German Bishop Calls for Withdrawal of Good Friday Petition of Benedict XVI

German media are reporting on a fiftieth anniversary panel discussion of Nostra aetate, the “Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions” of the Second Vatican Council, organized by the German Catholic bishops’ conference. It was meant to be a respectful look back and a celebration of good relationship between Christians and Jews in Germany.

But it turned out differently than planned.

Josef Schuster, the president of the Central Council of Jews, unexpectedly called for the revocation of the newly formulated Good Friday petition for the Jews which Pope Benedict wrote in 2008. Even more unexpected, Bishop Heinrich Mussinghoff expressed agreement with Schuster. Bishop Mussinghoff is president of the sub-commission for religious relations with Jews in the German bishops’ conference.

For centuries, the Catholic Church prayed in the petitions of Good Friday that God “remove the veil” from the hearts of “faithless” and “blind” Jews and that they be “delivered from their darkness.” This prayer was taken by some as a sign of deeply-rooted Catholic anti-Semitism.

The revised prayer as part of the liturgical reforms immediately following the Second Vatican Council (now called the “Ordinary Form”) prays rather for the Jews to whom God first spoke, that they may remain faithful to his covenant.

In 2007, Pope Benedict allowed the preconciliar liturgical rite (now called the “Extraordinary Form”) to be celebrated freely again – as part of his attempted move toward reconciliation with the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X which rejects the Second Vatican Council. Benedict re-wrote the offensive preconciliar petition, but this version met with protest from Jewish leaders because it prayers that the hearts of Jews will be enlightened and that they recognize Jesus Christ as the savior of all people. This was seen as an expression of superiority and a call for mission to the Jews, even though this has been repeatedly denied by the Catholic Church.

Mussinghoff surprised the audience by expressing agreement with Schuster in his call to revoke Benedict’s revised Good Friday Prayer. Mussinghoff also called for a definitive end to negotiations with the Society of St. Pius X. Mussinghoff stated that he cannot understand or comprehend the new version. “We have a wonderful formulation in the Ordinary Form, and I would very much welcome it if the new form of the petition in the Extraordinary Form were revoked,” he said. It is a “burden” for Jewish-Christian relations and could be easily revoked. He had “never understood why Pope Benedict added this petition in the old rite” and added, “If I may say so, and with all due respect, that was not a good idea.”

The Vatican’s representative, Fr. Norbert Hofmann, secretary of the papal commission for religious relations with Jews, who was sent to the meeting in the absence of Cardinal Kurt Koch, apparently felt obligated to rise to the defense of Pope Benedict. He said that Pope Benedict “certainly chose the new formulation with good intentions and theological precision,” since the version that was in the old rite until then was “much worse.” Certainly the new petition is “a delicate matter diplomatically,” but it is certainly no “call to mission.” Hoffmann noted that sensibilities in Germany, in view of its history, is much greater than in the rest of the world.

Hofmann advised that Schuster bring his concern directly to the Vatican, namely the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Schuster, Mussinghoff, and Vatican Cardinal Kurt Koch (whose prepared speech was read by Hofmann) emphasized in the discussion that Jewish-Christian relations as a whole are very good. This should not be obscured by smaller or greater strains at times.

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History of the Good Friday Prayer for Jews

The petition for the Jews is part of the Solemn Intercessions of Good Friday which came into being in the 6th century. The Roman, Ambrosian, and Gallican liturgies of the 6th century had petitions for Jews, heretics, and pagans only on Good Friday.

The term perfidus (“faithless, without faith”) is first witnessed as part of a prayer for the Jews in 592 by Bishop Gregory of Tours. Since 750 the Good Friday petitions have called the Jews “faithless” (perfidis) and their faith “Jewish infidelity” (iudaica perfidia).

