Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Good News from the Roman Catholic Church

By Larry Beane

One of the overzealous changes of the post-Vatican II Roman Catholic Church since the 1960s was a really loose translation of the Mass into English. But finally, after nearly a half century, the language is being rolled back to a more accurate translation.

One example is the wretched translation of the response to the salutation "The Lord be with you" (which since the 1960s has been rendered "and also with you") is being changed to the more literal "and with your spirit" - which is not just more faithful to the Latin, but also reflects the reality that this response is not just "hey, how ya doin'?" but is rather a recognition and affirmation that the priest is speaking by the authority of the Holy Spirit in his office.

There are always unintended consequences when things are dumbed down.

All these decades later, the Roman Catholic Church, largely owing to Pope Benedict's somewhat traditionalist-friendly leadership, is rolling back the dumbing down. Maybe we could say that their liturgy is being "smartened up." At very least, churchly and theological language is coming back into use.

This is important to Lutherans for the simple reason that, as the old saying goes, when the pope catches a cold, the Lutherans sneeze. At least since the 1980s, we have also accepted the 1960s Roman Catholic paraphrases of much of our Mass (such as LSB Divine Service 1 and 2's translation of the Gloria in Excelsis and the Sanctus), as well as the above-mentioned pastoral greeting and response: "The Lord be with you, and also with you."

The LCMS Commission on Worship had the opportunity to roll back "and also with you" across the board in the LSB, but inexplicably chose to retain what is, in essence, becoming a sectarian greeting in addition to being inaccurate (not to mention that there are three possible responses in LSB).

But the good news is that LSB (which I personally like very much overall) will not be the last word on English language Lutheran hymnals. In a couple decades or so, there will be another opportunity to fix some of these 1960s lapses in judgment.

Of course, there will also be another opportunity to royally screw it up. I guess that's the story of Church History in a nutshell.

Meanwhile, kudos to the Roman Church for this improvement, and hopefully, this particular papal sneeze of a more accurate translation of the ancient liturgy will find English-speaking Lutherans reaching for the Kleenex...


7 comments:

  1. Question: This has always left me wondering: who exactly are we addressing when we say "and with thy spirit"? The Holy Spirit? Is the "thy" God then? Is the "thy" the pastor and we call the Holy Spirit his because of his position? Does "spirit" just mean the pastor (obviously not, but if you take "and also with you" as an accurate translation, that would seem to be the best answer)? So, who is "thy" and who is the "Spirit"?

    Bethany Kilcrease

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  2. Dear Bethany:

    I'm paraphrasing from what I read a few years ago (as well as from classes with Dr. Tim Quill who wrote a dissertation on this). "Thy" is spoken to the pastor. "Thy spirit" or "your spirit" means the pastor's spirit. The Lord is with the pastor's spirit - which is to say, the pastor has received the gift of the Holy Spirit.

    It reminds me of when Elisha requests a double measure of Elijah's spirit. The pastor's spirit is blessed by the Holy Spirit.

    This lack of mentioning "spirit" is why "and also with you" falls flat. This liturgical exchange is a greeting, to be sure - but a greeting that acknowledges that the pastor is speaking with authority. If you notice, those points at which this greeting happens are specific times in which the congregation affirms the pastor's authority - such as before leading the collect, right at the beginning of the Liturgy of the Sacrament, and before he delivers the benediction.

    It is an affirmation by the congregation that the pastor is duly blessed with the Holy Spirit to take these actions, such as leading the congregation's collected prayers and giving a blessing. "The Lord be with you, and with your spirit" is a solemn exchange of recognition and acceptance of the pastor's ministry.

    I'm sure I did not say this well, and I'm equally sure other guys will weigh in better. But that's my take on it, FWIW! Thanks!

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