By Deacon Frank Agnoli
With this article, we begin our journey through the Order of the Mass — those parts of our liturgy that are fairly fixed from day to day. In contrast, the readings, the three proper prayers (known as the collect, prayer over the offerings, and prayer after Communion), and the prefaces change according to the day or season.
Mass begins with the entrance procession and song. After making the Sign of the Cross, the priest greets the people using one of the formulas in the accompanying table seen on Page 7 (the changes are in bold face).
All of these formulas are based on the Scriptures; the change to the second option more closely echoes the words of Romans 1:7. In the first option, the word “communion” was chosen over “fellowship” to better capture the sense of the scriptural Greek (koinonia, 2 Cor 13:13): that we are sharing or participating in the life of the Holy Spirit. In addition, for some, the change makes for a more inclusive rendering.
In our response to the priest’s greeting, we’ll notice the first significant change. Rather than responding as we have for 40 years — “And also with you” — we will respond with the more literal, “And with your spirit.” Why should we bother with a more literal translation of the Latin: et cum spiritu tuo?
First, we will once again share a common response with Catholics around the world. After the Second Vatican Council, almost all of the major language groups translated the response to include the word spiritu; for example, in Spanish: Y con tú espíritu. The use of this expression is a sign of our unity across space (in fact, the new instruction for translations highlights this as one phrase that all groups should be able to share in common).
Second, this response is ancient in origin. It has long been used in both Eastern and Western liturgies and is found in the Apostolic Tradition (attributed to St. Hippolytus, c. ad 215). Therefore, the use of this expression is also a sign of our unity across time.
Third, the connection to Scripture is made clearer with this translation. The response is based on Galatians 6:18 and 2 Timothy 4:22.
But is this response dualistic? Does it make for a split between the spiritual and the material, soul and body? Does this mean that the priest is spiritual and the rest of the assembly is not? Certainly not!
Since the response is based on the Pauline letters, we need recall that he used the word pneumatos (translated into English with the lower-case, spirit) in a number of different ways. In these greetings at the close of his letters to the Galatians and to Timothy, the word is used to refer to the whole person rather than some aspect of the person, such as the soul. In other words, it is a more poetic way of saying, “you.”
At the same time, some scholars also mention that because only the ordained are addressed in this manner in the liturgy, the word may refer to the spirit or charism of ordination. In that case, the priest’s greeting is a way of asking that God’s spirit be with us to do what we are called to do: not only engage in liturgical worship but also spread the Gospel in the world by our words and deeds. In response, we acknowledge that this person has been ordained to lead us in sacramental worship and we pray that the particular spiritual gift given to him at ordination would enable him to fulfill his vocation in the church.
We will use the same response at other parts in the Mass, such as before the Gospel, as part of the Preface Dialogue, before the Sign of Peace, and at the Blessing and Dismissal.
For more information on this particular change, check out the U.S. bishops’ Web site: www.usccb.org/romanmissal/translating_notes.shtml.
(Deacon Agnoli is director of liturgy for the Davenport Diocese.)
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Or: The grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
Or: The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Or: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Or: The Lord be with you.
And with your spirit.