An ancient form of devout salutation, incorporated in the liturgy of the Church, where it is employed as a prelude to certain formal prayers. Its origin is evidently Scriptural, being clearly borrowed from Ruth, ii, 4, and II Par., xv, 2. The same idea is also suggested in the New Testament, e.g., in Matt., xxviii, 20: "Ecce ego vobiscum sum", etc. The ecclesiastical usage dates probably from Apostolic times. Mention of it is made (ch. iii) by the Council of Braga (563). It also appears in the sixth or seventh-century "Sacramentarium Gelasianum". The phrase is pregnant with a deep religious significance; and therefore intensely expressive of the highest and holiest wishes. For is not the presence of the Lord -- the Source of every good and the Author of every best gift -- a certain pledge of Divine protection and a sure earnest of the possession of all spiritual peace and consolation? In the mouth, therefore, of the priest, who acts as the representative and delegate of the Church, in whose name and with whose authority he prays, this deprecatory formula in pre-eminently appropriate. Hence its frequent use in the public prayers of the Church's liturgy. During the Mass it occurs eight times, namely, before the priest ascends the altar, before the two Gospels, the collects, the Offertory, the Preface, the Post-Communion oratio , and the blessing. On four of these occasions the celebrant, whilst saying it, turns to the people, extending and joining his hands; on the other four he remains facing the altar. In the Divine office this formula is said before the principal oratio of each Hour by priests, even in private recitation, because they are supposed to pray in union with, and in behalf of, the Church. Deacons say it only in the absence of a priest or with his permission if present (Van der Stappen, De officio divino, 43), but subdeacons use instead the "Domine exaudi orationem meam". Contrary to general usage, the "Dominus Vobiscum" does not precede the prayer of the Blessed Sacrament before Benediction is given. Gardellini (Comment. in Inst. Clem., =1531, n. 5) explains this anomaly on the ground that the blessing with the Sacred Host in the monstrance effectively contains all that is implied in the formula. Bishops use the "Pax Vobis" (q.v.) before the collects in Masses where the Gloria is said. The response to the "Dominus Vobiscum" is "Et cum spiritu tuo" (cf. 2 Timothy 4:22 ; Galatians 6:18 ; Philippians 4:23 ). Formerly this answer was rendered back with one voice by the entire congregation. Among the Greeks there is a corresponding form "Pax omnibus" (Liturgy of St. Basil). The Council of Braga, already mentioned, ordained ( Mansi, IX, 777) that priests, as well as bishops, to whom alone the Priscillianist sought to restrict it, should adopt this formula.
The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed between 1907 and 1912 in fifteen hard copy volumes.
Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.
No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.
Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912
Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online