Ordinary Time, 31st Sunday (A)

“And with your Spirit”

Those of you who used the old Latin/English missals will find this response very familiar. It is heavily rooted in Scripture. This response can be found in Galatians 6:8 and also 2 Timothy 4:22. There is also an ancient Holy Saturday homily that uses this phrase, showing us that it was in common use among the early Christians:

The Lord goes in to them holding his victorious weapon, his cross. When Adam, the first created man, sees him, he strikes his breast in terror and calls out to all: 'My Lord be with you all.' And Christ in reply says to Adam: ‘And with your spirit.’ And grasping his hand he raises him up, saying: ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.

Theologians tell us that spirit is not the soul of the priest, but rather the Holy Spirit that the priest received at his Ordination. In other words, the priest is telling the people, “Hey, look sharp, the Lord be with you” – you are God’s people. And the people say back, “And you, be our priest.” We are inviting each other to live up to our own dignity. This new line appears 5 times at Mass. It should be easy.

Penitential Act

There are three options for the Penitential Act. The most familiar one: “Lord, have Mercy,” “Christ have mercy,” “Lord have Mercy” is exactly the same in the new translation, so there’s nothing new to learn for that one. Sometimes though you’ll hear me say, “Kyrie eleison” instead. That happens to be the only part of the Mass still in Greek. It simply means “Lord have mercy” and is used interchangeably with the English.

The Confiteor is different in only two places: the word greatly and the three-part repetition of our faults. A gesture has been restored that again will be familiar to our older parishioners: each time we say the word fault, we will strike our chest. This is an ancient way of saying, “My bad.” (see Luke 23:48) . We aren’t emphasizing our sin; we are simply admitting guilt. In order to receive what God wants to give us, we have to admit that we need God’s help. The Penitential Act puts us in the right mood to admit that we need God’s gifts.


We deserve nothing, but God has given us so much. Just as we asked the angels and saints to help us obtain God’s forgiveness, so now we join them in praising God. The Gloria begins with the angels’ line from the birth of Jesus: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will (Luke 2:14). Many of the lines come from the book of Revelation where it talks about the white-robed saints worshipping God, or from other parts of Scripture (see Rev. 7:12, John 1:29, Rev. 15:4, Psalm 83:19). If you compare this more precise translation with the previous one, you’ll notice that it repeats itself a few times. Just as we repeatedly acknowledged our sins in the Confiteor, so we also repeatedly acknowledge God’s greatness in the Gloria. Singing the glory of God is the greatest thing we creatures can do.

Collect (opening prayer)

The priest says, “Let us pray,” and pauses for each of us to pray silently on our own. Then, he gathers or “collects” all these prayers into the prayer known as the Collect. The new style of the Collect is much more difficult. Each collect is a single sentence using Latin Subordinate Clauses to make the petition addressed to God. Most of the time, the collects have this simple pattern: God who, do, through. Watch this in action with the prayer from the 31st Sunday:

God Almighty and merciful God,
Who by whose gift your faithful offer you right and praisworthy service,
Do grant, we pray, that we may hasten without stumbling to receive the things you promised.
Through Through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.

Why bother?

Now that we are looking at the real translations, you might say it looks like much ado about nothing. What’s the big deal about a word here or a word there? There are two reasons. First of all, if you are going to do a whole new translation, you need to look at everything from start to finish (that’s why it took them about 8 years to finish this). Secondly, the worship of God is the most important thing we could possibly do. We shouldn’t be sloppy about worshiping God. Today’s Old Testament reading and Gospel both accuse the priests of bringing glory to themselves instead of glory to God the Father. In contrast, Paul has become their humble servant for the sake of the Word. This humility is what enables us to truly serve God and become who we were meant to be. It’s not true that the priest does all the work at Mass and everyone else just sits back and watches. It’s everyone’s job to worship God. The priest is here as your servant to lead you in worship. But you have to do your own part.

(30 Oct 2011)