“And also with you.” “And with your Spirit.” Six of one half a dozen of the other ? Mox nix ? Who cares? What difference does it make? The difference is all the difference in the world. Actually, all the difference in all the universe and all Heaven. The difference is: Jesus Christ present as Head of His mystical body only in the person of the ordained priest.
Over half a century ago, the priest offering the sacrifice in the standard Latin Mass form, said “Dominus vobiscum,” and the faithful’s response was “Et cum spiritu tuo.” For some time from 1970 A.D. to 2010 A.D., the response in English – which was improperly called a “translation” since the word “spiritu” was ignored and not translated – was “and also with you.”
Following Vatican II and going back to the beginning of the 1970 liturgical year – beginning November 30, 1969, in the new English Mass 1970 Lectionary For Mass – “and also with you” was the laity’s response to “The Lord be with you.” Today we say “And with your spirit.” What “spirit” was deleted until the new/old translation began to be used again?
There was, indeed, a liturgical kerfuffle over what was to be the new translation of “et cum spititu tuo” (“new” as compared to the “and also with you” non-translation mandated in the U.S.A. after Vatican II). The “why” of the motivation of some of those who did not want the word “spiritu” translated is summed up in one goal of those “liturgical progressives, believing in the absolute primacy of the contemporary” who somehow saw good in “breaking down the distinction between clergy and people.” (1)
Spiritu – Literally
To begin with, the literal translation from the Latin is clear. The correct translation – and the centuries-old translation – of what the people say is “and with your spirit.” Had the original Latin been something like “etiam et cum te,” or “item et cum te”, or with any word such as “idem,” “praetera,” or “insuper,” to indicate simply “ditto, that the Lord be also with you,” then the “also” could have been correct. But there is that word, “spiritu,” there for almost two millennia, and the priest does not and never has said that word in any greeting within the Mass such as “Dominus vobiscum” as applicable to the laity who are present, those not ordained as priests.
“I am With You”
The phrase from early Masses – the Lord be with you – is a direct and explicit reference to the words of Jesus Himself at the end of Matthew’s Gospel when He commissions the remaining eleven apostles on a mountain in Galilee: “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:20).
Before Jesus tells the eleven apostles “I am with you,” He says: “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28: 18-19).
It is clear that these words are addressed to the apostles – and to only these eleven apostles – who were “ordered” (Matthew 28:16) by Jesus to go to this mountain. In Mark’s version, only the “eleven” are “at table” with Jesus. (Mark 16:14). Each of these apostles had received the then-new sacrament of Holy Orders at the Last Supper; and the Gospels make it clear that only the apostles were present for the reception of the new sacrament. There are no other persons present at the Last Supper who received Holy Orders, nor does anyone, except the apostles, ordained priests, receive the final commissioning in Matthew. To say that there were others present, although unmentioned, who were also ordained – whether lesser disciples or the Virgin Mary or women – is to engage in fantasy, to promote a non-sacramental agenda, to denigrate and misrepresent the sacrament of Holy Orders as it was given to us by Jesus Himself, to add one’s own words to Holy Scripture, or to contradict sacred tradition and the Magisterium.
Many scholars and writers of the early Church discussed the meaning and significance of the “et cum spiritu tuo” response of the laity. Among them was Theodore of Mopsuestia (350 A.D. – 428 A.D.):
And those present answer him: “And to your spirit.” … Indeed all of us are one body of Christ our Lord and all of us are members one of another, and the priest only fills the role of a member that is higher than the other members of the body . . . It is in this sense that the phrase: “And to your spirit” is addressed to the priest by the congregation, according to the regulations found in the Church from the beginning, . . .” [emphasis added by this author] (2)
Such an understanding of this “spiritu” was assumed in celebrations of the Eucharist from the time of the apostles.
There is no question that from the earliest times, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the people were not referred to as having this “spiritu” of the “et cum spiritu tuo.” For example, in a section of an ancient work on the liturgy entitled “The Bidding Prayer For The Faithful” (3) is found:
And let the bishop salute the church and say, the peace of God be with you all. And let the people answer, And with thy spirit.” (4)
And let the bishop say, “The peace of God be with you all.” And let the people say, “and with thy spirit. (6)
This use of “spirit” exclusively with respect to ordained priests and bishops is also evident throughout other ancient Masses, e.g., The Divine Liturgy of James (6); The Divine Liturgy of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Mark (7); and The Liturgy of the Blessed Apostles (8).
