Every now and then I come across people who oppose the response “and with your spirit” or “and with thy spirit“, arguing that it promulgates a Papist doctrine of Ordination. I actually wrote about this several years ago on my own blog, responding to such a concern.
The interpretation in question that some people happily teach and others fearfully reject is the assertion that “and with your/thy spirit” references the special gift of the Holy Spirit upon the priest, recognizing his indelible ordination character. Some Anglicans hold to this view quite strongly and happily. But the Prayer Book liturgy does not require this interpretation – “receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” is a powerful phrase indeed, in the ordination, but it’s not a theological point that is explicitly explained to the last detail.
So here is one example of how the phrase “and with your/thy spirit” can be understood without the sacerdotal priesthood assertion. Picking up the same commentary from John Boys as yesterday, we read
The pastor cannot use to the people a better wish than “The Lord be with you.” For if God be with them, who can be against them? and the people cannot make a fitter reply than “with thy spirit.” For (as Plato divinely said) every man’s soul is himself.
Again, forasmuch as “God is a spirit, and ought to be worshiped in spirit;” it is meet we should perform this spiritual service with all earnest contention and intention of spirit….
Blessed spirits in praising God answer one another interchangeably: though unhappy scornful spirits unmannerly abuse this custom.
It is a matter of mutual blessing. I am pleased to note that this is more or less what I suggested six and a half years ago when wrote that email that became the blog post linked to at the beginning of this. Whether or not the priest has a recognizable “ordination character” to salute in the liturgy, this exchange is perfectly reasonable and already sufficiently ‘reformed’. After all, there are offices in which a lay leader “receives” the phrase “and with your spirit“, and there is no fuss over that!