This is the last clergy corner dedicated to the implementation of the new Roman Missal on the first Sunday of Advent (27 November). We have looked at many of the changes taking place, and there are a few one’s we won’t cover now. But in this last explanation, we will look at two of the more noticeable changes that will take place. The first is the people’s response to the priest (or deacon) proclaiming, “The Lord be with you”. And the second is the people’s response to the invitation to communion. These explanations come from the book, What Happens at Mass, by Fr. Driscoll, and from the USCCB website (http://old.usccb.org/romanmissal/samples-people.shtml).
There are five places during the Mass that the priest says, “The Lord be with you”: the initial greeting after the sign of the Cross; before proclaiming the Gospel; before the Preface of the Eucharistic prayer (right before, “Lift up your hearts”); before the sign of peace (after the priest says, “The peace of the Lord be with you always”); and right before the final blessing at the end of Mass. In all five of these places, the people have responded, “And also with you”. Beginning on 27 November, the response will be “And with your spirit”. Looking at what the people say in many other languages, we will see that our response will not seem so strange. In Spanish, the response is, “Y con tu espíritu”; Italian is “E con il tuo spirito”; German is “Und mit deinem Geiste [spirit]”; French is “Et avec votre esprit”. These responses all translate the original Latin which reads, “Et cum Spiritu tuo.” So the English-speaking world is going to align with how all the other major languages celebrate Mass. But why do the people at these five parts of the Mass say “And with your spirit”? What is it that we are actually saying?
While the exact reason differs a little for each of these five times, the purpose of this mini dialogue between the priest and the people is the same: the priest is preparing the people for a special action, whether it’s to begin the Mass itself, or to listen to the Gospel, or to do something at the other three parts of the Mass. This is not a simple greeting; the Mass is a sacred event when Jesus Christ unites his entire Body to himself in his great prayer and offering. Therefore during this mini dialogue, the priest blesses the people, who form the Body, so they might have divine assistance in these actions: “The Lord be with you!” Just as the priest asks God’s help and blessing on the people, so too do the people in turn ask for God’s help and blessing on the priest. And just as the people are being prepared to act in their role as the members of the Body of Christ, so too is the priest being prepared to act in his role as the head of the Body of Christ. In the Mass, the whole Christ is acting, both as head and body. With the response, “And with your spirit”, the people are addressing the “spirit” of the priest, where he has been ordained precisely to lead the people, the body of Christ, in this sacred action. In essence, the people are saying, “Be a priest for us now”. This dialogue reveals the truth that the Church addresses itself to the Father only through Jesus Christ, its head. The priest must act in the person of Christ the head, leading the people in their deepest worship. How much the priest needs the prayers of the people!
The other change in our new translation comes right before communion. The priest will now proclaim to the people, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb”, and the people will now respond, “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed”. Both these responses reflect the great use of Scripture in the Mass. John the Baptist told his followers, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), and the Eucharist is a foretaste of our union with God in heaven, called the “wedding feast of the Lamb” in Revelation (Rev 19:9). The people’s response is also from Scripture. The centurion in the Gospel comes to Jesus and asks our Lord to cure his servant at home. When Jesus starts to follow him, the centurion responds, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed”, (Matthew 8:8). The Lord, on hearing these words, exclaimed, “Amen, I say to you, in no where in Israel have I found such faith!” (Matthew 8:10). With great humility, we acknowledge that we are not worthy to have our Lord enter into our roof, into the temple of our body. But in great faith we ask the Lord to come anyway and to heal us. And he does, transforming us into his instruments of love and faith in the world.
You will notice other changes in the new translation of the Mass, but most of these will be in how the priest prays (so pray for us priests!). I hope these brief explanations will allow you to enter more prayerfully into the liturgy, and to strive to understand more the Mass, the greatest prayer of the Church and the center of our Christian life.
God Bless, Fr. Lickteig