“And with your spirit”

From the Catholic Herald, the UK’s best Catholic weekly, with my emphases and comments.  I edit because of length.  The author, Fr Milner died in December, [Stop now, dear reader, and say a prayer for the author.] a few months after writing this article.

Why ‘and with your spirit’ is right

Fr Austin J Milner OP explains the rationale for one of the most striking and controversial changes in the new English Mass translation

By Fr Austin J Milner OP

Perhaps one of the most difficult of the changes which people will be asked to make when the new translation of the Roman Missal comes into use will be that from “And also with you” to “And with your spirit”. People have got used to the former. It makes good sense. Why change it?

“And with your spirit” is the literal translation of et cum spiritu tuo, which itself is a literal translation from the Greek. This phrase, whether in Greek or in Latin, was quite strange to the ancient world. It appears only in Christian writings. It already forms part of greetings at the end of some of the Pauline Epistles: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit brethren. Amen” (Gal 6:18; cf Phil 4:23; Philemon 25); “The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you” (2 Tim 4:22).  [It is also in the Hebrew Old Testament in Ruth 2:4.]


Some today object that such an interpretation of the response gives too much emphasis to the priesthood of the one who presides to the detriment to the priesthood of the whole assembly. But this was certainly not the intention of Theodore of Mopsuestia or St John Chrysostom.

The former says in the homily already quoted: “It is in this sense that the phrase ‘And with your spirit’ is addressed to the priest by the congregation according to the regulations found in the Church from the beginning. The reason for it being that when the conduct of the priest is good it is a gain for the whole body of the Church, and when the conduct of the priest is unholy it is a loss to all. All of them pray that through peace the grace of the Holy Spirit may be accorded to him, so that he may strive to perform his service to the public suitably.”

And St John Chrysostom in a homily on Pentecost says: “If there was no Holy Spirit there would be no shepherds or teachers in the Church, for these also come through the Spirit. As St Paul says: ‘In which [flock] the Holy Spirit has established you shepherds and bishops’ (Acts 20:28). Do you not see how this also comes about through the Spirit? For if the Holy Spirit was not in the common father and teacher when just now he went up into the sanctuary and gave all of you the peace, you would not all have answered: ‘And with your Spirit.’

“For this reason, not only when he goes up into the sanctuary and when he addresses you and when he prays for you do you shout this answer, but when he stands at the sacred table and when he begins to offer the awe-inspiring sacrifice – the initiates will understand what I say – he does not touch the offerings before he himself has begged for you the grace of the Lord and you cry in answer to him: ‘And with your spirit.’ By this reply you are also reminded that he who is there does nothing, and that the right offering of the gifts is not a work of human nature, but that the mystic sacrifice is brought about by the grace of the Holy Spirit and his hovering over all. For he who is there is a man, it is God who works though him. Do not attend to the nature of the one you see, but understand the grace which is invisible. Nothing human takes place in this sacred sanctuary. If the spirit was not present there would be no Church assisting, but if the Church stands round it is clear that the Spirit is present” (PG 50,458-459).

This Syrian interpretation of “And with your spirit” is by no means the only one to be found in the various commentators on the liturgy, both eastern and western. But the fact that from the end of the fourth century this reply was only made to those in major orders confirms that it was a very widespread understanding.

So to conclude, when we begin again to say “And with your Spirit” instead of the banal “And also with you”, we should understand that we are not referring to the soul of the priest as distinct from his bodily existence. We are making reference to the awe-inspiring mystery of our common redemption and healing through the Holy Spirit whom the resurrected Jesus has sent into our hearts. In particular we are referring to the special grace gift of the Spirit by which men are made priests, praying that that grace will continue to enable them to perform all their duties in holiness in the service of the priestly people of God, and reminding ourselves that, as St John Chrysostom puts it, the minister at the altar “does nothing, and that the right offering of the gifts is not a work of human nature, but that the mystic sacrifice is brought about by the grace of the Holy Spirit and his hovering over all.”