Other Early Liturgies
Fifth century Syriac liturgies used a response of the laity such as “with you and with your spirit”. Their languages were similar to the actual Aramaic of Jesus and His apostles. Clearly for them the response was much more than simply “and with you”. For example, Narsai of Nisibis, a fifth century A.D. Syriac theologian-poet, says:
The people answer the priest lovingly and say: ‘With you, O priest, and with that priestly spirit of yours.’ They call ‘spirit’ not that soul which is in the priest, but the spirit which the priest has received by the laying on of hands. By the laying on of hands the priest receives the power of the Spirit so that he may be able to perform the divine mysteries. That grace the people call the spirit of the priest and they pray that he may attain peace with it and it with him. (9).
Saying “and with your spirit” recognizes the “special character” of the ordained priest referred to in the documents of Vatican II in its treatment of the sacrament of Holy Orders:
Through that sacrament priests by the anointing of the Holy Spirit are signed with a special character and are so configured to Christ the priest that they are able to act in the person of Christ the head.” (Decree On The Ministry And Life OF Priests, Presbyterorum Ordinis, No. 2.)
In explaining the sacrament of Holy Orders, the Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to the the power given by Jesus to His Church:
Today the word “ordination” is reserved for the sacramental act which integrates a man into the order of bishops, presbyters, or deacons, and goes beyond a simple election, designation, delegation, or institution by the community, for it confers a gift of the Holy Spirit that permits the exercise of a “sacred power” (sacra potestas) which can come only from Christ himself through his Church. (10)
Jesus gave His Church the power to ordain men (and only men) to serve as His priests. Canon Law, Canon 1024 prescribes: “Only a baptized male validly receives sacred ordination.” The laity do not and cannot act in the person of Christ as Head of the mystical body, in persona Christi capitis, in the way that the ordained priest does:
In the ecclesial service of the ordained minister, it is Christ himself who is present to his Church as Head of his Body, Shepherd of his flock, high priest of the redemptive sacrifice, Teacher of Truth. This is what the Church means by saying that the priest, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, acts in persona Christi Capitis. (11)
There has never been in all history a laying on of hands in the Church that is a reception of the sacrament of Holy Orders – the ordination of bishops, priests, and deacons – for non-ordained positions or roles in the church such as singer, acolyte, deaconess, porter, and lector.
At Mass, the priest is not simply another member of the congregation or “assembly” who happens to be tasked with some role and function that any member could do – “presider,” “celebrant,” “stage director.” Such reasoning – that priestly acts are merely functionary and anyone can do the functions – can lead to a common protestant heresy that each and every member of the faithful is a priest of equal kind, of equal ecclesial and christological status and power. This heresy is a denial of the sacrament of Holy Orders. Such reasoning also directly implies that anyone, women included, can be ordained to Holy Orders, because anyone can say “now be seated,” or “This is My body;” “Have a good day,” or “I absolve you of your sins;” or “Good morning” and “This is My Blood.”
One does not refer to a Queen as a citizen of the realm, or to a General as a non-com soldier. Nor is an ordained priest a mere “presider,” “member of the assembly,” or mere “celebrant” at Mass. Announcements at the beginning of Mass such as “And our presider today is Father Michael Carter,” (M.C.), which ignore the priest’s holy orders and the special sacramental mark on his soul, can be implicit declarations of false Church teaching since they deny the priest’s Holy Orders and reduce him to a functionary with a specific role to play that can be played by anyone.
Jesus Christ acts personally – in a unique, divine, sacramental way – at every Mass through His priest. Put another way, the ordained priest acts in persona Christi, as leader or head of the mystical body, as does no one else present. The priest does not say “Jesus said that this was His body;” but, since Jesus is there truly present acting through the priest, He says “This is My Body.” When the laity say “and with your spirit,” they are acknowledging and proclaiming this truth, faith in Jesus, and belief in His ordained priesthood made personally present in the ordained priest.
(1) Smith, Jr., “Traditionalist & Progressive Totalitarians In the Church, New Oxford Review, April 2016, p. 31.
(2) “Commentary on the Lord’s Prayer, Baptism and the Eucharist, Theodore, t15, 37). Translated by Alphonse Mingana, 15, 37; link: http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/theodore_of_mopsuestia_lordsprayer_02_text.htm
(3) Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Roberts et al, “Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, 1886),
(4) Id. at p.486
(5) Id. at p. 490)
(6) Id. , “Early Liturgies,” p. 537 et seq.
(7) Id. At p. 551 et seq
(8)) Id., p. 561 et seq.
(9) Exposition of the Mysteries Homily 17 A, Narsai; Link: https://www.academia.edu/12393034/Studies_on_Narsai_of_Nisibis?auto=download
(10) Catechism, 1538)
(11) Catechism, 1548)