Q —  What does “spirit” mean as used in the new translation of the Roman Missal in “with your spirit”? How does “spirit” differ from “soul”?

A — What an interesting question! On a very cursory and superficial reading I suppose that “And also with you” seems a lot more straightforward and easier to understand than “and with your spirit.” But if we look at it in a little more depth and with a degree of openness, then good things happen. First of all, one might say that “and with your spirit” is a more literal rendering of the Latin text of the Roman Missal which reads “et cum spiritu tuo.”

The more literal translation, I am told, is reflected in other languages into which the Roman Missal has been translated, for example, Spanish. What else might be behind it? I looked up the word “spirit” in Xavier Léon-Dufour, SJ, ed., Dictionary of Biblical Theology. The dictionary article, “Spirit” was written by the Louvain exegete Jean Giblet. Scrolling down through the article one finds many interesting things, and then this: “To recognize the Spirit of God is not to renounce one’s own personality, but rather to bring it into submission.”  Immediately, a theological and spiritual horizon opens up. When the response is made, “And with your spirit,” we are addressing not only the priest as Fr. So-and-so, but so it seems to me, as the one who in presiding is submitting his “spirit” to the Spirit of God, just as the congregation is too.

Continuing to scroll through the article one reads: “It frequently happens, especially in St. Paul, that it is impossible to decide whether the word spirit refers to the spirit of man or the Spirit of God... This ambiguity, embarrassing for a translator, is a light for faith: it is the proof that the Spirit of God, while it permeates the spirit of man, leaves man his complete personality.” That opens up new perspectives. The very word “spirit” has an ambiguity to it, an ambiguity that enriches rather than impoverishes. It intends both God as Spirit at work inviting communion with his human creatures, and the human creature at work being “in-spirited” within God, so to speak. Arguably, that is richer than “And also with you,” although that too it part of the meaning. The “you” is the “you” that is “in-Spirited.”

The question then continues about how “spirit” differs from “soul.” In Catholic thinking “soul” is the irreducible reality of the person — but, of course, “soul” will receive more subtle and nuanced interpretation in, for example, the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas, but that is not our concern here. At a very basic level, then, “soul” as “the irreducible reality of the human person” and “spirit” as “the person in-Spirited by God” are pretty much the same reality.