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. chcrix says:

    A very thoughtful article. It inspired me to get off the dime and try that electronic subscription promo that Fr. Z has been touting. Right now the Ten pounds comes to about $16 and change U.S.

  2. mibethda says:

    It would be interesting to know which of the works of the rather problematic Theodore of Mopsuestia Father Milner referenced. Since he and St. John Chrysostom are cited together on this subject, perhaps it was from one of his earlier writings ?

  3. Ef-lover says:

    I for one welcome the change to ” and with your spirit” from the lame duck ” and also with you”

  4. AnAmericanMother says:

    Everything comes full circle.

    The old ’28 BCP was “and with thy spirit.” That was changed in the ’79 to “and also with you.” (I am convinced there was coordination, if not conspiracy, between the Episcopalians and the Catholics on the English translation).

    Now we’re back to “and with your spirit.” Hopefully the “thees” and “thous” will reappear at some future date (Deo volente).

  5. Christopher Gainey says:

    Would it be inappropriate to begin making the new responses now? I have been saying them silently for some time.

  6. Christopher: My official answer must be that we should Say The Black and Do The Red.

  7. jarthurcrank says:

    A British Catholic priest in another forum once said – – and I wish I could find the precise quote – – that the International Consultation on English Texts (ICET), which was an ecumenical commission to encourage standardized English texts across the various churches, was responsible for “and also with you.” The way it happened was that the Anglican contingent wanted the text to say something like “May the Spirit of the Lord Be With You” with the response being “And Also With You.” However, the Catholic portion of ICET objected, on the basis of the theology described in the article above? So what did ICET do? It did what it always did – – it split the difference by watering down the text – – ergo “The Lord Be With You” “And Also With You.” It is a plausible story.

    In fairness, I found an Catholic hand-held missal from England published in the late 50s-early 60s, where “and with your spirit” was translated “and with you also.” Ugh! Thank God we are going back to the correct way of saying it, even if some will scratch their heads.

  8. yatzer says:

    I can hardly wait! I’ve disliked the current translation ever since it came out, and I wasn’t even Catholic.

  9. jfm says:

    Christopher Gainey,
    I’ve been saying “et cum spiritu tuo” sotto voce as a response since I first took Latin in the 80s instead of ‘and also with you’.
    My high school Latin teacher, a Jesuit priest, also taught us how a bad kid might respond to “Pax tecum” – it’s “You keep ‘um!”

  10. jaykay says:

    The Irish language version of the Mass came out in 1965 and the same texts for the Ordinary were carried over to the NO in 1970 and are still in use. They were/are a very faithful translation of the Latin (as the original 1965 English translations were by and large). For example the Confiteor in Irish translates literally into English as:

    “I confess to almighty God and to you my brethren that I have sinned deeply in thought and word, in what I have done and what I have failed to do, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grevious fault. Therefore I beseech Blessed Mary ever Virgin, the angels and saints and you my brethren to pray for me to the Lord our God.”

    Note that for some unknown reason Irish speakers do not seem to feel that violence is being done to their tender sensibilities by the chauvinistic, patriarchal (etc. etc. blahdy-blah) use of “brethren” (“bráithre” in Irish).

    However, back in 1965, and presumably under the influence of the English translation then coming out, they unfortunately made the same mistake and translated “Et cum spiritu tuo” as “Agus leat féin” which pretty much means the same thing as the English (except that the “féin” conveys added emphasis to the “you”).

    As far as I know there are no plans to correct the Irish translation, which is a real pity because otherwise it’s very fine and totally ad idem with the Latin. So a little piece of the spirit of the 60s will remain in the Irish Mass :(

  11. Gail F says:

    I confess that I still don’t understand what “and with your spirit” means. However, I am glad to know that it means SOMETHING — it isn’t just an odd turn of speech.

