“And with your evil spirit”

John Allen reports from the Synod on Evangelization today that Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo of Jakarta, Indonesia made a plea for flexibility in liturgical translations.

“When the priest addresses the people, ‘Dominus vobiscum‘, the people are to reply, ‘Et cum spiritu tuo‘,” he said. (In English, that’s “the Lord be with you,” followed by “and with your spirit” in the new translation.) Yet, Suharyo said, the word “spirit” as translated into his local language comes out as “roh,” which often connotes an evil spirit.

Thus his punch line: A literal translation of “ ‘et cum spiritu tuo‘ means some communities find themselves saying, ‘With your evil spirit!’ ”

“My wish — I hope that I am not alone — is that the translation of liturgical texts ought not always to be done literally, rather seriously take into account the diversity of the cultural background,” he said. “Could the principle of subsidiarity be applied in the task of translation and even in other areas of the life of the local church?”

Subsidiarity, Suharyo said, is “the spirit of Vatican II.”

“In this way, the local church will become more communicative and expressive,” he said, “and as a result the faith of the people will be more energized and more relevant to their Catholic lives and engagement both in the Church and in the world.”

h/t Ann Olivier


  1. One thing that I rarely see mentioned here is that there ought to be a difference when speaking of the inculturation of the liturgy in cultures whose roots are quite alien to the Latin soil, compared to those cultures already deeply shaped by a Latin, Greek and Hebraic heritage. The idea that the liturgical use of the word “spirit” is somehow alien to English speaking people today strikes me as dubious, unless we explore the extent to which that alienation might be on account of a radically morphed, largely Western, religious discourse whose presumptions begin, in many respects, in a posture already inimical to many tenets of Catholic belief.

    Again, changing the word “spirit” in sensitivity to a relatively continuous and alien cultural tradition that would otherwise beget profound misunderstanding does not neccessarily say anything meaningful to us in a Western context— unless, again, we want to argue that we profoundly misunderstand our own roots. The problem is not neccesarily one of Latin to English, as “with thy spirit” is older than “also with you”.

    Again, I would like to see a distinction made between dialogue between alien cultures and dialouge within self-alienated cultures.

    Again, I have to relate the interesting “misunderstanding” of spirit that I personally encountered. When my very liberal, semi-practicing mother heard that the words of the liturgy would be changed to “and with thy spirit” , she was delighted and exclaimed “oh, that’s just like Namaste! Interesting how all religions point to the same thing”. I think the irony takes a slap at both sides of the divide here.

  2. I have to wonder if the good archbishop’s language is really absent a word for a good spirit? What do they say when they speak of the Holy Spirit? Surely, it isn’t ‘roh’! Too, when he speaks of the ‘spirit of Vatican II’ I assume he does not mean an evil spirit. Why this persistent wish to avoid recognising the particular spiritual gift which we all, as Catholics, believe is present in priesthood. (Or, do some of us not believe that, after all???)

    1. @M. Jackson Osborn – comment #2:
      You ask very good questions.

      There are two separate issues: Catholic belief in the spiritual gift present in the priesthood, and the meaning of “and with your spirit.” The latter phrase has meaning possible meanings, not necessarily tied to theology of ordination.

      I personally think it unwise to cite that small part of our tradition, a few voices (or is it only Chrysostom?), to take “your spirit” to refer to the priest’s ordained quality. Fr. Paul Turner, who works for ICEL, has said the same publicly. To make “your spirit” refer to the ordained ontological quality has more problems than it’s worth. To name one problem: the phrase has strong Scriptural precedent, but St. Paul uses it to refer to the entire community, not the leader.

      It’s important to note that those who avoid taking “your spirit” to refer to the priest’s ontological quality do NOT deny that quality, but don’t see it being referred to in the assembly’s liturgical response.


  3. Why this persistent wish to avoid recognizing the particular spiritual gift which we all, as Catholics, believe is present in priesthood?

    The clericalism present in the Church in defiance of the Gospel requirements not to use titles, not to lord it over others, and to be the last, the least and the servant of all.

    Christians should adhere to the Gospel and not be complicit in clericalism. Clericalism is the spirit of the world, not of the Gospel.

