From a reader…
My brother and I were having a discussion about the use of
the terms ‘Holy Ghost’ vs ‘Holy Spirit’. We both attend the
traditional Latin Mas, and are interested to know the origin of why ‘Spiritu Sancto’ is often translated as ‘Holy Ghost’ in traditional missals and books. I am sure there’s a good reason, but I don’t know what it is.
As far as I’m concerned we can use both, interchangeably.
Well… maybe not…
Come, Holy Ghost, Creator blest,
and in our souls take up Thy rest;…
Come, Holy Spirit, Creator blest,
and in our souls take up Thy rest;
Nope. Ghost, hands down.
I’m pretty sure that we English speakers have traditionally used Holy Ghost because of early translations of Holy Writ, namely the King James Bible and the Douay Rheims, even though both those Bibles use both Ghost and Spirit (fewer times). The KJV capitalized “Ghost” when it was certain that the Third Person of the Trinity was involved.
Ghost, related to German Geist (which is used today for the Holy Spirit), in its roots is any sort of spirit. “Ghost” often translated Bible Greek pneuma and Latin spiritus.
It became a matter of common parlance. People memorized traditional prayers with Ghost. We sang hymns with Ghost.
I think we should also use archaic words in our prayers, private and congregational. Prayer should be from and of the heart, but we can use he richness of our language to express ourselves, even in solidarity with our forebears.
Also, over time it seems that translators had a strong feeling for “ghost” as a personal being, though not in the sense of a phantasm that needed “busters”. I wonder if, today, with the way “spirit” has become so diluted in meaning, “ghost” might not make a profitable comeback.
Any way, I don’t like the idea that we have to surrender to contemporary fashion in language. Old language is also good, so long as it communicates what it is intended to communicate. I don’t think all the old words are about to give up the ghost quite yet.