    As far as this goes: “Do not attend to the nature of the one you see, but understand the grace which is invisible. Nothing human takes place in this sacred sanctuary. If the spirit was not present there would be no Church assisting, but if the Church stands round it is clear that the Spirit is present” — Wow. That demolishes pretty much everything that is done in the sanctuary of my parish. I find that “not attending to” pretty much anything that goes on up there, but instead just concentrating on Christ’s presence, helps me get through a lot of masses.

  12. Cincinnati Priest says:

    * Some today object that such an interpretation of the response gives too much emphasis to the priesthood of the one who presides to the detriment to the priesthood of the whole assembly. *

    Yes, that is certainly true. We Cincinnati priests have had to attend a series of moslty uninspiring sessions on the new translation of the Roman Missal. The presenter, a Fr. Paul Turner from Missouri, made a point to interject his personal opinion that the *Et cum spiritu tuo* response has nothing to do with the ordained priesthood, and really is a dialogical exchange made to all Christians. He cited some rather unconvincing Scriptural evidence for his opinion, and even noted that St. John Chrysostom thought otherwise.

    Let’s see : Fr. Paul Turner’s personal opinion, or St. John, doctor of the Church. I know which reading I’ll go with!

  13. lombizani says:

    Fr. Z, here in Brazil the “Et cum spiritu tuo” is translated as “Ele está no meio de nós”, that is, “He is among us”.

  14. Laura R. says:

    I spent years as an Episcopalian saying “And with thy spirit,” without understanding the theology but considering it a beautiful response, before the banal “And also with you” came in. Will be delighted to be able to say as a Catholic, “And with your spirit,” even without the “thy.” Brick by brick, as Father says.

  15. RichR says:

    You know, as a baptized member of the priesthood of all believers, my feelings are so hurt because of this singling out of the “ministerial” priesthood via the response, “And with your spirit”. My ego is shot, and I think that I will now resign from my role as “Head Parish Minister of Pastoral Order”, as well as my various other lay ministries that have allowed our priest-less parish to function without an “ordained” priest for many years now, thus allowing the laity to exercise their calling as ministers to each other in a egalitarian circle of love. I think I will go a cry while I gather up the shards of my shattered emotional psyche, and then I will pack up my numerous name tags that list all of my important parochial roles and retire them for good…………

    I guess this means I also have to get rid of my stole……..

  16. Dave N. says:

    Just for the record, the spirit is not mentioned in Ruth 2:4. Boaz greats the reapers with the statement “The LORD is with you” (Dominus vobiscum; ???? ????) to which the reapers reply “May the LORD bless you”—ei benedicat tibi Dominus; ????? ????

  17. Dave N. says:

    Sorry, my Hebrew characters did not come across.

  18. pop says:

    Let me state that I am not a big fan of the newest translation. I say that for many reasons. Yet, I will be obedient to my bishop!

    During the negotiations, if you will, that led up to the final version, one of the bishops of the USA made a statement to the effect that the people have a right to sing and pray in a language they know, use and understand. That is a heavy duty thought when one thinks about it. Liturgy is the work of the people and unlike the mass of Trent, the mass of Vatican II requires full and conscience participation of “The People of God”. That was/is the reason for mass celebrated in the vernacular in the first place!
    If you read through the introductory pages of the present edition Roman Missal you’ll notice there is much written on translation. The commission on English submitted their finished product and they received recognition for the approved product. Much is written about the necessity of a translation of “meaning of terms” as opposed to a word for word translation. I happen to believe the wisdom of what was written in that edition.
    I also happen to believe the particular conferences of bishops should determine the content of all catholic teaching and do so in concert with the Holy Father. I will gladly stand corrected if need be, but at this point I have to wonder if we are being subjected to an imposition which seems, in my humble opinion to be at odds with what is stated in the current edition of the Roman Missal.
    While I’m at it: if we want to return to “the sources”, why do we stop at Latin? Greek might be a better stopping place. Then we could go Greek to English directly.

    The early rendition of the Latin “Et cum spiritu tuo” into English was “and with your Spirit”. You might also remember we’d respond ” Lord I am not worthy to receive You but only say the Word and my soul will be healed”. That has been changed to “I will be healed”.

