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Future of ‘And also with you’

28 November 2014


When will we do away with the awful response "And also with you"?

Not unjustly, for various reasons, the modern response "And also with you" has been severely criticised. More serious than its inelegant banality is the failure to recognise doctrinal significance in the traditional "And with your spirit".

It was the International Consultation on English Texts (ICET) that treated the word "spirit" as a Semitic parallel meaning "you" - similar to the Old Testament greeting of Boaz to the reapers: "The Lord be with you," to which they reply, "The Lord bless you" (Ruth 2.4). Not everyone, however, was convinced by this translation, and research demonstrated that more was involved, and that the elimination of reference to "spirit" in the dialogue was unacceptable.

Diversity of scholarly opinion among Anglican liturgists produced unfinished business on this much used but little-understood exchange of greetings. This has left its mark in revised services, with the provision of the alternative "The Lord is here. His spirit is with us," in Common Worship Order One (Contemporary), and similarly in the 2004 Rite of the Church in Wales, as also in the revised Prayer Book of the Church of Ireland, where it is given precedence over "The Lord be with you," etc.

The strongest case for retaining the traditional response was made by W. C. van Unnik in his influential essay "Dominus vobiscum: The Background of a Liturgical Formula" (in A. J. B. Higgins, New Testament Essays: Studies in memory of Thomas Walter Manson, Manchester University Press, 1959).

He wrote: "The [traditional] response of the congregation is very much to the point: when the minister assures them of the presence of the Sprit who 'is with them', i.e. with their spirit as Christian folk, they in their turn assure him of the same divine assistance with his spirit. . ." (page 294).

This point of view was taken up in comments of the C of E's Liturgical Commission as long ago as 1968. In Modern Liturgical Texts, it was observed that "for the early Christians, prayer was the work of the Spirit. To offer prayer acceptable to God, the assistance of the spirit was necessary - it was a combined action of the divine and human spirit" (page 31).

In the New Order of the Roman Missal (2010), this reasoning has prevailed: "And with your spirit" has been reinstated. For Anglicans, it is unlikely that "also with you" will disappear from our service books. In practice, however, it can conveniently be removed by the invariable use of the alternative "The Lord is here," or by the reasonable claim that since the favoured "Dominus vobiscum" dialogue is used in the Traditional Language Order One in Common Worship, it does not require further synodical authorisation to transfer it to modern-language texts whenever necessary.

(Canon) Terry Palmer
Magor, Monmouthshire 

Why do retired clergy still wear their clerical collars?

S. J.


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