    I thought Archbishop Tobin’s presser (available on Whispers in the Loggia) evidenced a better attitude: that the first thing people should know about him was that he was baptized, then that he was raised in a family with 8 sisters and one bathroom (helped to not be self centered), and that he was old enough to realize that his own experiences should not be normative for others (would like to see some of that attitude on this blog).

  4. M. Jackson Osborn : I have to wonder if the good archbishop’s language is really absent a word for a good spirit? What do they say when they speak of the Holy Spirit? Surely, it isn’t ‘roh’! Too, when he speaks of the ‘spirit of Vatican II’ I assume he does not mean an evil spirit. Why this persistent wish to avoid recognising the particular spiritual gift which we all, as Catholics, believe is present in priesthood. (Or, do some of us not believe that, after all???)

    The problem may not be the archbishop’s language per se, but the use of that language that the CDW in its infinite wisdom insists on. If an ignorant dicastery imposes a literal (but inaccurate) translation in the ministerial dialogue, then what are folk to do?

    I understand that Japanese has exactly the same problem — that ‘spirit’ means ‘evil spirit’.

    Cultural diversity is the name of the game here, as indeed it is with liturgical colours, to name another example that springs to mind. In the East, black is festive and white is not.

    1. @Paul Inwood – comment #4 (and Todd, #14)

      Re. Japanese: the word seirei (a combination of two kanji) seems to be used for “Holy Spirit”; sei being holy and rei being spirit. Rei can also mean soul and ghost, as well as spirit. There seems to be a similar sort of semantic range with regards to English here, so, again, I’m not too sure where the problem lies. (Disclaimer: I only know a very small amount of Japanese.)

      Akurei has more of a specific meaning of “evil spirit”, but I doubt the CDF are using that one. (At least I hope not!)

  5. Do not forget that we have had problems with translating ‘spiritus’ into English. Before 1964 the traditional words for the Sign of the Cross were ‘In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy GHOST’ – the same applied to the ‘Glory be’. The first English translation of the Mass substituted ‘Holy Spirit’ and I don’t think anyone has regretted the shift.

    ‘Ghost’ is of course from German ‘Geist’. In German ‘geistlich’ means spiritual, whereas English ‘ghostly’ means something quite different.

    I don’t think we (or CDW) should pontificate on how other languages understand or express what we in Western Europe culture have been used to describing as ‘spirit’ and ‘spiritual’.

    1. @John Ainslie – comment #5:
      I have no problem at all with ‘ghost’. I have heard it and used it in a liturgical context as an Anglican and now as an Anglican Use Catholic for a lifetime and never thought of it as anything other than as beneficent and good as ‘spirit’. Perhaps it is different with those who are influenced by a comic book, movie and TV culture. I steadfastly refuse to allow these or any other media colour my thoughts. My ideation in using ‘Holy Ghost’ is not any different that it is when using ‘Holy Spirit’ or when a German says ‘Heilige Geist’. ‘Spirit’ and ‘ghost’ both mean and infer the very same thing. Stop doing a job on our beautiful English, Anglo-Saxon, tongue. Stop allowing pop-language to be definitive. It isn’t. There is a far better paradigm!

  6. N.B.: I don’t know the FIRST thing about the Indonesian language. This comment is based solely on some Bible translation research I did this morning.

    I’m struck by the translation of “Holy Spirit”: “roh kudus” (or “Rohulkudus”). It might be a complete coincidence, as I don’t know the origins of the language, but that sounds a lot like the Hebrew “ruach (ha)kodesh”. (I see in another translation of Matthew 1:18 the expression “Roh Allah” instead.)

    From an English-Indonesian dictionary I found, it appears there are several words that translate into English as “spirit”, but of course we don’t always use the word “spirit” to mean the same thing. The “spirit of Vatican II” isn’t the same type of spirit as “and with your spirit” (unless people are using the former expression to mean the Holy Spirit, instead of to mean the general character and intention of the Council).

    The dictionary I found has the following translations:

    the spirit of the law : jiwa undang-undang
    spirit of independence : semangat/jiwa kemerdékaan
    we will be with you in spirit : semangat kami akan mentertaimu

    Also: “arwah” (of a dead person), “jin, hantu, mambang, makhluk halus” (as in “to believe in spirits”), and “suasana” (as in “in the spirit of Christmas”).

