Why do we say “The Lord be with You?” and “And with your spirit?”
This repeated exchange between the presiding minister and congregation can occur frequently throughout the service. The response can vary from “And also with you” to “And with thy spirit.” What does this mean, what is the difference, and why do we say this every week? A traditional Hebrew greeting was “Peace be with you,” but as Christians, we refer to the Lord himself, who is the giver of peace. This little exchange has been referred to as a mini-ordination, establishing a special relationship of peace and trust between the pastor and the congregation. But rather than referring to official recognition by the synod, it refers to our doctrine of the ministry. The intention of this response is to establish that the person who is leading in worship has been designated and called by the congregation to do the special work of Word and Sacrament ministry. After Vatican II, many churches replaced “and with thy spirit” with “and also with you,” to omit the archaic “thy,” but in so doing, it lowered the distinction of the pastoral office and reduced the exchange to somewhat of a “holy howdy.” Many churches are returning to a balanced approach, “and with your spirit,” which emphasizes the importance of pastoral office without sounding obsolete. The exchange traditionally happens when the presiding minister resumes leadership of the service, after something led by the assistants, and typically occurs at the beginning of the Services of the Word and the Sacrament (a Pastor’s two chief duties). Our hymnal schizophrenically uses all three responses.
From the Augsburg Confession: on the Office of Ministry So that we may obtain this faith, the ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. Through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Spirit is given. He works faith, when and where it pleases God, in those who hear the good news that God justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake. This happens not through our own merits, but for Christ’s sake. Our churches condemn those who think that through their own preparations the works the Holy Spirit comes to them without the external Word.