|By Father Edward McNamara
ROME, 28 SEPT. 2004 (ZENIT) ...
Q: The other day, I was at Mass and the
priest kept saying, "The Lord is with you" instead of "The Lord be with
you." The use of the indicative mood rather than the imperative sounded to
me like an attempt to de-emphasize the unique, sacramental role of the
priest (which was especially pronounced when coupled with the
mistranslation "And also with you," which, I understand, is about to be
replaced by the correct "And with your spirit"). I am not a Latin scholar,
but can "Dominus vobiscum" be properly translated "The Lord is with you,"
and does the celebrant have the authority to render such a translation?
P.S., Columbia, South Carolina
A: Even if it were a correct translation, the priest should not change on
his own authority any approved text from the missal. Even if he were an
expert Latinist and the official translation were blatantly erroneous he
would not be authorized to change it.
In the case at hand the two phrases do not have the same meaning.
"The Lord be with you" expresses a desire that the Lord become ever more
present both in the assembly and in each individual member.
"The Lord is with you" is not a desire but a statement of fact, which the
priest has no way of knowing whether it is true.
It is probably true of the assembly in virtue of Christ stating that he
would be present in any gathering in his name. But the phrase reduces this
presence to a static presence whereby the desire of an increasing presence
in the assembly is not necessarily implied.
With respect to the individual members of the assembly, there is no way of
knowing if the Lord is really with each and every one. The state of their
souls is unknown to the celebrant. To be fair, though, it is also true
that, on another level, Christ never totally abandons his wayward children
while life lasts.
The desire that the Lord "be" with each one is also a prayer that the
fruits of the celebration effectively reach each one, in some cases to
move toward conversion, in others to deepen their relationship with him.