    So while there are other ways of saying “spirit” than just “roh”, I can’t tell if any of those other words mean what spiritus means in the liturgical greeting.

  7. For comparison’s sake, here are Gal 6:18, Phil 4:23; 2 Tim 4:22, and Phlm 1:25 in English (RSV) and in three Indonesian translations: Terjemahan Lama [“the old translation”] (TL), Terjemahan Baru [“the new translation”] (TB), and Bahasa Indonesia Sehari-hari [“Everyday Indonesian”] (BIS):

    Gal 6:18
    (RSV) The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen.
    (TL) Adalah kiranya anugerah Tuhan kita Yesus Kristus menyertai roh kamu, hai saudara-saudaraku. Amin.
    (TB) Kasih karunia Tuhan kita Yesus Kristus menyertai roh kamu, saudara-saudara! Amin.
    (BIS) Semoga Tuhan kita Yesus Kristus selalu memberkati Saudara-saudara. Amin.

    Phil 4:23
    (RSV) The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
    (TL) Adalah kiranya anugerah Tuhan Yesus Kristus menyertai rohmu.
    (TB) Kasih karunia Tuhan Yesus Kristus menyertai rohmu!
    (BIS) Semoga Tuhan Yesus Kristus memberkati Saudara semuanya.

    2 Tim 4:22
    (RSV) The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.
    (TL) Adalah kiranya Tuhan menyertai rohmu, dan anugerah Allah menyertai kiranya kamu sekalian.
    (TB) Tuhan menyertai rohmu. Kasih karunia-Nya menyertai kamu!
    (BIS) Semoga Tuhan mendampingi engkau. Semoga Tuhan memberkati Saudara-saudara!

    Phlm 1:25
    (RSV) The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
    (TL) Adalah kiranya anugerah Tuhan Yesus Kristus menyertai roh kamu.
    (TB) Kasih karunia Tuhan Yesus Kristus menyertai roh kamu!
    (BIS) Semoga Tuhan Yesus Kristus memberkati kalian.

    The BIS (“everyday”) translation avoids rendering the word “spirit”.

    1. @Jeffrey Pinyan – comment #7:
      No one knows less than I about non-European langauges since I know absolutely nothing!

      I recall the bishop on ICEL from India saying at exactly the same thing at one meeting – you can’t say “spirit” in his local language without meaning “evil spirit.”

      I note that both bishops speak of “local langauge” – which may (perhaps – I don’t know) refer to a local dialect and not the Indonesian language in the online dictionary.


  8. Regardless of what the “and with your spirit” refers to, I recently experienced at Mass in another parish microphone difficulties during the readings, so I spontaneously used in my homily that stale joke about the bishop visiting one of his parishes and as he was saying the Sign of the Cross formula, he noticed his microphone system wasn’t working right. So immediate following, he taps the microphone and says, “there’s something wrong with this, to which the congregation responds immediately “and also with you.” But I added, but they should have said “And with your spirit” which seems to deepen the unintended insult stated that way.

  9. Yet, Suharyo said, the word “spirit” as translated into his local language comes out as “roh,” which often connotes an evil spirit.

    It all hinges on that highlighted word, doesn’t it?

    In any case, as far as I can tell from my 10 minutes of Googling, the local dialect of the Archbishop’s diocese is Betawi, which is a Malay-based creole. The official language of Indonesia is Bahasa Indonesia, aka Indonesian; most Indonesians (at least according to Wikipedia!) are fluent in both Bahasa and their regional language, be that Betawi, Javanese, etc. Having searched this Bahasa Indonesia dictionary, it seems that roh, at least on an official level, is as flexible as spirit is in English. (Sadly, I couldn’t find a Betawi dictionary, plus there’s no guarantee the Archbishop is even talking about Betawi – there’s lots of regional languages!)

    Disclaimer alert! – I am obviously not fluent in Indonesian or any other Malay-based language, so there’s a high probability I’m missing something here. That said, I’m not sure I see where the problem lies. The act of translating word-for-word et cum spiritu tuo into standard, official Indonesian would seem to require no more catechesis than we English speakers had (or ought to have had, at least!).

    And I think the official language is the one that has to be used for liturgical translations, otherwise it just starts getting daft. According to the previously mentioned Wiki article, discounting Indonesian, there are 17 regional languages with at least 1 million speakers in Indonesia.