Since 800 the custom arose in Carolingian lands of not kneeling down for this petition or saying “Amen” after it, as was done for the other petitions. Amalarius of Metz explained it around 820 thus: “For all prayers we bend the knee, … except when we pray pro perfidis Judaeis. For they bent their knee before Christ, and thereby turned a good custom into its opposite, for they did it in mockery.”

The 1570 Missal of Pius V places this petition in the eighth place, between petitions for heretics and pagans:

Oremus et pro perfidis Judaeis, ut Deus et Dominus noster auferat velamen de cordibus eorum, ut et ipsi cognoscant [also found: et agnoscant] Jesum Christum Dominum nostrum.

The priest is directed to continue without kneeling and without a pause, and omitting Amen at the end:

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui etiam judaicam perfidiam 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 eundem Dominum nostrum.

Some bishops in Tuscany omitted the petition for the Jews around 1800, but this custom did not last or affect the rest of the Church.

In 1925 the Jewish convert to Catholicism Franziska van Leer asked her friend Cardinal Wilhelmus Marinus van Rossum to advocate for a change in this prayer, but without success.

In 1926 the Catholic organization of clergy “Amici Israel” (“friends of Israel”) was founded. By 1928 it numbered some 3,000 priests, 287 bishops, and 19 cardinals. They sought to remove anti-Semitic elements from the Catholic liturgy, and they formally asked the Vatican to remove or replace perfidis/perfidia and the omission of kneeling. They proposed replacing perfidiam Judaicam with plebem Judaicam (“the Jewish people”), as was found in an Ambrosian manuscript fo the 11th century. The proposal was rejected.

In the reform of the Holy Week liturgy under Pius XII, the petition was given the title Pro conversione Judaeorum (“for the conversion of the Jews”) in 1955, and pausing for silent prayer, kneeling, and saying “Amen” were introduced. This form became mandatory in 1956.

On Good Friday 1959 in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope John XXIII omitted the words perfidis and judaicam perfidiam, without having announced any reformist intentions beforehand. The Congregation for Rites (predecessor to today’s Congregation for Divine Worship) decided later in 1959 that henceforth these words were to be omitted.

On Good Friday 1962, a cardinal in the church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome prayed the obsolete 1956 version in the presence of Pope John XXIII. The pope interrupted him and demanded that he repeat the prayer in the revised form.

In 1965 Pope Paul VI approved changing the title of the petition to Pro Iudaeis (For the Jews”) and rewording the prayer to include mention of God’s covenant with Abraham:

Oremus et pro Iudaeis; ut Deus et Dominus noster faciem suam super eos illuminare dignetur; ut et ipsi agnoscant omnium Redemptorem, Iesum Christum Dominum nostrum.

[Oremus. Flectamus genua. – Levate.]

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui promissiones tuas Abrahae et semini eius contulisti: Ecclesiae tuae preces clementer exaudi; ut populus acquisitionis antiquae ad Redemptionis mereatur plenitudinem pervenire. Per Dominum nostrum. [Omnes: R.] Amen.“

The current version appeared in the reformed Missal of 1970:

Oremus et pro Iudaeis, ut ad quos prius locutus est Dominus Deus noster, eis tribuat in sui nominis amore et in sui foederis fidelitate proficere.

[Flectamus genua. – Levate.]

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui promissiones tuas Abrahae eiusque semini contulisti, Ecclesiae tuae preces clementer exaudi, ut populus acquisitionis prioris ad redemptionis mereatur plenitudinem pervenire. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

In 1984, Pope John Paul II issued an indult allowing use of the preconciliar liturgical 1962 missal with permission from the bishop.

In 2007 Pope Benedict allowed the preconciliar books to be used without need for special permission of the bishop. The Zentralkomitee der deutschen Katholiken (“central committee of German Catholics”) immediately warned that the 1962 version of the prayer contradicted the document Nostra Aetate of the Second Vatican Council. Many Jewish groups and individuals also protested.