    So we ask why the change from the earlier translation. I can not answer, but as a guess I’d say the recognition of the “totality” of the person i.e. body, soul, & spirit was considered. Indeed do we not speak of the necessity of self emptying? Again, I am not suggesting this as correct, but it does seem that stating “I” will be healed……. as well as “you” as in “and also with you” may well be considered in the viewpoint of the “Totality” of self emptying so as to “be filled” with God. That posture of a poverty of spirit in us so as to be “FILLED” is in my opinion something to be considered.

    I think the Fathers of Vatican II wanted also to address the “clericalism” that had crept into the church. Note that the constitution of the church as developed by Vatican II clearly addressed that when the first paragraph was addressed not to the clergy, but to “The People of God”. The church herself was addressed and described as “a servant church”. Subsequent paragraphs defined orders, but as “ordered” to the service of “The People of God”.

    Having said that, I get a bit nervous when I hear expressions that even in some small way harken to the old clericalism. And by the way; when the deacon announces “The Lord be With You” prior to the Gospel, the response “And with your Spirit” will be recited as well. So I suppose there is a “reminder” if you will, there too. So why not have the deacon and the presider say “The Spirit of the Lord be with you”. Then, “and also with you” or “and with you also” would make sense wouldn’t it?

  19. It sounds to me like you’re more uncomfortable with parallelism in poetry than with clericalism.

    There’s also a great deal of difference between “May the Lord be with you” and “May the Spirit of the Lord be with you.” Names and titles mean Someone. They’re not there for decoration.

  20. MichaelJ says:

    Trent codified the pious customs and practices that had been in existence for at least 200 years. The Novus Ordo, on the other hand, did not exist anywhere in the world prior to its promulgation.
    Which one again comes from “The People of God”?

  21. KenDolph says:

    Before I comment on this particular phrase, I would like to note that the entire document was first prepared by competent theologians and translators under the auspices of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. When sent to Rome, more than 300 changes were made by translators who were not primarily English speakers. When it was returned, the document was rejected by the majority Bishops convened to study and accept it. This was over ridden by the extraordinary appeal to Bishops not in attendance.

    It seems that most of the changes, made in Rome, were based upon a slavish dependence upon literal translation of the Latin. We now have a document that, in part, is confusing, ambiguous and often not proper English.

    That said, I find the above quoted article to be a perfect argument AGAINST “et cum spiritu tuo”.

    First: Two fathers of the Church found it necessary to explain it to Greek speakers in the fourth century. So obviously the phrase held little meaning, to those who took the time to think about, even at that early date. Little wonder that people have trouble with it today.

    Second: In the Scripture quotes, the term “with your spirit” is always addressed to all hearers ordained or not. I believe this was because they wanted to emphasize that man is not only a body and mind but also a spirit. This was a somewhat foreign concept to Greek an to Hebrew thought.

    Third: Throughout the article the Holy Spirit and the Priest’s personal spirit are constantly confused. Since the Holy Spirit is not referenced in the phrase under consideration He should be removed from the explanation. Remove Him and there is no explanation.

    Fourth: The Priest says ” The Lord be with you”; with you in your entirety body, soul and spirit. Are we then to say “May the Lord be only with your spirit”?

    It appears that this was just a poetic greeting, made up in about the Second Century, which has become ingrained into some peoples reason for living. I find it odd that some find it so hard to properly translate the idiom when the Church has been so cavalier in banning the pronouncing of YHWH at Mass which it mistranslates as Lord. This is God’s own name given to us in scripture. Their explanation came down to “we are not to use it in vain”. Are they so ready to call the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass vain? So Scripture can be mistranslated but not the play list of the Mass.

    I actually am not against the phrase. It has a nice poetic ring to it. I am against bad logic defending poor content.

    May the Lord’s peace be with your spirit.