    Jeffrey: in the instances you cite, the BIS version looks to me to be a paraphrase, similar to the “and also with you” we had to endure for so long at Mass. (!) 🙂

  10. The use of Latin greetings during a Mass celebrated almost entirely in vernacular languages has a place in certain circumstances. However, I contend that the use of the Latin greeting as a frequent exception to the usual liturgical language of a community should be undertaken with the carefully ascertained assent of the assembly.

    I sympathise quite a bit with Catholics who champion the celebration of a vernacular language Mass with the greetings in Latin. The use of Latin greetings at a vernacular Mass is one possible way to demonstrate unity with the universal Church, particularly since the liturgical greetings are fundamental prayers in the Mass. Even so, I also respect Catholics who would rather find an interpretation of the liturgical greetings for their own language than use Latin or another vernacular language. Even this most ardent Latinist realizes, not without some personal struggle, that vernacular prayer’s importance stretches far beyond didacticism. Not infrequently, the use of multiple vernaculars in a Mass allows an assembly to live the complex weave between different languages and cultures found within a certain geographical place. Latin, while a sign of institutional unity, might not be a sign of the immediate work for cultural reconciliation between brothers and sisters in Christ at a particular Mass.

    I do not discount the possibility that for some Catholics Latin liturgy itself is a vehicle for reconciliation in Christ. However, an inclusive use of the vernacular at Mass, and especially in parts of the world torn by ethnic tension, offers the possibility of witness to the radical forgiveness which is sharing the Eucharist.

  11. One of the persistent memes surrounding the “spirit” change has been that it will bring the English speaking church into line with “the universal church” because — significantly, this is a Euro-centric argument — the Romance and Germanic languages translate this a certain way.

    I’ve always felt this was an unsatisfying argument, because the Roman authorities are actually imposing this on all language groups to achieve uniformity, rather than calling back the English-speaking Catholics who “went astray” from everyone else in the universal church.

    For Indonesia, I think we have to ask the question: What price, uniformity? But perhaps beneath that question there lurks the more important one, which is addressed in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy’s provisions concerning inculturation: Is uniformity of expression the goal? Or is unity of faith the goal?

    1. @Rita Ferrone – comment #13:

      Rita: Is uniformity of expression the goal? Or is unity of faith the goal?

      Thank you Rita for this observation. I would say that increasingly Rome prefers a uniformity of expression over unity of faith. Perhaps an even more profound question is whether or not locally inculturated liturgy is supposed to be cultivated by communities as their unique gift to the universal Church, or if inculturation is merely an intermediate point in a path towards greater Vatican supervision and homogenization. Should the latter be the case, then any liturgy which must above all conform to abstract Vatican metrics has lost its ability to more easily accommodate the almost inifinitely variable range of human cultural expressions displayed among the people who worship in its genre. This includes the broad spectrum of customs and gestures which gird human speech. Liturgical homogenization greatly hampers a local liturgy’s ability to move with subtle changes among its assemblies.

      Also, it is important to note that even “European liturgy” itself displays unique histories of inculturation. Certainly, Tridentine standardization placed significant limits on the exuberance of medieval western European liturgy. And yet, even within Trent’s restrictions diverse customs thrived within different European peoples and nations. Any notion that any inculturated liturgy in today’s Catholicism can be directly compared against a static “European” liturgical archtype is not only eurocentric but also contradiction of the history of Christian liturgy in that region.

      1. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #20:
        I would say that increasingly Rome prefers a uniformity of expression over unity of faith.

        I would say that increasingly Rome sees these as not as seperable as some do.

        If the metaphysics of a culture do not allow for the existence of non-malevolent incorporeal beings (spirits), then part of the encounter between Christianity and that culture will be that that belief will have to change.

        Part of recognizing the diversity of cultures and beliefs is recognizing that some of those beliefs will be and some of those cultures, in part, will be incompatible with Christianity. This is part of what creates the diversity in the first place.

        Human culture is very variable (though not actually infinitely variable), but not all human culture is compatible with Christian culture.

        This is somewhat apart from the Bishop’s specific point about whether right now they should use this word or that word about which I don’t have sufficient knowledge of Indonesian to judge.