In 2008, Pope Benedict altered the 1962 prayer for use in the Extraordinary Form as follows, leaving unchanged the title Pro conversione Judaeorum:

Oremus et pro Iudaeis. Ut Deus et Dominus noster illuminet corda eorum, ut agnoscant Iesum Christum salvatorem omnium hominum.

[Oremus. Flectamus genua. – Levate.]

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui vis ut omnes homines salvi fiant et ad agnitionem veritatis veniant, concede propitius, ut plenitudine gentium in Ecclesiam Tuam intrante omnis Israel salvus fiat. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

The Society of St. Pius X has continued to use the unrevised text and rejected Benedict’s revision, called it superfluous and a regrettable concession to representative of Judaism.

On April 4, 2008, Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone released a statement of Pope Benedict saying that the pope’s revision was no deviation from the Second Vatican Council and would remain but an exception.

Source: German Wikipedia.

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33 comments

  1. If indeed “the 1962 version of the prayer contradicted the document Nostra Aetate of the Second Vatican Council”, then we should either go back to the pre-1955 version, or declare Vatican II heretical. Do not the Jews need salvation through Christ? If not, everyone should become a Jew to be be saved and not have to deal with the irrational Absolute Paradox (Kierkegaard) of Christianity.

    1. @Victor Wowczuk:
      Or we could say that there is a development of doctrine and Vatican II is deeper and better, but we can leave to God what was there before and not worry about it too much.
      I’ve never heard anyone -Christian or Jewish – who supports or at least welcomes these doctrinal developments draw the conclusion that everyone might as well turn Jewish. I’m not sure that necessarily follows.
      awr

    1. @Jeffrey Maurer:
      Oy, Jeffrey. Because when God revealed Himself to the Jewish people, turns out He was kidding? took it back? thought better of it? upgraded to faith 2.0? didn’t yet know that we would need Jesus to teach us more?

      Teaching the Jewish people starts with our humility and hospitality, not with our proud assurance of the first place at the table. They have great faith, the faith that nurtured our own. They still have much to teach us, if we will listen.

  2. The argument for any such doctrinal development from the reformed rites is not valid, because it ignores the other prayers for the Jewish people in the reformed rites. For example, in the reformed Evening Prayer for Sundays in Weeks 3 and 5 of Easter, which reads (in English):

    Let Israel recognise in you her longed-for Messiah – and the whole earth be filled with the knowledge of your glory.

    And there are a small number of other similar examples in the Liturgy of the Hours.

    I stress that this prayer is in the post-Vatican II liturgy and that it has been used for the last 40 years without anyone – Christian or Jewish – making any comment about it or raising any objection to it. This prayer also is a perfectly clear expression of the Christian hope in relation to the Jewish people and it is completely consistent with “Nostra Aetate”.

  3. Other examples of prayers for the Jewish people in the reformed Liturgy of the Hours include:

    1. On the last day of every year (December 31 at Morning Prayer), the Church prays: “O Christ, God and man, you fulfil the prophecies as David’s Lord as well as his son: we beseech you that Israel may recognize you as Messiah;

    2. Evening prayer for the vigil of the final (7th) Sunday of Easter, wherein the Church addresses the following prayer to Jesus: “May all the peoples praise you as King and God, and may Israel become your possession”;

    3. Evening prayer on Wednesday of the second and fourth weeks of Easter we find this prayer: “[O God], who chose your Son’s first disciples from among the Jewish people, reveal to the children of Israel the reciprocal promise made to their fathers; and

    4. The prayer noted above for the third and fifth Sundays of the Easter season is also used for evening prayer for Easter Sunday.

    Further, I understand all of these prayers are NEW to the reformed rite, and were not included in the old Roman Breviary. In fact I understand that in the 1962 rites it is only in the one prayer on Good Friday that the Jewish people are prayed for.

