Wednesday, August 20, 2008


For those of you coming here to find a strange joke or a curious bit of news, I (Orin) apologize, but I couldn't think of where else to share these liturgical thoughts and questions.

You may know the Vatican recently gave its approval to a revised English translation of the mass, though we likely won't be using it for at least two or three years.  Find more info on the new translation - and the translation itself - at the USCCB website.  Find more info on the struggles (theological, political and otherwise) to get it completed here.

Anyway, I was thinking about one of the more obvious changes this morning - responding to the presider's "The Lord be with you," we are used to saying "And also with you."  This will be changed to a more literal translation from the Latin, and will be "And with your spirit."

There are, more or less, two methods of translations: a literal approach, where one tries to get a word-for-word equivalency, and even word order, punctuation, and capitalization can be important.  A more dynamic approach tries to preserve meaning while making the language more accessible and understandable.  The first english translations (in the 1970's) took a more dynamic approach, where lately the mandate has been that translations be as literal as possible.

Here (finally) is the point I was pondering this morning - translation methods aside for the moment, translation words on a page from Latin to other words on a page in English can't really account too well for spoken emphasis.  Music has all sorts of symbols, dots, and other markings to help establish emphasis - languages have punctuation, but it only helps a bit.

For instance - "And with your spirit."  In this case, which word is emphasized changes drastically the meaning of what is said, and in fact changes what the presider meant by "The Lord be with you."

If the congregation were to emphasize AND - this seems to say that we the congregation are reminding the presider that that the Lord is with him too, as if he had forgotten.

If WITH is emphasized, well, I'm not entirely sure what that might mean, compared to other prepositions, like "by, near, in," etc.).  Let's move on.

If YOUR is emphasized, a stronger emphasis is placed on reminding - or even commissioning - the Lord to be with the presider's spirit.  Or it may sound as if we're alerting the presider that he misspoke - you said "The Lord be with you" when you meant something a little different, including our spirit out here.

If SPIRIT is emphasized, that seems to imply the Lord has been with the presider in some other way, and now we, the congregation wish the Lord to be with his spirit.  It also implies that the presider's wish specifically neglected our spirit, and wished the Lord to be with us in some other way.

And, in any case, does the response imply we the congregation (or as individuals) don't have this "spirit" at all, or don't need the Lord to be with it, or what exactly?  Is there any way to determine from the original Latin - by word order, or anything - if any stress was implied in the original?

Was the original English translation "And also with you" trying to avoid these problems, or was it just as faulty?

Granted, I'm a little prone to over-analysis of such things, but this seems important, especially considering that period of teaching and catechesis we're all supposed to embark on before jumping in with the new phrases.  Musically too - for instance, musical stresses should line up with spoken stresses - but what if we can't tell where they fall?

I tried to keep this brief, I hope you all caught my gist here.  What about emphasis?  What say you?


  1. Well, I have to say, I pondered a lot on this same thing. I agree with what you say...there's not really an answer I guess. I just tend to wrestle with things that are virtually impossible to come to a conclusion with. We think a lot alike (Great minds think alike!) I guess that's why we get along so well. :-) So anyway, I can't get much of a complete thought out right now as I am getting ready to move into college. So I'll come back later when I can actually think a bit. ;-)

  2. Well - you are sorta on to something with your last conclution...forgive me if I misunderstand what you are saying (for that never happens, eh?)
    but the presider DOES in fact preside 'in persona chirisi capitis' in place of Christ the head of the church. So as I learned in my course on the "theological and sacramental foundations of ministry" (a ridiculously long course title) that the priest when acting in this particular ministerial role has 'repositioned' himself to the rest of the communitiy. Not placed above, nor below - just repositioned. (Gaillardetz, Hannenberg both have wrote on this 'reposistioning' and its effects on ecclesial lay ministry)

    So - in conclusion and summation:
    a long rambling, slightly coherent response to your long and somewhat 'liturgist-like' question.

  3. Once these changes are in place, 70% of my parish will be learning their 3rd "version" of the Mass. Think about that!

  4. Someone else, elsewhere, discussing more-or-less the same thing commented:

    "with your spirit" is referring to the office of the priesthood. So its not a "hi and back at ya" but its referring to the presider's role as in persona christi.

    To which I (Orin) responded:

    Agreed it's more than a greeting, though that is what it's called in the ordo. While agreeing that ordination re-orders a person (in relationship with their community) to a particular, defined ministry, the CSL doesn't differentiate the presence of Christ manifest in the presiding minister compared to that of the assembled community. (Only the eucharistic species get a little different description.) Plus, the word "spirit" in the greeting is lowercase, and if meant to refer to something particularly divine, then there are two issues: 1) it probably would be capitalized, as in Holy Spirit, and 2) why would we need to ask the Lord (usually referring to God the Father or to Christ, sometimes God the trinity) to be with the spirit of the presider if . . . well, I think we can see the weirdness. I don't think there's anything especially definitive about that phrase and its use and meaning.

  5. What's the exact latin-translated phrase for "the Lord be with you" that the presider speaks? Being a romance language major (back in the day), it'd be helpful to know which version and tense of "be" we're using. If I remember the Spanish translation, it's imperative, not indicative. But that may not clarify things any better either. (This is getting ridiculously nerdy on several levels. Who needs a cookie break?)


  7. in persona Christi CAPITIS

    NOT in persona Christi

    When a priest presides - he is acting as Christ the HEAD of the Church - we all can and are called to act as Christ did in the roles of priest, prophet, and King... but we are not all called to act as Christ as head of the Church

  8. Also,
    you cannot have an Oreo -
    instead you can have a Newman's Own chocolate sandwich cookie made with organic ingredients and its profits given to charity...

  9. Can we feed that cookie to a baby seal as a last meal? Or should we just use some hair spray to light a fire and then burn it? The cookie that is.

  10. knew I couldnt leave that alone.

    If you, the Masters of Theology, and others here cannot figure out exactly what that "new" old translation means ( I think in the old missals, Latin on the left, English on the right, it was also translated that way)
    How can we the stupid uneducated regular folk possibly understand? We may as well speak Latin again!!!! Perhaps those at the Vatican, or USCCB could find more pressing matters to discuss

    your loving sister

  11. Sure, but it's not always about one text meaning only one thing each and every time... And some would sincerely agree, let's all pray in Latin...
    persona christi vs. christi capitis - OK, but does that change an understang or usage of "spirit" here?
    I love the smell of charred baby seal in the morning... -Orin