“And with your spirit.”

At Zenit, Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university, responds to a reader’s question about why the English response is changing from “And also with you” to “And with your spirit.”

The Semitic response, “And with your spirit,” literally means “And also with you,” as “your spirit” literally means “your person.” Therefore the current English translation could be considered as an accurate rendering of the Hebrew background. Historically speaking, however, the text was quickly separated from its Jewish context, and the patristic tradition has interpreted it in the sense of the spirit that the bishop or priest has received in ordination.

Read the whole response here.


    1. +JMJ+

      Perhaps the word “spirit” is confusing here, but the Church Fathers clearly saw the Holy Spirit acting in a special manner in ordained priests.

      Nowadays we’d speak of the “character” or “mark” imprinted upon the soul, which happens in Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Ordination.

  1. Interesting, I thought that the Semitic origin of phrase were largely being questioned and re-examined since Jungman’s work.

    1. “Largely being questioned” is an understatement. Taft completely tore apart the idea that “and with your spirit” was a Semiticism for “and also with you.”

      Sometimes these old theories get traction long after they’ve been debunked.

  2. I look forward to saying (or better yet, singing) “and with your spirit.”

    While I generally support the new translation, I can understand some of the criticisms waged against it here. However, opposition to the switch from “and also with you” to “and with your spirit” is truly bewildering to me. “And with your spirit” connects us to Christians throughout the ages, to other Catholics across different language groups and rites, to the Orthodox, to traditionalists, and to those Protestants who still use it. Even the Protestants who have adopted “and also with you” have a long history of using “and with thy spirit.” I honestly don’t see what we stand to lose by consigning “and also with you” to history or what we would gain by keeping it.

  3. Which has more evidence? The claim that et cum spiritu tuo has a Semitic origin or that multi=all has one?

    That said, I don’t think that the Semitic origin of et cum spiritu tuo is in any way crucial for defending the new translation. I’ve never used the claim, since there is essentially no evidence. I wouldn’t be surprised if evidence popped up that it’s Semitic, but the important argument is its oddness both in Greek and Latin. Similar oddness should be employed in the translation, especially in light of its antiquity. With all due respect to Fr. Foster, it’s a mistake to take spiritus as metonymy referring to the person whose spirit it is, which is otherwise unknown in Greek and Latin.

    The fact that et cum spiritu tuo is used so often makes me wonder whether it is properly a greeting. How often do you have to say hello? It seems to me interesting that the exchange in the E.F. is used regularly before some of the more crucial/audacious speech acts of the ministers–the prayer after approaching the altar, proclaiming the Gospel, the canon, and the Placeat tibi/final blessing. Except for that weird place at the offertory where bidding prayers may have been originally, the exchange always takes place before a minister says something. It makes me wonder whether it really is a plea by the faithful for the Lord to be with the minister’s physical breath and thus abide in the words. Maybe next time around it will be translated, “And with your breath.”

  4. One approach: “….explains that the Deacon’s, Priest’s, or Bishop’s “Dominus vobiscum” is “a blessing imparted by the spirit of Christ at the hands of His ordained minister.” Our response to the minister is of a different kind from his words to us. Ours is a profession of faith in the presence of Christ working through the ordained.

    The ellipsis or omission in the Latin, then, is important; for it allows a brief, eloquent exchange, even though the mood of the verb omitted in each sentence is different. It is subjunctive in the Priest’s words (i.e., sit), since it is an exhortation; and it is indicative in our response (i.e., est) , since it is a statement of belief that the Lord IS with the soul or spirit of the ordained. Unfortunately, English does not allow for this kind of eloquence; and trying to translate the English without supplying the omitted verbs will cause confusion.

    Cervantes once wrote that reading something in translation was like looking at a tapestry from behind. The outline is certainly there, but the details are lost. Any English translation of the Latin ordo will have deficiencies. We can only be conscious of what the English fails to communicate via education.”

    Jungmann was the expert on this phrase for me – he does not support the use of “and with your spirit”. There are complex questions here – citing Chrysostom but what about earlier traditions; no other fathers did this; closer to scripture; what about the sign of…

  5. Fr. Anthony – one comment from my notes from a Notre Dame professor, Kaveney, speaking about Reggie Foster and his approach:

    “No translation that is “slavish” could be good –Translation, like speech, is a fully human activity. It requires judgment and knowledge. Incidentally, Reggie practices an inductive rather than a deductive approach to translation. Lewis & Short is required for his classes, not the OLD, because it provides more sentences of the word used in context–the living language is the ultimate authority. The meaning, to invoke Wittgenstein, lies in the use.”

    Presume that you know the Foster’s life story, etc. He seems to enjoy stating what appears to be outlandish positions in order to generate heat, thought, reaction but obviously was considered the latin language expert.

    1. That’s a bizarre reason to prefer L&S. The OLD–in an indefensible editorial decision–decided to include citations in articles only of certain kinds of literature from Late Antiquity. So Justinian’s Digest is well served but not contemporary Chrisitian authors. L&S does a very good job of Christian Latin, especially the Vulgate. However, the individual articles, including sentences culled from Latin sources, are much fuller and more useful in the OLD, espcially when it comes to living language. I don’t quite get it.

  6. Dear Bill deHaas,
    Please explain how we can tell the mood of a verb that is omitted. Why is it presumed that the priest’s words are hortative or optative while the response is indicative? Why is there a statement of belief that the Lord IS with the spirit of the ordained and no such belief that the Lord IS with the faithful? When we pray the exact same phrase in the Hail Mary, we presume the angel’s greeting is indicative – the Lord IS with thee.
    Does anyone know how Dominus Vobiscum is translated in other languages which require the verb to be expressed? Is it always translated as a wish for something that may be contrary to fact?

    1. +JMJ+

      I think it’s wise to interpret it as “may the Lord be with you.” Far better to pray for the Lord’s presence than to presume it. Twice in Scripture angels says “The Lord is with you” (to Gideon and Mary), and they have that on the highest authority (God). But there are times in Scripture when a man says “The Lord is with you” and he turns out to be wrong (e.g. Nathan to David, re: the building of a dwelling place for God).

  7. I don’t know if this helps the conversation any, but if one was to translate “And also with you” into Latin, it would not be “Et cum spiritu tuo” but rather, “necnon vobis.” I think there is a big difference in these two greetings, no?

  8. +JMJ+

    From today’s ZENIT:


    After our explanation of the reason behind the response “And with your spirit” (see Sept. 14), a Missouri reader respectfully disagreed with my comment that the current translation, “And also with you,” was a fairly accurate rendering of the Hebrew.

    Although this point was not the main thrust of our earlier article, I believe that our reader’s comments offer a valid complement. To wit: “According to an article by Paulinus Milner, ‘Et Cum Spiritu Tuo,’ in Studies in Pastoral Liturgy, Volume 3, edited by Placid Murray, OSB (Dublin: The Furrow Trust, 1967), the Hebrew word nephesh means soul or spirit, but can also mean self. The closest examples we have of this translation into a Semitic language, however, does not use the equivalent of nephesh but rather ruah, which only means breath or spirit (cf. the Syriac translation of The Apostolic Tradition). Plus, the Greek pneuma is never used in the LXX [the Septuagint] to render the Hebrew nephesh, but ruah. Therefore, ‘And also with you’ is [not] an accurate rendering of the Hebrew background to this liturgical phrase.”

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