Thursday, January 17, 2008

Debate: The 1962 Good Friday rite and the Jewish people

I've done a "diablog" once; now I'll be doing a point-counterpoint with someone who's not a blogger, but a personal friend of mine. The issue at hand is an article from America that he mailed me a few days ago about the "Latin Liturgy" (that is, the 1962 Missal) and the Jews: specifically, the Good Friday rite and its prayer for the Jews.

I read the article, and had something to say about it. The article from an October 2007 issue (which is not available online) is titled "The Latin Liturgy and the Jews". The gist of the article is that the 1962 prayer is damaging for Catholic-Jewish relations -- because it is uninformed by the reforms of Vatican II (specifically Nostra Aetate) -- and that the 1970 prayer should replace it. There are generally two reasons why the 1970 prayer would replace the 1962 prayer: either a) they say the same thing (but the 1970 prayer says it "better"), or b) they say different things (and the 1962 prayer said the "wrong" thing). The article more or less implies b, that the 1962 prayer is "wrong", but near the very end, it seems like it might just be implying a, that the 1970 prayer says the same thing in more sensitive language.

What follows is, verbatim, my email to my friend responding to the article. When I get his response, I will record it below mine (or perhaps interspersed -- it depends on how he formats his reply). He plans to send me his reply sometime this weekend.



Jeff's response to the article

Thanks for sending me the America article; I had not yet seen it. I don't know if you sent it to me after reading a recent post of mine on my blog, but if not, the mailing was well-timed. Permit me to offer my comments on the article; I'm sorry it's lengthy, but I want to make myself clear in my position. (If you don't have any objections, I'd like to post my response to this article on my blog.)

First, I'd like to provide the Latin of the prayer for the Jews from the 1962 rite (along with a fair English translation):
Oremus et pro Iudæis: ut Deus et Dominus noster auferat velamen de cordibus eorum; ut et ipsi agnoscant Iesum Christum Dominum nostrum. (Oremus. Flectamus genua. Levate) Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui Iudæos etiam a tua misericordia non repellis: exaudi preces nostras, quas pro illius populi obcæcatione deferimus; ut, agnita veritatis tuæ luce, quæ Christus est, a suis tenebris eruantur. Per eumdem Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum filium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus: per omnia sæcula sæculorum. Amen.
Here is the English translation from my 1961 Daily Missal:
Let us pray also for the Jews, that our God and Lord may remove the veil from their hearts; that they also may acknowledge our Lord Jesus Christ. (Let us pray. Let us kneel. Arise.) Almighty and everlasting God, You drive not even the Jews away from Your mercy; hear our prayers, which we offer for the blindness of that people, that, acknowledging the light of Your truth, which is Christ, they may be rescued from their darkness. Through the same, etc. Amen.
Having this will come in handy for supporting the points I make in my commentary.

The authors write (emphasis mine):
That missal ... contains a prayer for use on Good Friday that singles out Jews for conversion, attributes to them a particular blindness and asks God to lift the "veil from their hearts." This inches perilously close to a view of Judaism as a fossilized and invalid faith[.] ... Meanwhile, the Missal of Paul VI in wide use today strikes a categorically different tone, instructing Catholics to pray that the Jewish people "will grow in the love of God's name and in faithfulness to his covenant." (p. 11)
The Good Friday rite does not "single out Jews" in the sense that they are the only people prayed for; on the contrary, there are also prayers for "heretics and schismatics" ( i.e. separated brethren) and "pagans" (i.e. non-Christians). One might ask: where is the outcry from the Orthodox, Anglicans, Protestants, Muslims, Hindus, etc.? The "veil" and the "blindness" referred to by the prayer are terms found in Scripture; words spoken by Jesus or written by Paul. Jesus talks of the blindness of the Pharisees on at least two occasions (cf. Matthew 15:12-14; 23:16-26); he also proclaims that his mission includes "recovering ... sight to the blind" (Luke 4:18). Paul wrote: But their minds were hardened; for to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their minds; but when a man turns to the Lord the veil is removed. (2 Cor 3:14-16) and again And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the likeness of God. (2 Cor 4:3-4). The prayer could have used language from the First Letter of John, which puts it quite simply that No one who denies the Son has the Father. (1 John 2:22)

Regardless of the status of the Mosaic covenant -- that is, whether Judaism is "a fossilized and invalid faith" -- it is the duty of the Church to pray that everyone may come to know that Jesus is the Christ of God. The "categorically different tone" in the Missal of Paul VI is certainly ambiguous, and if it were not for the tradition of the Church, one might think the prayer is simply asking that God would make sure Jews stay "faithful Jews". But the Church's definition of "faithful Jew" is different from the world's definition of "faithful Jew" -- in asking for Jews to grow in "faithfulness to his covenant", the Church is really (although in ambiguous and lame terminology) asking that they recognize the Messiah: that they be "faithful Jews" in the same way the Apostles and first Christians were!

The authors continue:
John Paul II taught repeatedly that the church's "attitude to the Jewish religion should be one of the greatest respect, since the Catholic faith is rooted in the eternal truths contained in the Hebrew Scriptures and in the irrevocable covenant made with Abraham" Sydney, Australia, Nov. 26, 1986). Guidelines on Religious Relations With the Jews (1974) states that the witness of Catholics to Jesus Christ should not give offense to Jews. (p. 11)
John Paul's reference here (at least as far as was quoted) is to the Abrahamaic covenant, that through Abraham all nations (not only Israel) would find blessing: this is seen in the opening of the new covenant in Jesus Christ which brought Gentiles into the "people of God" without requiring them to become Jews first: baptism replaced circumcision as the sign of the covenant. As for the terse 1974 document, the context of "not giv[ing] offense to Jews" is this:
In virtue of her divine mission, and her very nature, the Church must preach Jesus Christ to the world (Ad Gentes, n. 2). Lest the witness of Catholics to Jesus Christ should give offence to Jews, they must take care to live and spread their Christian faith while maintaining the strictest respect for religious liberty in line with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council (Declaration Dignitatis Humanae). They will likewise strive to understand the difficulties which arise for the Jewish soul -- rightly imbued with an extremely high, pure notion of the divine transcendence -- when faced with the mystery of the incarnate Word.
In other words, we must preach Jesus to the world, including the Jewish people; in preaching to the Jews, it makes sense to preach Jesus in a different way than to a person who is not under the Mosaic covenant, because Jesus is the fulfillment of a covenant the Jews are familiar with. All it means is that getting Jews to recognize Jesus as their long-awaited Messiah is different than getting "pagans" to recognize Jesus as the Savior of the world who takes away their sins.

The article continues:
Jews around the world remain proudly committed to the faith of their ancestors and the biblical covenant between the children of Abraham and the creator of heaven and earth. (p. 12)
John the Baptist warned the Pharisees not to "presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham." (Matthew 3:9) and Paul writes in Romans 11 about the severing of some branches from the tree (which represent Jews who did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah) and warns those Gentiles who have been grafted in: They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast only through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe. (Romans 11:20) Mary recognized her conception of Jesus in this way: "[God] has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever." (Luke 1:54-55) Zachariah, father of John the Baptist, spoke in similar terms, saying that God had brought about the Incarnation "to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant, the oath which he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear..." (Luke 1:72-74) Jesus himself spoke to unbelieving Jews about their relation to Abraham in John 8. To the first Christians (most of whom were Jews), God fulfilled his promise to Abraham through the person of Jesus the Messiah.

But more to the point, this says nothing about the Mosaic covenant, only the Abrahamaic covenant.

Continuing, the article mentions a rabbi that changed a Catholic document:
When Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, an observer at Vatican II and the most important Jewish theologian there, saw that the penultimate version of Nostra Aetate contained an allusion to conversion, on the eve of Yom Kippur he flew to Rome to speak to Pope Paul VI and the council's bishops. He emotionally professed: "If faced with the choice of baptism or the crematoria of Auschwitz, I would choose Auschwitz." The bishops deleted the reference. (p. 12)
Is that what was meant by "Catholics ... should [not] give offence to Jews"? Sentimentality aside -- not that the Holocaust wasn't a terrible crime against Jews and all peoples -- there were plenty of first century Jews who chose baptism, and the early Church spent its days preaching to them for conversion. Were they in error to do so? On the contrary, as Acts 2:37-41 testifies, some three thousand (Jewish!) souls were added that day.

Whether or not the Jews of today like it, Christians call Jesus the Christ, the Messiah; when will that be contested? When will Christians have to start referring to themselves as "Jesusians" so as not to offend those who do not believe Jesus to be the Messiah?

My final remark on the article is from this passage:
... substituting the text of the 1970 prayer in the Roman Missal for the 1962 text could resolve the problems without sacrificing any principle. (p. 13)
Oh it could? If no principle is sacrificed, then the 1970 prayer must say (in substance) what the 1962 prayer says, which means it must be asking God to effect the conversion of the Jews to Christ! If that is truly the case, then the removal of phrases like "blindness" and "veils" is a superficial one (one of language rather than intent), and the Jewish people (or their representatives) have no problem with the Church praying for their conversion (so long as they don't use that nasty "c" word). And yet, I would guess that is not really the case: the representatives of the Jewish people do not want the Church to pray for them to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, and would prefer the Church use a prayer of ambiguous language that will eventually (if it hasn't already) take on a multi-covenantal meaning where the Church is simply asking God to keep the Jews faithful to their post-destruction-of-the-Temple religion. Lex orandi, lex credendi -- the longer Catholics pray (or hear) the poorly worded prayer and hear this opposition towards the older prayer, the less they'll believe they should actually be praying for the Jews to recognize the fulfillment of their covenant in Jesus for the good of their souls, and the more they'll think that belief in Jesus as the Christ is "extra credit".

1 comment:

Tim A. Troutman said...

Good post. Just get ready to be labeled anti-semitic.