A Catholic Monthly Magazine

New Words, Deeper Meaning

NZ-LiturgyLiturgy And Security
By Fr Merv Duffy sm
The first document to come out of the Second Vatican Council was the one on the Liturgy; Sacrosanctum Concilium. A key text in that document was: “Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy.” (SC 14)

Another aspect of the nature of liturgy and ritual is that it is repetitive and familiar. When you are steeped in the prayer of the Church you relax into it without anxiety because you know in your bones what comes next. You give the right responses automatically, stand at the correct times and make the right gestures. Catholic practice seeps into you at a level below the conscious. If you’ve ever caught yourself genuflecting in a picture theatre you will know what I mean.

The “Dominus vobiscum  / The Lord be with you” greeting is ancient.  One of our oldest liturgical sources, the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus, written about 215 AD has this description of the ordination of a Bishop:
"When he has been made bishop, everyone shall give him the kiss of peace, and salute him respectfully, for he has been made worthy of this. Then the deacons shall present the oblation to him, and he shall lay his hand upon it, and give thanks, with the entire council of priests, saying: The Lord be with you. And all reply: And with your spirit. The bishop says: Lift up your hearts. The people respond: We have them with the Lord. The bishop says: Let us give thanks to the Lord. The people respond: It is proper and just."

The above is an English rendering of a Greek original, for Greek was the liturgical language then. The reason Hippolytus was writing about it is that he was concerned that everyone was not following the same customs – he wanted uniformity in the liturgy.
The centre of the Church has called for a change in the English wording of our response to “The Lord be with you”. Such calls upset our equilibrium because the words of the Mass which we’ve been faithfully and prayerfully saying are now bedded deep within us. For the next months we are going to have to think carefully as we respond to that greeting. Eventually “And with your spirit.” will come to our lips as an automatic reflex.

Let’s use this rare time of change to be fully conscious and active in our participation. While the wording is unfamiliar we can taste the phrase more keenly. What are we saying? What do we mean by it? Why do we want the Lord to be with the spirit of the celebrant?

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