“THE GRACE…BE WITH YOU” vs. “THE LORD BE WITH YOU”
Priest/Bishop: The grace of “our” Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God “and Father”, and the communion of the Holy Spirit “be (εἴη)” with you all.People/Choir: And with your spirit. (Beginning of the Anaphora, Byzantine Divine Liturgy)
The Byzantine “Anaphora,” or central Eucharistic Prayer, begins with this Trinitarian “opening greeting” of the main celebrant, which is a slightly-expounded version of St. Paul’s apostolic greeting in 2 Cor 13: 14. (The “expounded” parts of our liturgical greeting, as compared with St. Paul’s greeting, are placed in quotes above). Our liturgical greeting, as compared with St. Paul’s, is formulated in the optative sense, inserting the word “εἴη,” meaning “(let it) be” with you all. So in this dialogue we’re saying, first of all, that it is in and by the “apostolic” Spirit, the Holy Spirit, that we pray the Liturgy to be offered. And we express the prayerful desire that it be so, that both we and our priest/bishop, indeed, “let” God’s grace be with us, by His “Spirit.” Because grace, although given abundantly to and in the Church, is never forced upon its individual members, if we choose to block it out for whatever reason.
The Byzantine form of the Opening Greeting is different from another, equally-ancient “Ur-Form” of it, traditional to the Roman Rite: “The Lord be with you,” or “Dominus vobiscum.” Are the two Opening Greetings different in meaning? No, not essentially. The Lord Himself promises us, “I am with you all days until the end of the age” (Mt 28: 20b), and “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them” (Mt 18: 20), – and we understand “His,” Christ’s Presence also to mean the Presence of His Father and Holy Spirit. But the Byzantine formulation of the Opening Greeting is more precise theologically, because the way that God’s presence is manifested in, and works in, us, is by our embrace of (i.e., our reception of, and participation in) His “grace” or His uncreated energies. In Byzantine tradition, we don’t say that God is in us and all things in His “essence,” bacause that would make us pantheists; then everyone and everything would be God. We say, rather, that it is God’s “grace” or uncreated energies that give us life, and also “life abundantly,” insofar as we are open to it. Just thinking about this, because it’s the topic of the next video of our online Divine Liturgy course… May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with us all today. Amen!