      2. @Samuel J. Howard – comment #21:

        Sam: If the metaphysics of a culture do not allow for the existence of non-malevolent incorporeal beings (spirits), then part of the encounter between Christianity and that culture will be that that belief will have to change.

        I would argue that “change” in belief as expressed through liturgy is a not easily quantifiable concept and certainly not a static concept. The reinterpretation of any liturgy from one language to another necessarily involves theological risks, especially if philosophical or belief systems associated with the target language do not literally accommodate certain Christian concepts. Translators of the Missale Romanum into languages far removed from the Indo-European language family might at first glance stray uncomfortably far from Indo-European vernaculars’ expectations of Latin. On the other hand, perhaps fresh interpretations of Latin liturgy into languages linguistically rather unrelated to Latin might uncover theological valences previously not considered within the sphere of vernaculars most closely related to Latin. The challenge of inculturation is not to reach for the superficially most compatible word in the target language for a particular Latin liturgical or theological word, but to consider the ways in which seemingly unrelated words in the target language might still reflect Catholic orthodoxy well.

      3. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #20:
        Thanks, Jordan, Rita, and Paul. Agree – you raise an excellent point that, IMO, is often skipped over. If you take SC to heart and also other VII documents, then you have to go deeper than just the question – uniformity vs. unity?

        Rahner and Congar both talked and described Vatican II as the *first* world council. One of the common threads highlighted by folks such as John O’Malley and Komonchak is that the council fathers ressourced episcopal ministry and saw the church as something more than a pyramid in terms of power and structure. Thus, every bishop is another Peter and throughout documents the theme of subsidiarity and collegiality ran through – thus, episcopal conferences would make liturgical decisions. (which would have never created the issue cited).
        Following this theme, Rahner and others suggested that we are approaching a new age of the world church – a shift that is as important as the Jerusalem Council and the question around gentiles/Jewish rites. To be fair, uniformity vs. unity misses some of the depth of feeling – imposing a Euro-centric or *Roman* Catholicism is a form of cultural bias and cultural racism (think about that in terms of the Tridentine Rite).
        My students ministering in Africa, Central America, and Cuba all talk about the Euro-centric Church mindset which is an obstacle to their evangelization and hinders building the local catholic community.
        This is much more than just an issue about *language*. An over-emphasis on *uniformity* has unintended consequences in terms of ecclesiology – people of God and pilgrim people on a journey of faith (rather than a uniform institution). These are scriptural themes that transcend and are not limited by minimal *uniformity* concepts.

  12. The Japanese situation with “spirit” is interesting. I heard from a correspondent in that country that the English equivalent of the word the CDWDS wants is best rendered as “spook,” giving it more a flighty or humorous quality than “evil.”

    While I appreciate Jeffrey’s research, the problem isn’t that there might be better words. The problem is that the CDWDS doesn’t seem to care and they want to make the call, with or (usually) without consultation.

    I remember another CDWDS problem from a grad school prof who related the difficulty when the threefold Sanctus was translated into another non-European language. While the word itself was fairly close, the threefold repetition of any word in that language implied humor, ridicule, and caricature.

    Catholic numerologists might have their tradition, if not fetishes, but the real question is how will the texts of the liturgy be most faithful to the nurturing and development of faith?

    Archbishop Hardjoatmodjo is right. The local bishops are better judges than Rome, especially in non-European countries. The CDWDS is beyond their competence with English. How could we possibly expect them to make good decisions in Indonesia or Japan? No doubt sensible bishops and most clergy know it.

    1. @Todd Flowerday – comment #16:

      People who are more familiar with the language should be making the final decision. Not those who are less skilled.

      Precisely. And it is not just the lack of skill which is a problem but the exhibition of arrogance. The present Capo d’Ufficio of the CDWDS, Fr Anthony Ward SM (yes, the same one who is said to have authored Liturgiam Authenticam and Redemptionis Sacramentum as well as rewriting GIRM) is an Englishman. However, not content with taking decisions in matters concerning English translation, he apparently considers himself competent in other tongues as well. I am told that he has, all by himself, completely rewritten all the psalm responses in the Italian Lectionary, with results which are, according to my informant, “disastrous, unusable, not even Italian”.

