Monday, May 31, 2010

The Visitation of Mary - The Liturgical Response, "And with Your Spirit"

Our Lady of Walsingham (famous English shrine to Our Blessed Mother)

Today's Feast of the Visitation is of medieval origin; it was kept by the Franciscan Order before 1263, and soon its observance spread throughout the entire Church.

Previously it was celebrated on July 2. Now it is celebrated between the solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord and the birth of St. John the Baptist, in conformity with the Gospel accounts. Some places appropriately observe a celebration of the reality and sanctity of human life in the womb. The liturgical color is white.

The Visitation recalls for us the following great truths and events: The visit of the Blessed Virgin Mary to her cousin Elizabeth shortly after the Annunciation; the cleansing of John the Baptist from original sin in the womb of his mother at the words of Our Lady's greeting; Elizabeth's proclaiming of Mary—under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost—as Mother of God and "blessed among women"; Mary's singing of the sublime hymn, Magnificat ("My magnifies the Lord") which has become a part of the daily official prayer of the Church.

The Visitation is frequently depicted in art, and was the central mystery of St. Francis de Sales' devotions.

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The Visitation - "And Mary rising up in those days went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda" [Lk. 1:39].

How lyrical that is, the opening sentence of St. Luke's description of the Visitation. We can feel the rush of warmth and kindness, the sudden urgency of love that sent that girl hurrying over the hills. "Those days" in which she rose on that impulse were the days in which Christ was being formed in her, the impulse was his impulse.

Many women, if they were expecting a child, would refuse to hurry over the hills on a visit of pure kindness. They would say they had a duty to themselves and to their unborn child which came before anything or anyone else.

The Mother of God considered no such thing. Elizabeth was going to have a child, too, and although Mary's own child was God, she could not forget Elizabeth's need—almost incredible to us, but characteristic of her.

She greeted her cousin Elizabeth, and at the sound of her voice, John quickened in his mother's womb and leapt for joy.

I am come, said Christ, that they may have life and may have it more abundantly. [Jn. 10, 10] Even before He was born His presence gave life.

With what piercing shoots of joy does this story of Christ unfold! First the conception of a child in a child's heart, and then this first salutation, an infant leaping for joy in his mother's womb, knowing the hidden Christ and leaping into life.

How did Elizabeth herself know what had happened to Our Lady? What made her realize that this little cousin who was so familiar to her was the mother of her God?

She knew it by the child within herself, by the quickening into life which was a leap of joy.

If we practice this contemplation taught and shown to us by Our Lady, we will find that our experience is like hers.

If Christ is growing in us, if we are at peace, recollected, because we know that however insignificant our life seems to be, from it He is forming Himself; if we go with eager wills, "in haste," to wherever our circumstances compel us, because we believe that He desires to be in that place, we shall find that we are driven more and more to act on the impulse of His love.

And the answer we shall get from others to those impulses will be an awakening into life, or the leap into joy of the already wakened life within them. -Excerpted from Caryll Houselander, The Reed of God

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"If the Holy Spirit were not in our Bishop [referring to Bishop Flavian of Antioch] when he gave the peace to all shortly before ascending to his holy sanctuary, you would not have replied to him all together, And with your spirit. This is why you reply with this expression….reminding yourselves by this reply that he who is here does nothing of his own power, nor are the offered gifts the work of human nature, but is it the grace of the Spirit present and hovering over all things which prepared that mystic sacrifice." (St. John Chrysostom, Homily on the Holy Pentecost)

In Advent 2011 (we now presume), the new English translation of the Roman Missal will come into effect in Canada. To prepare for this, catechesis will be necessary.

One of the major changes will be the response "And with your spirit" said several times at Mass in response to the bishop, priest (or deacon's) greeting, "The Lord be with you". Here is a treatment of this text from the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. It may be freely reproduced on condition that the copyright by the USCCB is acknowledged.

