In our Catholic mass, or other liturgies that we have in our Catholic faith, the presider begins with one of 3 options:
· “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God
and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
· “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the
Lord Jesus Christ.”
· “The Lord be with you.”
Notice how we do not begin mass with a casual “Hello” or “How are you doing?” Even the first words that we say reveal to us why we have come together. We are gathering for something that is not pedestrian, but rather, something spiritual. We are gathering to have an encounter with the divine, and thus, we even greet each other in this unique way.
The first and second options come directly from the writings of St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians, Galatians and Ephesians. Paul starts his letter with this very greeting. He wants the readers of the letter to put themselves in the mind of God as they read the words. St. Paul wants them to realize that he is writing to them about Godly things. As they read his letter and hear his words, they should be in the mindset of God’s love for them.
The third option comes from the Old Testament in the book of Ruth and Second Chronicles. In a similar way to the first greeting, we see people from the Old Testament greet one another with this statement, “The Lord be with you,” to remind both people that God is present there, even in their brief encounter with each other.
And so, in the Catholic mass, and liturgies, we begin with this greeting and the congregation responds, “And with your spirit.” This recent re-translation of the Latin again reveals the spiritual reason for our gather.
When we stop and realize what we are saying to each other, we can see how incredible these greetings truly are. As we begin each mass, or any of our liturgies, let us not miss the important spiritual reason for our greeting and our gathering. Then, let us give glory to God together and experience the great mercy and love He has for each of us.
The Lord be with you, Nativity.
Fr. Nels Gjengdahl