"And With Your Spirit"

And More on the Episcopalian Eucharist

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ROME, SEPT. 14, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: As in the English-speaking world, we will have to change the people's answer from "And also with you" to "And with your spirit." I have been looking for a good theological and historical-liturgical explanation for this change, in order to make it understandable for the faithful. Why this insistence on the spirit? And don't the people have the spirit as well? Apart from one short paragraph I have found no treatment of this question in the liturgical books available to me. Could you provide me with some background?" -- H.T., Kundiawa, Papua New Guinea

A: As is well-known, the Holy See has asked that the Latin "Et cum spiritu tuo" said in response to greetings such as "Dominus vobiscum" should always be translated literally as "And with your spirit."

Most major world languages had already translated the expression literally, English and Brazilian Portuguese being notable exceptions.

The brief form of this dialogue ("The Lord be with you. And with your Spirit") is taken from the Book of Ruth 2:4 and 2 Timothy 2:22. Christians probably took these formulas over directly from the synagogue. There is clear evidence, for example, in St. Hippolytus (100-165) that Christians spoke these answers from the very beginning.

The fact that from the earliest times Christians conserved these phrases in their original form, in spite of their being foreign to both Greek and Latin mentalities, is a good argument to keep them intact in our current translations. In this way, we maintain a living connection with Christianity's historical origins just as we do with the conservation of other Hebrew forms and expressions such as Amen, Alleluia and Hosanna.

The formula "be with you" is considered as a greeting, of benevolence and of recognition of a reality: The Lord is present. The Semitic response, "And with your spirit," literally means "And also with you," as "your spirit" literally means "your person." Therefore the current English translation could be considered as an accurate rendering of the Hebrew background.

Historically speaking, however, the text was quickly separated from its Jewish context, and the patristic tradition has interpreted it in the sense of the spirit that the bishop or priest has received in ordination. For example, St. John Chrysostom in his homily on 2 Timothy (in II Tim. homily, 10,3. PG LXII 659 ff), refers to the "your spirit" to the indwelling Holy Spirit: "There can be no better prayer than this. Grieve not for my departure. The Lord will be with you. And he says, not with you, but with your spirit. Thus there is a twofold assistance, the grace of the Spirit, and God helping it. And otherwise God will not be with us, if we have not spiritual grace. For if we be deserted by grace, how shall He be with us?" In his first Pentecost homily (PG L. 458 ff) John Chrysostom sees in the word "spirit" of the reply an allusion to the fact that the bishop performs the sacrifice in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Such patristic reflections are one reason why from early times the greeting "Dominus vobiscum" was reserved to those who had received major orders: bishops, priests and deacons. This restriction of the liturgical greeting to the ordained is still in force today. A layperson who leads, for example, a celebration of the Word with distribution of Holy Communion, or an office of the Liturgy of the Hours, may not use the greeting "The Lord be with you" with its response.

This does not mean that the faithful are lacking the Spirit or that they are mere passive attendants at the liturgical action. Actually, through its response to the priest the congregation constitutes itself as a liturgical assembly presided over by the priest in the name of the Lord and responding in this way to his call. As the great Jesuit liturgist J.A. Jungmann wrote:

"We can best understand the 'Et cum spiritu tuo' as a popular consensus in the work of the priest, not that the congregation here gives the priest authority or power to act in its stead, but that the congregation once more acknowledges him as the speaker under whose leadership the united group will approach almighty God. Thus in the greeting and its response we have the same double note that reappears at the end of the oration [opening prayer]; the 'Dominus vobiscum' seems to anticipate the 'per Christum' of the close of the oration, and the 'et cum spiritu tuo' is a forerunner of the people's agreement expressed in the Amen" (The Mass of the Roman Rite, Volume 1, Page 365).

Although the dynamism contained in this brief exchange is difficult for us to grasp today, the fact of the new translation could present an excellent teaching moment to underline the faithful's active participation in the liturgy and the true theological sense of hierarchical communion.

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Follow-up: The Episcopalian Eucharist

Pursuant to our commentaries on Anglican eucharistic theology (see Aug. 31) we received appreciative comments as well as critical observations. Above all, a couple of readers questioned the use of the term "semiofficial" as applied to ARCIC, the commission of Anglicans and Roman Catholics who have painstakingly undertaken this dialogue. As one reader wrote:

"In what sense is ARCIC 'semiofficial'? They are listed on the Vatican Web site under the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the members were appointed by the leaders of the respective communities, etc. After celebrating vespers together in 1996, John Paul II and the Archbishop of Canterbury together signed a common declaration stating: 'We affirm the signs of progress provided in the statements of ARCIC I on the Eucharist and on the understanding of ministry and ordination.' In what sense is this not official, but semiofficial? Since you mentioned ARCIC on the Eucharist, shouldn't you also have mentioned the agreement reached on ministry and ordination? Your comments barely get past Leo XIII's judgment on Anglican orders, and do not acknowledge the above-mentioned agreements with the papal affirmation. The signs of progress include a statement on a new context for understanding Leo XIII's declaration on Anglican ordination. Isn't that an important part of our Church's teaching on Anglican orders?"