[Commentaries for a popular understanding of elements of the Liturgy are provided here and may be reproduced freely with the customary copyright acknowledgement by our readers (source:]

Perhaps the most common dialogue in the Liturgy of the Roman Rite consists of the greeting:

Priest: Dominus vobiscum.
People: Et cum spiritu tuo.

Since 1970, this has been translated as:
Priest: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.

As a part of the revised translation of the Roman Missal..., the translation of this dialogue has been revised, to read:

Priest: The Lord be with you.
People: And with your spirit.

Since it is clear that the change to “and with your spirit” is a significant and wide ranging change in a longstanding liturgical practice, the following questions are provided to clarify the reasons for the change and the meaning of the dialogue itself.

1. Why has the response et cum spiritu tuo been translated as "and with your spirit"?

The re-translation was necessary because it is a more correct rendering of et cum spiritu tuo. Recent scholarship has recognized the need for a more precise translation capable of expressing the full meaning of the Latin text.

2. What about the other major languages? Do they have to change their translations?

No. English is the only major language of the Roman Rite which did not translate the word "spiritu". The Italian (E con il tuo spirito), French (Et avec votre esprit), Spanish (Y con tu espíritu) and German (Und mit deinem Geiste) renderings of 1970 all translated the Latin word spiritu precisely.

3. Has the Holy See ever addressed this question?

In 2001, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments published an instruction entitled, Liturgiam authenticam, subtitled, On the Use of Vernacular Languages in the Publication of the Books of the Roman Liturgy. The instruction directs specifically that: “Certain expressions that belong to the heritage of the whole or of a great part of the ancient Church, as well as others that have become part of the general human patrimony, are to be respected by a translation that is as literal as possible, as for example the words of the people’s response Et cum spiritu tuo, or the expression mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa in the Act of Penance of the Order of Mass” (Liturgiam authenticam, #56).

4. Where does this dialogue come from?

The response et cum spiritu tuo is found in the Liturgies of both East and West, from the earliest days of the Church. One of the first instances of its use is found in the Traditio Apostolica of Saint Hippolytus, composed in Greek around AD 215.

5. How is this dialogue used in the Liturgy?

The dialogue is only used between the priest and the people, or exceptionally, between the deacon and the people. The greeting is never used in the Roman Liturgy between a non-ordained person and the gathered assembly.

6. What does the priest mean when he says “The Lord be with you”?

By greeting the people with the words “The Lord be with you,” the priest expresses his desire that the dynamic activity of God’s spirit be given to the people of God, enabling them to do the work of transforming the world that God has entrusted to them.

7. What do the people mean when they respond “and with your spirit”?

The expression et cum spiritu tuo is only addressed to an ordained minister. Some scholars have suggested that spiritu refers to the gift of the spirit he received at ordination. In their response, the people assure the priest of the same divine assistance of God’s spirit and, more specifically, help for the priest to use the charismatic gifts given to him in ordination and in so doing to fulfill his prophetic function in the Church.

8. What further reading could you suggest on this dialogue?

For those who wish to pursue this issue from a more scholarly perspective, they might consult:

• J.A. Jungmann, S.J., The Mass of the Roman Rite: Its Origins and Development, trans. F.A. Brunner C.Ss.R. (Westminster, MD: Christian Classics, 1986), 363.

• Michael K. Magee, The Liturgical Translation of the Response “Et cum spiritu tuo”, Communio 29 (Spring 2002) 152-171.

• W.C. Van Unnik, “Dominus Vobiscum:” The Background of a Liturgical Formula, in A.J.B. Higgins (ed.), New Testament Essays (Manchester, University Press, 1959) 270-305.

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1 comment:

  1. Your Grace,
    Thank you so much for including explanations that will be included in the Revised Roman Missal. Yes, indeed parishes will need catechesis, as you say. I hope it begins early so it doesn't seem rushed. I am looking forward to a deepening of our rite and I hope that we also take a good look at some of the music that we are presently using.
    God bless you,