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The Salutation & Collect

By Father Wade Miller

The Salutation comes after the opening hymn when the priest says to the people, “The Lord be with you.” The people then respond, “And with thy spirit.” The purpose behind this exchange between the priest and the people will be explored in this short essay.

We might be inclined to think that this is just a simple meet and greet between the priest and parishioner. Some may think that this is a mere gesture of politeness, which is a very English thing to do. That is not, however, the purpose behind the Salutation. Modern liturgies of the 1960’s and 70’s sought to emphasize the equality of people, making liturgy sound more relational. Being relational and friendly is not a bad thing in of itself, but such change misses the whole point of the Salutation. The words were changed in modern liturgies to say, “The Lord be with you” and then the people respond, “And also with you.” So, what is wrong with this change? Why did Pope Benedict XVI make such news and enemies in 2008 after insisting that the Roman Church return to the more original and ancient Salutation?

The problem is that the Salutation is not merely a time for mutual greetings, or a gesture of simply saying ‘hello’ between the people and the priest. It has to do with the responsive nature of worship itself. In liturgy, or worship, there are two main actions taking place. The first action always comes from God, not man. The Lord is the pursuer and the One who initiates fellowship with fallen human beings. All human beings have alienated themselves due to their rebellion against their Creator. The Lord transforms His people by His grace so that our response is no longer animosity, but one of thanksgiving and gratitude for his mercy. Our relationship with God is contingent upon his compassion (I John 4:19). This is reflected in the very opening words of the liturgy called the Salutation. In this exchange, the Lord welcomes and invites his people to worship Him.

Some might object that it is not the Lord speaking at all, but a lowly man who bears the title of priest. But notice how the people respond. They say, “And with thy spirit.” What does this mean? Simply stated, the one who has been ordained in the apostolic tradition, does not merely fulfill a function of the priesthood; he is a priest sent from God with the full authority of the Lord. This is often referred to as the indelible mark, meaning, once a priest, always a priest. The words, “And with thy spirit” relate to the Sacrament of Holy Orders. At a man’s ordination into the priesthood, the Minister was given what we call a charism or grace. It is a gift from God, who bestows upon a man His authority to bind or loose one’s sins. The repentant receives forgiveness and absolution, whereas the defiant and rebellious receives reprimand and correction. The emphasis, however, is upon grace and forgiveness because that is the way in which God chooses to deal with his people, showing mercy to the sorrowful.

The Roman, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican churches all agree on this point, although the latter two do not believe in a rulership of one supreme bishop, namely, the Pope. Some Lutheran church bodies (especially in Scandinavia) also hold to what we call apostolic succession. Apostolic succession is another way of saying that Jesus’ full authority was given to the apostles, which continues to this day in the office of bishop and is exercised by both priest and deacon in what we call Holy Orders. This happens when certain men are set apart to receive a transforming grace by the power of the Holy Spirit to now proclaim His Word to His people. The priest is the guardian of the gifts that we call sacraments. This change at ordination involves the priest’s entire being (ontology), so that it is not a mere function he performs on behalf of the congregation; it is the transformation of the man to now speak on behalf of God.

Therefore, when the people say, “And with thy spirit” they are acknowledging this reality, as they enter in the most sacred presence of a holy God. The priest speaks on behalf of God, being his chosen vessel by the work of the Holy Spirit, and the people, who are royal priests as well, acknowledge the office of the Minister, and recognize this authority given to Him by the Lord. They join with the priest in offering up their sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.  This offering up of oneself is the response to the once-and-for-all offering and sacrifice of Jesus Christ by which we enter the presence of this holy and righteous God. Love is the action that flows from God to man and then from man back to God. The title, “Father” for the clergy reflects this familial love and relationship between God and His people with the priest representing both in this mutual affection that takes place in the liturgy of the Church.

The Collect is the collected thoughts of the Church on a particular day or season put into prayer. These prayers surround the commemoration or observance of a day in the church calendar, and it provides insights into the theme of the day/week that we hear read in the Scripture readings. Collects are sometimes referred to as The Prayer of the Day.  They have a three-fold structure that includes 1.) Adoration – The opening acknowledgement of the Lord and recognizing our utter dependence on Him. 2.) Request or Petition for the Church to live faithfully as children of God.  3.) Conclusion / Doxology – Ending the prayer in the name of the Lord because He is our only true hope and consolation.

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