Our reader continued: "The ARCIC agreements also provide what is probably a better context for understanding why we do not share the Eucharist. ARCIC 2's statement Church as Communion describes the communion that exists within each community, and its relation with our communion with God and Christ. Respecting this communion, and the difficulties that have grown around intercommunion, is probably a more helpful way to address the problems of a Catholic organist in an Episcopalian parish: 'Christians can never acquiesce with complacency in disunity without impairing further their communion with God. As separated churches grow towards ecclesial communion it is essential to recognize the profound measure of communion they already share through participation in spiritual communion with God and through those elements of a visible communion of shared faith and sacramental life they can already recognize in one another. If some element or important facet of visible communion is judged to be lacking, the communion between them, though it may be real, is incomplete.'

"These are important issues that your correspondent will be facing on a weekly, if not daily, basis. I hope you will explain better your downgrading of ARCIC to 'semiofficial' and why pre-conciliar attitudes on defects and certainty are more important than post-conciliar efforts to struggle with our divisions."

My use of the (admittedly non-technical) expression "semiofficial" never sought to downgrade ARCIC but was an attempt at describing its nature.

ARCIC is much more than a private or unofficial forum of experts seeking a formula of agreement. Yet at the same time it is not "official" in the sense that the members could speak formally in the name of their respective Church or communion. Its reports are published independently and are presented for approval to the respective authorities.

Regarding the agreement that ARCIC reached with respect to Eucharist and ministry, Anglican authorities meeting at the Lambeth Conference accepted that it substantially agreed with its doctrine.

Catholic approval was slower in coming. Although the Catholic Church quickly welcomed the ARCIC accord, an official response did not arrive until 1991. In this official response the Holy See recognized that "it constitutes a significant milestone not only in relations between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion but in the ecumenical movement as a whole." The Catholic Church "judges, however, that it is not yet possible to state that substantial agreement has been reached on all the questions studied by the Commission. There still remain between Anglicans and Catholics important differences regarding essential matters of Catholic doctrine." The document then proceeded to elaborate several aspects of Eucharistic and ministerial theology that needed further study.

Later, in 1993, ARCIC responded with several clarifying statements on the disputed points. In the wake of this, in March 1994 Cardinal Edward Cassidy, president of the Holy See's office for promoting Christian Unity, wrote to the co-chairmen of ARCIC:

"On September 4th last, you sent me a document containing 'Clarifications of Certain Aspects of the Agreed Statements on Eucharist and Ministry' which had been submitted to and approved by the ARCIC-II meeting taking place in Venice at that time.

"This document has been examined by the appropriate dicasteries of the Holy See and I am now in a position to assure you that the said clarifications have indeed thrown new light on the questions concerning Eucharist and Ministry in the Final Report of ARCIC-I for which further study had been requested.

"The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity is therefore most grateful to the members of ARCIC-II, and to those from ARCIC-I who prepared these clarifications. The agreement reached on Eucharist and Ministry by ARCIC-I is thus greatly strengthened and no further study would seem to be required at this stage."

This was the context which permitted the joint statement of Pope John Paul II and the Archbishop of Canterbury mentioned by our reader.

While this is certainly a welcome sign of progress, it would not be correct to say that the ARCIC statement thus becomes "official" Catholic teaching in the proper sense. It is rather that the Church recognizes, at the highest level, that the statement is in conformity with official Catholic doctrine.

The complete texts of all these documents can be found at www.prounione.urbe.it.

With respect to ministry, I did not enter into that subject because the ARCIC dialogue did not directly address the question of validity but rather the understanding of ministry. With respect to the idea of ordained ministry as a sacramental and sacrificial priesthood the group achieved a consensus acceptable to both parties in the dialogue.

It did not discuss the question of who was or who could become a priest. Even ARCIC admits that the subsequent admission of women into Anglican ordained ministry has definitively altered the terms of the debate.

Also, while it is possible to place Leo XIII's declaration into new contexts -- and not a few experts have questioned the strength of some of the historical arguments contained in his bull "Apostolicae Curae" -- the fact remains that his authoritative declaration of the invalidity of Anglican orders remains official Catholic doctrine.

This fact was reaffirmed in 1998 by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in his commentary on John Paul II's apostolic letter "Ad Tuendam Fidem." In this commentary he specifically lists Pope Leo's declaration of nullity as a teaching to which Catholics must give "firm and definitive assent." These teachings are not understood as revealed doctrines but as those that the Church's teaching authority finds so closely connected to God's revealed truth that belief in them is required.

While I would agree with our correspondent that there were many possible ways to focus the original answer, I beg to differ from him in his division between pre- and post-Vatican II mentalities. I agree with Benedict XVI's assessment that the Second Vatican Council can only be genuinely interpreted according to a "hermeneutic of continuity" with the other 20 ecumenical councils and the Church's entire Tradition.

I welcome all progress in communion among Christians, and believe that the original question by a Catholic organist working in an Anglican parish, and his desire to respect Anglican sensibilities, is itself a tangible sign of this progress. I also believe, however, that true progress in communion is best served by honesty regarding our core beliefs and the limits these beliefs impose.

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Readers may send questions to liturgy@zenit.org. Please put the word "Liturgy" in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.