    That is, a priest or other person who recites the office using the EF will pray much less frequently for the Jewish people to come to know Christ (i.e. once per year), than the same person using the OF (at least 7 times per year, including the reformed Good Friday prayer itself).

    Not to mention the Eastern rites for “Great Friday” still approved by Rome, which have language more than consistent with the pre 1950’s Latin rite, and for which a better case for amendment could be made.

    1. @Scott Smith:
      Not to go too off-topic, but you do raise an interesting point – which I suppose points to the larger marginalization of the Liturgy of the Hours – so much of the discussion on this topic has been centered around the missal. There are several mentions in the Liturgy of the Hours, including a *weekly* petition among the alternative intercessions (“Ad foedus novmu voca Iudaeos”). The UK version of the LOTH seems to use the translation “Jews” a little more often, even when that is not what the Latin says, while ICEL uses “Israel”, “Chosen People” or other such terms).

      [Digressing further: Interestingly, the Arabic breviary seems to omit all the petitions that you have cited, and I have also witnessed a practice whereby, in some Muslim-dominated countries, the prayer for the Jews is apparently considered in complimentary light, and so is either omitted or prayed silently by the presider. Strangely enough, the prayer for those who do not know Christ is prayed aloud….)

      As for the old Roman breviary, it has some passages that would be frankly MUCH more offensive than the Good Friday prayer (and I would say, in a couple of places, seems to clearly contradict Nostra Aetate) – but only someone who prays the text regularly would notice it, and since that is a small subset of people attached to the EF, it kind of slips by.

      Even within the missal, attention has often been narrowly focused on the Good Friday rite….. the ’62 Missal has a couple of other places where one might see an explicit anti-Semitic allusion or phrase in the text (I am not counting Biblical propers reflecting early intra-community tension, especially Johannine texts, within this). Sometimes these are so subtle that again it is only noticeable by someone attuned to the issue and who uses the text on a more than weekly basis. A priest I know who does celebrate according to the ’62 missal was quite surprised when I pointed one of these out to him – and he has been celebrating according to that rite for years.

      1. @Joshua Vas:

        As for the old Roman breviary, it has some passages that would be frankly MUCH more offensive than the Good Friday prayer (and I would say, in a couple of places, seems to clearly contradict Nostra Aetate) – but only someone who prays the text regularly would notice it, and since that is a small subset of people attached to the EF, it kind of slips by.

        Interesting, particularly in light of the fact the old Roman breviary has also been reapproved for use post Pope Benedict. I have heard the same can be said about various eastern Catholic liturgies, which use much stronger language than many people might be aware.

        Can you remember off hand any of the relevant prayers from the old Roman breviary?

  4. I always noted to myself that if I were a priest, and were to celebrate the extraordinary form Good Friday service, I would substitute the 1969 prayer for the Jewish people in the place of Pope Benedict’s prayer. Yes, this is rubrical disobedience, but sometimes a higher moral calling supersedes rubrical fidelity. It would be a very simple edit to insert the 1969 prayer into future reprints of the 1962 missal.

    Then again, as Jonathan Day as argued, there are other days, such as EF Passion Sunday, which have anti-Semitic valences. John 8 can be interpreted as anti-Semitic, even if the entire passage is about the equation of the Father and Son. I suggest that EF Passion Sunday’s propers be replaced with the 5th Sunday of Lent cycle A.

    It’s time to revise the 1962 Missal to say abreast of Catholic-Jewish dialogue, even if some will inevitably be reluctant to part with the early modern lectionary.

  5. @Scott Smith:

    The lessons of the second nocturn for Good Friday Matins.

    Also the Matins hymn for Pentecost.

  6. The references to the other prayers are interesting. But at the same time, I think the Good Friday prayer has a much stronger symbolic importance because of the history of Christian/Catholic acts of Jewish persecution on that day. And as to what prayers are offensive, it is helpful both to look at the contents of the texts and to listen to those who say they are offended by them. In our discernment of truth, and our contribution to the development of our tradition, we benefit from empathetic sensitivity to others.
    awr

    1. @Anthony Ruff, OSB:

      I think the insight that the offense is not primarily about the texts in question rings true, which is likely why changing the texts has not removed the offense.

