Friday, September 03, 2010

And With Your Spirit

Soon and very soon, Latin rite Catholic liturgy, prayed in English, will sound a bit different than it does right now. After several years of apparently necessary fuss and bother, a translation is coming down the pike that is more faithful to the normative Latin and less concerned with the flair of the particular incarnation of English most in use around the world. Being not only a lover of the Church and her liturgy, but a lover of words as well, I am very excited by this development. The translation, of course, is already set, but liturgical composers on the one hand and catechists on the other need to get their proverbial ducks in a row and then put them on parade effectively before the laity so that these changes don't hit us too much like rumble strips.

Then again, I've always found rumble strips sort of fun. Driving along the turnpike, hour after hour of highway, and suddenly you hit GADAGADAGADAGADA, and you wake up before you slam into the cars stopped at the toll booth, in case you missed all of the signs in the preceding ten miles indicating their impending presence.

Yesterday in the mail we got from our parish a nifty little pamphlet that like one of those signs. It outlined exactly which phrases in the liturgy which are prayed by the congregation will be changed. This isn't the first time I've read about these changes. And still, I was especially struck this time by the change most frequently repeated: Our response to the priest stating "The Lord be with you" changes from "And also with you" (which is my standard dry-humor response to church friends who wish me a good day or whatever, which I suppose will now sound "so early 21st century") to "and with your spirit. Oooh, thought I. I like that.

And with your spirit. I grew up saying that, or rather singing that, in the WELS Lutheran liturgy. And of course older Catholics grew up saying it in Latin. I don't know about anyone else, but for the most part I didn't really think about why we said "and with your spirit." I probably did simply presume this was a stilted churchy way of saying "and also with you," and so I probably would have been very sympathetic to those who wanted to get rid of Churchese and talk like normal folk. For the most part, I'm for that. However, the normative Latin specifies we are asking the Lord to be with the priest's spirit, so let's talk the way Mama teaches us.

Now, in the years since I've stopped singing "and with your spirit" I've learned about the tri-partite nature of man, as St. Paul describes it, of body, soul and spirit. There was a lot of talk about this in the charismatic fellowship that was my worship home for the five years before I became a Catholic. And recently, the Lord has brought this front-and-center to my attention again through the teachings of John Michael Talbot. He uses this body, soul, and spirit language from St. Paul (and modern charismatics) in a way that enables me to bridge the lingo gap very easily into the ancient monastic wisdom which he unpacks for us moderns and our spiritual formation.

Scripture speaks of the spirit and the flesh, or soul and spirit in many places. My own conjecture about why this language is not much understood and not much used is that it can only be used with meaning when discussing experience, precisely, spiritual experience of conversion, of change. Homilies often focus on  concrete things we can do, instead of the internal factors of how we respond to the Spirit of God, or what happens to us when we do. Perhaps this is more appropriate, or it is thought to be more appropriate, to spiritual direction than to homilies. Conversion is an individual matter, and yet it is to be the collective experience to which we can all relate. Really, I think this is the crux of the problem. Even when conversion is our collective experience, we don't seem to have the language to employ to talk about it. And what we can't discuss tends to drop away from our collective spiritual experience. That's just my conjecture on our modern Catholic Catch-22.

The liturgy, of course, is a key spiritual experience in the life of a Catholic Christian. So it seems very fitting to keep this word "spirit" constantly reverberating in our ears, bringing us back to clue in to the existence of something important. We can start by asking What's a spirit? And how does it differ from plain "me," or my soul?

John Michael Talbot has an audio teaching touching on this point which you can find on this site. Look for the cell group teaching dated July 13. He also talks about it in his book The Joy of Music Ministry in this way:

Using the anthropology of St. Paul, we can define the human being as having a spirit, soul, and body. Due to our current condition we usually think of these things the other way around, or body, soul, spirit. Body is our senses and emotions. Soul is the spiritual mind, or the ability to be cognitively aware of reality. Body and soul are the house of the spirit and are rightly engaged in the things of space and time. Spirit is the deepest reality of our being. It is pure spiritual intuition that is beyond senses, emotions, or thoughts, but builds on, complements, and completes them all. In union with God's Spirit, our spirit has a wonderful and unique capacity for eternity and infinity. It is present in eternity now and does all things even while body and soul are engaged in the matters of space and time.(p. 16)

But then, there's this matter of the fall into sin, in which we all participate!

It starts in the way we function with the basic body, soul and spirit "stuff" of which we are made. When the senses of the body lead the way, we become primarily concerned with sense gratification. Rather than being positively incarnational, we become "sensual" or "carnal." ... When we don't get what we want, we become angry and upset. When the emotions become clouded, the thoughts become conflicted, unfocused, and confused. The spirit gets totally ignored and covered up in this chaotic cacophony of discord. It is as if the spirit is asleep, or even dead....The spirit has to be awakened. (p. 19)

After conversion to Christ, it is in the Church that we come to see how He heals and transforms us:

It is here that the authenticity of our own reordering according to His teaching is really tested. If we let the Lord turn us right side up again, from body and soul with a sleeping spirit, to spirit, soul, and body, then we find a common union with all people and all creation by the very fact of this reorientation of living. When the spirit is really first in our lives, then we intuitively see and are united with this essence in all creation, animate and inanimate...From this position of awakening and rebirth we begin to unite with others in their own potential for this reality whether they actually see it or not!...This takes great faith and patience, but it can be done. We actually call forth the hidden Spirit of Jesus in others when we act as Jesus would with them. This helps to spread the Music of God through Christ. This sings the Divine Song. (p. 33-34)

So, yes, I'm rather excited about our having the word "spirit" on our lips more often so that we can be moved closer to contemplation of the realities of the design and function of the human spirit. And that's just one tiny aspect of the coming changes.

Something in me really loves rumble strips.


Beate said...

Hi Marie ~

I'm excited about the change - that's how we said it in German when I was a kid. I guess some translations remained more true than others.

camilyn said...
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Mano said...
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