114 days until the new Mass translation

We are 114 days from Nov. 27, 2011. That is the day Catholics in the United States will begin to use the new translation of the Roman Missal. The most common dialogue in the liturgy, the greeting of celebrant and community, will change from

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.


The Lord be with you.
And with your spirit.


There has been wide discussion regarding this greeting exchange. Critics say the "and with your spirit" is stilted and is intended to separate the priest or deacon from the laity, i.e, only ordained clergy are to be addressed as containing "spirit." This, they say, elevates the sacrament of ordination above that of baptism; indeed, this argument goes, intent of the language change is precisely to emphasis the importance of clergy, separating them them in the rest of the Christian community.

The response to these arguments has been that the change is intended simply to follow a Latin translation, and that other Western languages use "spirit" in their greetings within the mass.

These arguments can be seen bellow in the Q and A that can be found on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Web site.

The upcoming changes, then, are also aimed at providing a uniform subtext, Latin.

Many people, myself included, are left asking: What is so sacred about Latin? There is, after all, no connection whatsoever between Latin, a Roman language, and the life of Jesus. As far as we know he never spoke a word of Latin.

Another question is this: Why the need to return to uniformity if it plausibly comes at the cost of meaning itself. If a language becomes more wooden, less poetic, if understanding is sacrificed to arbitrary regulations, is this wise?

Of course, the liturgists and others who have asked these questions have been resoundingly defeated by those making decisions today within our church -- and these men reside in Rome, not in U.S. communities, where from time to time, I guess, Latin might be heard by a few.

So "with your spirit" it shall be.

The episcopal explanations can be viewed below.

According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the retranslation was necessary “because it is a more correct rendering of et cum spiritu tuo and that “recent scholarship has recognized the need for a more precise translation capable of expressing the full meaning of the Latin text.”

As part of an effort to prepare worshipping communities for the changes they will encounter at Sunday Mass on the last Sunday in November, the first Sunday of Advent and the first Sunday of the new liturgical year, the U.S. bishops have prepared a Web page on their Web site.

The following are questions and answers provided on the site, pertaining to the dialogue greeting:

1.Why has the response et cum spiritu tuo been translated as and with your spirit?

The retranslation was necessary because it is a more correct rendering of et cum spiritu tuo. Recent scholarship has recognized the need for a more precise translation capable of expressing the full meaning of the Latin text.

2.What about the other major languages? Do they have to change their translations?

No. English is the only major language of the Roman Rite which did not translate the word spiritu. The Italian (E con il tuo spirito), French (Et avec votre esprit), Spanish (Y con tu esp'ritu) and German (Und mit deinem Geiste) renderings of 1970 all translated the Latin word spiritu precisely.

3.Has the Holy See ever addressed this question?

In 2001, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments published an instruction entitled, Liturgiam authenticam, subtitled, On the Use of Vernacular Languages in the Publication of the Books of the Roman Liturgy. The instruction directs specifically that: “Certain expressions that belong to the heritage of the whole or of a great part of the ancient Church, as well as others that have become part of the general human patrimony, are to be respected by a translation that is as literal as possible, as for example the words of the people’s response Et cum spiritu tuo, or the expression mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa in the Act of Penance of the Order of Mass.”

4.Where does this dialogue come from?

The response et cum spiritu tuo is found in the Liturgies of both East and West, from the earliest days of the Church. One of the first instances of its use is found in the Traditio Apostolica of Saint Hippolytus, composed in Greek around AD 215.

5.How is this dialogue used in the Liturgy?

The dialogue is only used between the priest and the people, or exceptionally, between the deacon and the people. The greeting is never used in the Roman Liturgy between a non-ordained person and the gathered assembly.
6.Why does the priest mean when he says “The Lord be with you”?
By greeting the people with the words “The Lord be with you,” the priest expresses his desire that the dynamic activity of God’s spirit be given to the people of God, enabling them to do the work of transforming the world that God has entrusted to them.

7.What do the people mean when they respond “and with your spirit”?

The expression et cum spiritu tuo is only addressed to an ordained minister. Some scholars have suggested that spiritu refers to the gift of the spirit he received at ordination. In their response, the people assure the priest of the same divine assistance of God’s spirit and, more specifically, help for the priest to use the charismatic gifts given to him in ordination and in so doing to fulfill his prophetic function in the Church.

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