      The association with the Society of St. Pius X, and its rather infamous taint of anti-Semitism, therefore may well be the driver. A better approach to altering texts may accordingly be to deal with that association.

      This would also been more consistent with the Pope’s own advice on true interreligious dialogue, which is:

      “True openness involves remaining steadfast in one’s deepest convictions, clear and joyful in one’s own identity, while at the same time being “open to understanding those of the other party” and “knowing that dialogue can enrich each side”. What is not helpful is a diplomatic openness which says “yes” to everything in order to avoid problems, for this would be a way of deceiving others and denying them the good which we have been given to share generously with others. Evangelization and interreligious dialogue, far from being opposed, mutually support and nourish one another.”

  7. I would recommend to all those interested in this and related questions to read “Christ Jesus and the Jewish People Today: New Explorations of Theological Interrelationships” (Eerdmans, 2011). The essays in this collection address, from a variety of perspectives (History, Scripture Study, Systematic Theology, Liturgy) , the meta-question: “How might we Christians in our time reaffirm our faith claim that Jesus Christ is the savior of all humanity, even as we affirm Israel’s covenantal life with God?”

    For those interested in ecclesial documents, I would recommend “The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible” (2001). By the way, the May 2003 (41:3) issue of “The Bible Today” (Liturgical Press) was devoted to analyzing and discussing this little-known document.

    For preachers, a look at Marilyn Salmon’s “Preaching without Contempt: Overcoming Unintended Anti-Judaism” (Fortress, 2006) may be helpful. I also post resources on our website specifically for preachers: http://www.davenportdiocese.org/lit/litpreach.htm#AntiJudaism

    Finally, the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning (Boston College) offers a number of resources: http://www.bc.edu/research/cjl.html

  8. The offense taken seems to be occasioned by the suggestion that even Jews might need Christ in order to be saved, and that it is thus appropriate to evangelize them. While the Church may have rejected a specific missionary mandate to preach to Israel (though even this would not be inconsistent with the Apostle to the Gentiles’ own divine commission), the Church has never denied that the people of Israel ought to be called to the New Covenant of their own promised Messiah. Similarly, while the words “feelings of superiority” are presumably targeting smug self-satisfaction, it can just as easily be turned against the scriptural datum that the New Covenant is superior to the Old (Hebrews, anyone?). So at the end of the day – granted that there are more and less effective means of proclaiming the same truth, and our currently-licit formulations are not necessarily the best – it would appear that the rub of the complaint is that Jewish-Catholic dialogue is being undermined by . . . the Catholic faith. Some Jews (and plenty of other groups, for that matter) get upset that Catholics think they need to be prayed for. Shouldn’t we be able to pray publicly for precisely what we think these people most need (to accept the salvation offered in Christ Jesus)? At what point does empathetic outreach veer into dissemblance for the sake of amity?

    1. @Aaron Sanders:
      “At what point does empathetic outreach veer into dissemblance for the sake of amity?” Aaron, you’ve hit the problem right on the head. When empathetic outreach is a lie, when one does not believe what one is saying, then it is indeed false. If we who follow Christ are conquering and subduing those who do not, then you would be correct. If we are all the People of God, if God loves each of His children, then I think the question begs your own answer.

    2. @Aaron Sanders:
      The “scriptural datum” re: Hebrews is not as black-and-white as you would have it. Many contemporary scholars do not hold to a supercessionist read of the text. Jesper Svartik’s essay in the collection I mentioned in my earlier post is but one example.