      1. @Paul Inwood – comment #18:
        Sounds worthy of Lady Hester Random of semi-fictional Scorpioni in Firenze fame…. Now, if only Zeffirelli could stage the reaction of the natives…

  13. If the metaphysics of a culture do not allow for the existence of non-malevolent incorporeal beings (spirits), then part of the encounter between Christianity and that culture will be that that belief will have to change.


    1. @Jim McKay – comment #23:
      I suspect SJH means that a metaphysical system that has no word for non-malevolent incorporeal beings (spirits) is going to have a very hard time talking about souls in the interim state, angels, or even God (I am put in mind of Augustine’s remarks in the Confessions that one of the most difficult hurdles for him in accepting Christianity was this inability to conceive of a non-corporeal being). If that is in fact his point, it seems valid to me. The encounter between any particular culture and Christianity is going to involve not only inculturation of Christianity but also transformation of the culture.

      1. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #28:

        Thanks for your response.

        I certainly agree that transformation of culture is a necessary part of inculturation, but I suppose I believe it goes both ways. Our culture might one day be transformed by one that recognizes Christ without a language of non corporeal beings. I cannot imagine it, but it seems as likely to me as the transformation of another culture to the western metaphysic.

        I guess i just do not think this particular metaphysics is needed to be converted to Christ. There might be other ways to comprehend Christ that would serve us better than one forged out of Greek doubts about Resurrection or Augustinian insecurities around corporeality. See Bill’s comment for a further explication of this idea.

  14. “I would say that increasingly Rome sees these as not as seperable as some do.”

    Perhaps a sign of a spiritual laziness, an unwillingness to engage life’s situations, searching for and acknowledging God.

  15. Um –
    Is there anything at all wrong with being Euro-centric???
    I have observed quite a large number of ‘ethnicities’ that are right unabashedly Black- or Afro-centric, varieties of Asio-centricity, the list of centricities is, realy a very long one. Um, so why does it seem that only Euro-centricity is supposed to be an embarrassing negative, even (one cannot deny it:) pejorative.
    Few want to cultivate their European heritage, certainly not in this country where those of European heritage have opted shamelessy for American pop culture. They act as though it was something not to be seen with, to be jettisoned in favour of a faux culture created by TV, movies, and the popular music recording industry.
    As for me: I am Euro-centric and claim that as my culture. It is the true culture of all Americans of Caucasian lineage. To be clear, I believe that all ethnicities should preserve their cultures and be proud of them… and believe that that means the European one , TOO!

  16. “Is there anything at all wrong with being Euro-centric?”

    Only when it obscures the Gospel and becomes the object of idolatry.

    In the context here, what the CDWDS is attempting to implement is an elevation of a European approach to language above that of the primary aim, which is the salvation and spiritual edification of non-Europeans through the proclamation of the Gospel and the celebration of liturgy.

    Context is everything.

  17. Re: SJH’s remark

    Paul’s preaching of the resurrection didn’t go over so well in Athens at the Areopagus. Paul would later write that Christ’s crucifixion is folly to the wisdom-seeking Greeks. If the Greek culture was incapable of accepting the concept of a resurrected body, then that culture (as manifested in its members) had to adjust to the Christian faith.

  18. Wonder if we aren’t comparing apples to oranges.

    Central truth of Christianity – Christ died for us. Not sure that this is anti-cultural. Suggest that this is a *stumbling block* across cultures, humanity, etc. (guess specific cultures may have a harder time than other cultures?)

    Euro-centric – as used above describes ways, language, even theology/philosophy that are specific to European expressions and belief systems. If you choose to only express the *central truth* above using *Euro-centric* ways, there is the danger that the *messaging* is the *central truth* and some are unable to separate the *messaging* from the *message*.

    Wonder if history doesn’t shed light on this process – the early church mixed the experience of Jesus and their own Jewish ways, manner of speaking, rituals, etc. The Jerusalem Council led to separating the Jewish ways from the experience of Jesus so that gentiles could hear, accept, and live the experience of Jesus with their own languages, cultures, etc.
    In some ways, current Asian theologians are having the same struggles between *old* Thomistic categories, the Jesus experience, and Asian cultural experiences.

    Just saying.