  22. Lazarus says:

    Its not about what we like and what we dont like. If there is any Catholic backbone to us at all ( and I lack in it many days meself ) then we will submit to the authority of the Church in this matter and welcome it with great zeal and fervour as one that comes from Christ. And indeed it is a change that comes from Christ himself. There are things we can discuss and things we cant. And when it comes to a decision made by the Sacred Congregation united with the Roman Pontiff that does not contradict Christian piety we are to humbly obey. However I understand the need to explain the change.

    And with your spirit is a great change and it is more modern than the changable modern world that wants to move with the modern secular society and not with the modern church.

    There is a great sense of holiness when I say it. Can that be a bad thing? course not.


  23. evener says:

    re Kendolph & another up there-
    Confusing the priest & the Holy Spirit seems explained by St. Bridget, who said that as the Holy Spirit overshadowed the Virgin Mary so she could be the ark of the new covenant, so the Holy Spirit overshadows the priest, so he can say, “this is my body.”
    Also this problem with clericalism. – who but a priest can absolve our sins and bring us Jesus?
    Thank you God for clerics!

  24. KenDolph says:

    re: evener

    I believe that Fr, Z will agree with me that the priest is acting in “persona Christi” in all of his sacerdotal duties. Therefore he cannot forgive your sins. He may pronounce the words but it is Christ who forgives. The priest is the ordinary instrument for God’s action in the sacraments but God is not limited.

    If we are to use Jesus as our example, and we must, there is no time recorded in the Gospels when He used the formula of the Church. In fact He never forgave sins. He always made the statement that “Your sins are forgiven” or “Father forgive them…” we have never translated this as absolve.

    If a man were in danger of death and called for a priest to confess his sins, and none were available, I would have no compunction to allow him to believe I am a priest. The sacrament would be valid to the man though illicit. I would then confess my sin of deception.
    Christ acts through whom He chooses. Paul is an Apostle though not in the normal way. Melchizedek is a priest before there was a priesthood. If you are married, you and your spouse conferred the sacrament not the priest. Even a non-believer can perform a Baptism. This even though the formula must be ” I baptize you in the name of…”.

    I could not deny that the Holy Spirit (Holy Ghost in my day) is present and active in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. I was just pointing out He was not referred to in the phrase in question. The word spirit is never capitalized there.

    All due respect to St Bridget and to your sensibilities but the term we translate as overshadow is still used today in the breeding of animals. Stallions cover mares and rams ewes. I would hesitate to refer to it at Mass.

    Yours in Christ

  25. catholicmidwest says:

    I just don’t like “and also with you” because:
    a) it’s a lousy translation. Anybody with 1/2 a brain can tell that the translation of “et cum spiritu tuo” can’t be “and also with you.”
    b) it’s cheesy. It sounds like the 70s.

  26. catholicmidwest says:

    PS, there are priests egotistical enough to claim that this is about them. In fact, there’s plenty of them. BUT, I think it’s really about the assent of the faithful to the action of the priest by means of the Holy Spirit who acts in the Mass. No need for the priest to get a big head about it. He should be giving thanks like all the rest of us on account of the fact we can say it in that assenting and faithful way and realize that it’s really true that the Holy Spirit acts in such a way on our behalf.

  27. Lazarus says:

    @Catholic midwest: Its not about any of us. Its all about the Christ. It is not that the Holy Spirit needs us, it is we who need him. The Holy Spirit does all for his glory and not for the glory of those who need him. But it is his gift from himself to us to aid us in giving him greater glory and to learn better how to live a True life in God. Although you probably already know that I’d thought I’d throw it in and add to our insightful and thoughtful post.


  28. Lazarus says:

    sorry about last sentence it is meant to say ”to YOUR insightful post etc etc”

  29. evener says:

    Dear commenters,
    I regret & apologize for doing a “re”, thereby making this personal.-But I state again, who but a priest can absolve our sins and bring us Jesus? If there’s doubt out there, check the catechism.
    As to quoting St. Bridget, there again check her translated quotes.

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