      1. @Frank Agnoli:
        Though I do in fact find no fault with a supercessionism that recognizes the continued validity of the Old Covenant precisely because faithfulness to it and reception of its promises are both made possible through the New, I was trying to avoid beating that tired horse by staying at the level of “superiority,” which I meant to convey that one covenant is “of higher grade or quality.” Heb 8:6: “Now he has obtained so much more excellent a ministry as he is mediator of a better covenant, enacted on better promises.” Say what you will about the continued efficacy of the Old, the Church most certainly holds that the New is better and she wills that even those who already possess a lesser good may attain to its perfection in Christ.

      2. @Frank Agnoli:

        The problem of two-covenant theology, from a Christian perspective, is I don’t see how it gets you very far.

        Sure, God keeps his promises, and thus his covenant(s) with the Jewish people still hold. Thus we can, with perfect Catholic orthodoxy, “affirm Jesus Christ is the saviour of all humanity, even as we affirm Israel’s covenantal life with God”.

        But St Paul in his letters is clear. The law, the Jewish covenant(s), it cannot save. Therefore the Jewish people, merely from their faithfulness to the Jewish covenant(s), cannot be saved. They, as with gentiles, can only be saved by explicitly or implicitly accepting the grace of Christ (i.e. as actual or “anonymous” Christians).

        Which leads us back to where we started. From a Jewish perspective it can seem pretty insulting for another religious body to presume to define their lives and standing before God, or indeed to define a Jew as somehow a Christian (my Jewish acquaintances find that part particularly annoying).

        Indeed, perhaps even more insulting, because you are no longer just telling a Jewish person they should be a Christian. You are now telling them the what and how of being a Jew, matters in respect of which they would prefer to respect their own integrities.

  9. I am fine with inserting the 1970 prayer into the 1962 Missal, though I am sure many are not.

    However, I also would like the Jewish people to demand a change of the Amidah including the birkat haMinim.

  10. If the covenant between God and the Jewish people endures because of God’s faithfulness, then such a relationship is life-giving; that is, salvific, for the Jewish People (see NA 4; LG 16; subsequent Papal, Vatican, and episcopal statements). If that is the case, then why pray for the conversion of a people as such? (Which is a different question than whether we should, in a personal encounter with an other, share the Good News in the context of respectful dialogue.)

    The exploration of how such a claim is held in a “both-and” tension with our belief that Christ is the savior of all humanity makes for very challenging theology. The explorations offered in the text I first referenced are intriguing. What the authors avoid is falling into an “either-or” or “zero-sum” approach… upholding Christ does not of necessity require diminishment of Judaism and the Jewish Covenant with God. The relationship of Jesus Christ (who is a Jew – an often neglected theological datum) to the Covenant people, and how that relationship expresses our claim of Christ’s universal salvific significance, is an open question. The authors explore the incarnation, covenant, the Trinity, and even Pope Benedict’s suggestion that Jesus may be thought of as the Torah incarnate.

    The authors also remind us of the complex relationship between Judaisms (and emerging Christianities) in the first few centuries… that what we see in the polemic of the New Testament is “in house” arguing over the future of Judaism after the destruction of the Temple… including competing claims of whether the Covenant is best preserved/lived through following Jesus or through the Torah. It is also important to remember that what “we” said as a small and weak minority takes on a different flavor when uttered out of context by those in power.

    I am not finished with the book yet (looking forward to the essay on liturgy); but so far none of the Jewish respondents have complained that they were being told how to be Jewish or that they were just anon…

  11. @Frank Agnoli:

    If the covenant between God and the Jewish people endures because of God’s faithfulness, then such a relationship is life-giving; that is, salvific, for the Jewish People.

    Non sequitur – That does not follow. God’s promises only contain what they promise, and it has never been the Christian understanding that the old covenant including a salvific promise. This can be seen both in the teachings of St Paul I have already referred to, as well as in the mention of Christ “descending into Hell” in the Apostles’ and Athanasian Creeds (as referred to by the Catechism at 636–7).