  19. About that Euro-centricity again, and in response to those who replied –

    As I have many times before, I perhaps overstated the case in my above comment.
    Put more simply, it still remains that ‘Euro-centrism’ is something everyone seems to want to avoid and guard against these days. But there is no corresponding aversion to other glaring ‘centricities’ in liturgical practice, spirituality, culture, music, or, even, theological adaptations. One only hears of the ‘Euro-centric’ as something to guard against and repudiate like the plague. None of us has any need to apologise for the good, beautiful and commendable in our various heritages. It would be good if we didn’t hear any more about Euro-centricity unless, in the same breath, we heard about the dangers of other centricities that go uncommented on.

  20. Rita ==

    I’d say that because words are essentially ambiguous, we each of us use our own particular interpretations of the important words — such as “spirit”. This doesn’t mean that the meaning I use is unique, it just means that I (and probably others) emphasize certain elements of the various meaning of “spirit”. We pick and choose what we think are the most important elements in all the various meanings.

    For me, “spirit” means the non-physical part of me, the part which knows in ways animals can’t, and which loves in ways which animals can’t. It is the part that is open to the transcendent, but also the part that has to make hard choices when temptation strikes. And this part (spirit) is the part that needs the most help from the Lord. It is most in need of His grace. So, I want Him to be not just with my body-cum-soul. I want Him to be most especially with my non-body part. It’s the part that needs Him the most.

    1. @Ann Olivier – comment #34:
      Ann, I find that an eloquent description of spirit. Thank you.

      Now, why that should be said of the priest but not of the people remains a mystery.

  21. “and with your benevolent non-corporeal being”?

    Part of the problem is that the original anthropology is tripartite: material, soul, spirit which has been worked out by Onians The Origins of European Thought: About the Body, the Mind, the Soul, the World, Time and Fate substantial parts of which can be read here

    Part of the constitution of all living things is water, from which we get the “psyche, anima, soul” dimension of living things. In order to live we need liquids which maintain, refresh, nourish and cleanse us. Oil was observed to be a particularly strong form of this liquid life. Fatty things were seen to be particularly healthy.

    As life seeps out of us we lose our fat, then after death we gradually lose our water until (in the desert) we get completely dried up (dust and bones, the material element) and our personal identity not easily recognized. Just as any addition of liquid was usually life giving, any loss of liquid was life threatening, e.g. bleeding.

    This dimension of existence is strongly associated with the self and personal identity. Today these words are often translated “and with you” rather than “and with your soul.” If we are either wishing or affirming that God is with the priest’s person, we should say “and with you” or “and with your soul.”

    Another part of the constitution of all living things is “air, spirit, pneuma.” In order for things to live they have to transpire oxygen. If they cease to breath, they die immediately even though it will take a long time for the water (and their personal identity) to evaporate.

    Breathing in animals is also associated with consciousness. When animals are less conscious they breathe more slowly. When more conscious, they breathe more quickly. Spirit, unlike water, comes and goes more quickly, and is more influenced by outside events. Therefore, it is less under our control, and therefore less associated with our identity, and more easily associated with things outside us (the wind) that can be identified as divine or demonic.

    If we are wishing God to be “with your spirit” we are asking that God be with your conscious life, that it be divinely inspired rather than demonic, particularly apt in the case of someone who is about to pray extemporaneously. The “Lord be with you” tells us the spirit is the Lord.

    So we are in the odd place where priests are restrained from being “inspired” so that “spirit” does not make much sense. Maybe we should say “and with your saying the black and doing the red.”

    We are not even sure we know what we are talking about in terms of our own Eurporean language structure, so how can we tell non Eurporeans to change their language structures to conform to our misunderstanding of our own.

    1. @Jack Rakosky – comment #35:
      “So we are in the odd place where priests are restrained from being “inspired” so that “spirit” does not make much sense. Maybe we should say “and with your saying the black and doing the red.”


      “We are not even sure we know what we are talking about in terms of our own Eurporean language structure, so how can we tell non Eurporeans to change their language structures to conform to our misunderstanding of our own.”

      You’ve hit the bull’s eye here. Thank you, Jack.

  22. Next Sunday I think I’ll say “and with your sprite” just to see if anyone notices. But seriously, an Indonesian is hardly going to be confused by “roh”, which is used for Holy Spirit in the Javanese language as well. Anything for a laugh, or to make a different point…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *