Sunday, 31 January 2010

And with your spirit

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The Latin: et cum spiritu tuo
Old Translation: And also with you
New Translation: And with your spirit


Possibly the most startling of the changes in the new translation will be at the very beginning of the Mass: when the priest says, “The Lord be with you” the new translation of the response is: “And with your spirit”. For many of us (priests included) the new translation may point out to us that the meaning of this response is much deeper than we thought: it is not just a friendly greeting. We say these words a number of times in the Mass and so it’s important that we understand what it’s supposed to mean. A few observations:

(1) “And with your spirit” is more accurate.
English is the only major language of the Roman Rite which did not translate the Latin word spiritu as 'spirit'. The Italian (spirito), French (esprit), Spanish (espĂ­ritu) and German (Geiste)renderings of 1970 all translated the Latin spiritu precisely.[1]

(2) Our reply to the priest’s “the Lord be with you” is not just a “hello”
As Cardinal George of Chicago recently said about this: “Our current translation might seem more personal and friendly, but that’s the problem. The spirit referred to in the Latin is the spirit of Christ that comes to a priest when he is ordained, as St. Paul explained to St. Timothy. In other words, the people are saying in their response that Christ as head of the Church is the head of the liturgical assembly, no matter who the particular priest celebrant might be. That is a statement of faith, a statement distorted by transforming it into an exchange of personal greetings.”[2]

(3) The words call down the presence of God

The priest says to the people, “The Lord be with you”, and this is a prayer that God will be with them.[3] In reply, the congregation also pray, “And with your spirit” to call down the Holy Spirit on the priest that he may perform the liturgy worthily for our benefit.

(4) The ‘spirit’ referred to is the priestly spirit, acting liturgically for us

Our response prays that the Lord will be with the ‘spirit’ of the priest. A further interpretation says that: In praying this we are not merely asking that God will be with the priest in a general way, rather, we are praying that the Lord will fill the priestly spirit and attitude of the priest so that he will act as priest for us. In this sense we are praying that the Lord will be with the priest in a way different to the way he is in the congregation and that is why the response is more than just ‘and also with you’. We are not praying that the priest will be God-filled as an individual for his own sake but that the liturgical spirit that animates his liturgical activity will have the Lord fill it. This is why this response ‘and with your spirit’ is only ever used as a response to an ordained minister, i.e. a priest, bishop, or deacon, and it is used when we are referring to his acting for us in persona Christi capitis, i.e. in the person of Christ the head of the Church. "The people are addressing the 'spirit' of the priest; that is, that deepest interior part of his being where he has been ordained precisely to lead the people in this sacred action.”

(5) “Spirit” reminds us that the liturgy is a work of God, not just what we humans do
As St John Chrysostom said in the 4th century referring to this phrase that was already used in the liturgy: “ 'And with your spirit', 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.”[6]


[1] http://www.usccb.org/romanmissal/translating_notes.shtml
[2] http://www.archden.org/dcr//news.php?e=373&s=3&a=7846
[3] Jeffrey Pinyan, Praying the Mass (2009), pp.29-30.
[4] http://www.usccb.org/romanmissal/translating_notes.shtml
[5] Jeremy Driscoll, OSB, What happens at Mass (Gracewing Publishing, Leominster 2005), p.25.
[6] http://alanphipps.blogspot.com/2009/08/what-does-and-with-your-spirit-mean.html

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for deeming my book worthy to use as a reference material for this wonderful blog. I'm working on the second volume (The Prayers of the Priest) and I'll be happy to let you know when that one is published.

    Have a blessed Lent. Benedicaris!

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