Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Mutual Salutation in Morning and Evening Prayer & The Eucharist

After the Creed in the traditional Daily Office, the Minister addresses those assembled and says: “The Lord be with you,” to which they reply, “And with thy spirit.”

However, since the 1970s Roman Catholic as well as Protestant (e.g., Lutheran, Methodist and Anglican/Episcopal) congregations have become very used to saying, “And also with you,” to the Priest or Minister, after he or she has said “The Lord be with you”. So much so, that few of their members realize what an odd and strange way this is to speak to the Minister! It seems a rather irreverent way of referring to the Lord!

This strange and erroneous response came into usage in the period after Vatican II when the Roman Catholic hierarchy was using commissions (often of liberal theologians) to render the Latin Mass into English – that is into not the English of the UK, or the English of the USA, but a kind of English that would represent the “English” of the whole English-speaking world. That is, one which would do what the English of Hollywood films seeks to do, to be understood wherever English is used from one end of the earth to the other.

And what the R C hierarchy hastily allowed into its new vernacular Mass and Breviary, the Protestants hastily allowed into their new services/liturgies. It was a period when the wind of change blew and churches were blown by it, and some of those blown along only began to consider seriously what the wind was about when it was too late! (The Vatican is now working on correcting & renewing the English of the Liturgy!)

Thus all the rules of basic translation of Latin as taught in schools to children were set aside in the interests of relevance, simplicity and novel linguistic theory. Here is the Latin of the Mutual Salutation.

Priest: Dominus vobiscum
Congregation: Et cum spiritu tuo

As long has English had been spoken (and in the BCP of the C of E from 1549, and in translations of the Tridentine Mass from the 17th century) this had been universally rendered literally until the second half of the 20th century as:

Priest: The Lord be with you [you plural]
Congregation: And with thy spirit [thy, singular]

However, in the new fit-all occasions English of the 1970s the response of the Congregation became: And also with you [you here singular].

What happened to “spiritu tuo” (“thy spirit”, or ‘your [sing.] spirit’)? And where did “also” come from?

The answer is found from two directions. First, from the supposed academic area where some scholars argued that this ancient conversation or salutation in the Liturgy between priest and people was in reality just a simple greeting taken from what often occurred on the street. Thus it has no special meaning other than a friendly exchange. So a literal translation of “Et cum spiritu tuo” is not required; but rather (and here is the second direction) what is needed is a dynamic equivalent statement – thus “and also with you.”

So a theory of an exchange between priest and assembled faithful in the Daily Office or Eucharist together with a post 1960s theory of translating original languages come together to provide what is, in reality, an expression that one cannot imagine hearing in the real world as a form of greeting at all. “And also with you” sounds odd to this day to the person who is not used to it!

What is the historic, classic and orthodox explanation of this exchange and salutation, where the faithful say “And with thy/your spirit”?

The exchange occurs within the Office and the Mass at given points and it is first of all an expression of a prayer-wish [ perhaps also an affirmation] by the priest for the (realized) presence of the Lord Jesus with his people (the Lord Jesus be with you) by His Spirit (the Paraclete); then, secondly, it is a prayer-wish [perhaps an affirmation] of the faithful that, as he performs the office of Officiant in Prayer or Celebrant in the Mass, the Lord (through His Spirit) will activate, as it were, the gift given to him in ordination and give him the divine unction, rightly before God to perform the office of Minister and Celebrant on this solemn occasion.

(see further the book, Neither Archaic nor Obsolete… by Lou Tarsitano & Peter Toon from or or 1-800-PBS-1928)

The Revd Dr Peter Toon March 5, 2007

No comments: