effect, the expression et cum spiritu tuo (soon to be accurately translated “and with your spirit”) is an acknowledgement by the congregation of the grace and presence of Christ, who is present and operative in the spirit or soul of the celebrant. Christ’s Spirit is present in the priest in a unique way by virtue of his ordination. Hence what the dialogue means is,
- Celebrant: The Lord be with you.
- Congregation: We do in fact acknowledge the grace, presence, and Spirit of Christ in your spirit.
This understanding of the dialogue was not uncommon among the Fathers of Church. For example St. John Chrysostom wrote,
If the Holy Spirit were not in our Bishop [referring to Bishop Flavian of Antioch] when he gave the peace to all shortly before ascending to his holy sanctuary, you would not have replied to him all together, And with your spirit. This is why you reply with this expression … reminding yourselves by this reply that he who is here does nothing of his own power, nor are the offered gifts the work of human nature, but is it the grace of the Spirit present and hovering over all things which prepared that mystic sacrifice (Pentecost Homily).
The priest or bishop who celebrates Mass is configured to Christ by the Sacrament of Holy Orders. The Spirit of Christ is in him in a unique way that is unlike any other non-ordained member of the congregation. The priest acts in persona Christi. That is, Christ personally ministers through him in such a way that we say that Christ is the true priest and celebrant of every Mass. The phrase “and with your spirit” is an acknowledgment and statement of faith in this fact. The congregation says in effect, “We acknowledge the Spirit, presence, and grace of Christ in your spirit, Father.”
A hat tip to Louie Verrechio for bringing this to my attention and for the quote from St, John Chrysostom. You can read his article here: No Mere Greeting.
This understanding of the Greeting and response is confirmed by the fact that only a bishop, priest, or deacon may give the greeting “The Lord be with you” and hence receive the response, “and with your spirit.” For example, the General Instruction for the Celebration of Mass in the Absence of a Priest says,
The layperson is not to use words that are proper to a priest or deacon and is to omit rites that are too readily associated with the Mass, for example, greetings – especially “The Lord be with you” – and dismissals, since these might give the impression that the layperson is a sacred minister (SCAP # 39).
Disclaimer: Not all sacramental theologians accept this line of thinking. There is seldom perfect agreement on most things liturgical and how they are historically understood. However, the view presented here seems largely to be the thinking in Rome and in the Vox Clara Commission, which is responsible for overseeing the New Translation. I attended a gathering of all the priests of the Archdiocese of Washington yesterday on the topic of the New Translation. Msgr. Anthony Sherman, who is coordinating the implementation of the New Translation for the United States Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), confirmed for us that this is part of the thinking in returning to the older “and with your spirit” translation. The other reason is that almost all of the other major language translations render the Latin et cum spiritu tuo as “and with your spirit.”
Whoever posted this video on YouTube misspelled the title (Which should be Dominus Vobiscum). Now of course I have never misspelled anything on this blog 🙂 The video is a meditation on the sacred architecture of a certain church. It is also true that God is present in every Catholic Church through the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.