The Lord be with thee
And with thy spirit….
Those words are part of the liturgy, from as far back as the Latin. The salutation was: Dominus vobiscum, and the response was Et cum spiritu túo.
I’ve said these words in Church a million times without much thought. You might consider it some of the earliest “Christian-ese”, that language that Christians take so for granted as to be trite. I don’t want it to be trite. I’d like to parse all that those words entail, so I can say it like I mean it, even when the phrase falls lightly off my lips.
Such thoughts occur to me at nighttime when I say my prayers. There is a communion of saints (and sinners) populating my consciousness from far back in my life, until the present. I pray for some people I have daily dealings with, and some who may never guess. I don’t know what exactly I can do for such folk, as I lay prostrate looking up into the darkness, except to say that they are in my intentions. It’s the merest form of caring, that slacktivism of dot jots you cast out there at night, and yet, if you ever find out that you have been prayed FOR by somebody you may think of it in a different light.
There are limits to being that are beyond taxonomy and category. Apart from the obvious flesh and blood, you have or, as C.S. Lewis put it, you ARE a soul. The ancients used to think of soul as residing in your guts, the depths where you most immediately felt things, and particularly when something was off. Maybe that is why the Apostle Paul blended many of his greetings with language of his bowels. “Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord,” (Philemon 1:12, KJV).
What does it mean to be wounded in spirit? It is something quite apart from wounded in emotions, and certainly more devastating than being wounded in the body. Jesus himself said something akin to the old sticks and stones injunction, when he declared in Matthew 10:28, “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul”. You might say that in reverse. Be very afraid of those who can wound the spirit, but never mind those who can only inflict wounds skin-deep. Indeed, you know this best when you ARE truly wounded in spirit. Those are the invisible ailments, addictions, broken relationships, and all other manner of things people collect and drag about in an invisible space, perhaps their bowels, as Paul said.
Hence, when I lay down to pray, I would like to know that God is listening, and that the little I can do separated by time and distance… translates into something real. Like the salutation “The Lord be with thee”… I can only hope and pray that God will take hold and do what I cannot.
The social distancing made necessary by the current pandemic has laid waste to many relationships. It’s hard enough to know people in general. It can take years of close affiliation. It’s hard to know your work mates when you only see them on a computer screen. Sometimes it’s hardest to know your own family - those you live with day to day. People are knit together with bones, emotions, and that mysterious soul that is referenced by every religion on earth. For all we don’t know about it, it is a mystery common to mankind.
Hence, when I pray “God please be with”…. I hope he is listening, and I hope he IS with you in all ways that are meaningful and holy, and may your soul be restored in that mysterious resting place. Dominus vobiscum. May the Lord be with thee. Et cum spiritu túo. And with thy spirit. Amen.