    That is, only on Christ death, were the just who had gone before him freed from their exclusion from Heaven: “It is precisely these holy souls who awaited their Savior in Abraham’s bosom whom Christ the Lord delivered when he descended into Hell” (CCC 633).

    Accordingly, it is not that the old covenant has been superseded, it is that it was never salvific to begin with without Christ’s redeeming death. And it should be noted that in this, the Church is picking up on some strands of thought which already existed in 2nd Temple Judaism, who similarly did not think the old convent was salvific in this way.

    See NA 4; LG 16; subsequent Papal, Vatican, and episcopal statements.

    Neither NA4 or LG16, nor the subsequent magisterial statements following them, provide that the old covenant was salvific in itself. Precisely because they were following the doctrine I refer to above.

    If that is the case, then why pray for the conversion of a people as such?

    Because, as I set out above, that is not the case.

    Upholding Christ does not of necessity require diminishment of Judaism and the Jewish Covenant with God.

    From a Christian perspective it does not diminish the Jewish Covenant, it merely recognises what was and is, as accurately described by NA4 (i.e. a mysterious foreshadowing of the salvation of the Church).

    The relationship of Jesus Christ (who is a Jew – an often neglected theological datum) to the Covenant people, and how that relationship expresses our claim of Christ’s universal salvific significance, is an open question.

    As I say, the Church has doctrines around this relationship, and they are deeply rooted in the Jewish theological heritage of the Church.

    The authors also remind us of the complex relationship between Judaisms (and emerging Christianities) in the first few centuries

    These facts, in many ways, actually speak against the hoped for conclusion. Basically, modern Judaism is very different to 2nd Temple Judaism, and is in many ways the descendant of only some particular strains of 2nd Temple Jewish thought. Christianity is in some ways similar – It is equally the descendant of other strains of 2nd Temple Jewish thought (represented in figures like Philo, who was perhaps more important in Christian circles than Jewish ones).

    Which raises complex and unsettling questions about the relationship of modern Jewish faith to the old covenant. Can be it identified with pre-Christian Jewish faith any more than the faith of the Church can? Is modern Jewish faith in its developments indeed faithful to the old covenant, or have these changes been corruptions?

    I am not finished with the book yet (looking forward to the essay on liturgy); but so far none of the Jewish respondents have complained that they were being told how to be Jewish

    The full range of Jewish opinion is not included in your book. The reactions I refer to can be found in the literature – The wording of my own comment was sourced from “Opening the Covenant: A Jewish Theology of Christianity” by Michael S. Kogan (refer page 130).

    1. @Scott Smith:
      The Church refers to the Covenant between God and the Jewish people as valid, irrevocable, fecund (see John Paul II’s statements); teaches that “God holds the Jews most dear” (NA 4); has said that “Jewish covenantal life endures till the present day as a vital witness to God’s saving will for His people Israel and for all of humanity” (US Bishops).

      If the above cannot be taken to mean that a Covenantal relationship with God is salvific (however that might be understood), then what is meant by being in Covenant? If the Covenant is not salvific, then what does such an understanding of Covenant say about God? That God creates and calls just to destroy?

      Again, how we hold such a belief in tension with our belief that salvation is through Christ is the work of ongoing reflection. But for a review of ecclesial documents, I would refer you to this article: http://ejournals.bc.edu/ojs/index.php/scjr/article/view/1521.

      Just as we no longer understand take the Scriptures in a simplistic/literalistic/fundamentalistic manner, the traditional story of the “Harrowing of Hell (Sheol)” does not have to be taken in a literalistic/historical/time-bound manner (that is, we do not have to imagine that at a specific moment in time Christ went to a certain place and freed certain individuals). First, when dealing with matters of eschatology, we need to be aware that any language which suggests time cannot be applied literally to an existence outside of time. Second, the story may be read symbolically: the point is that salvation is through Christ… not that the individuals were saved at that particular point in time. The paschal mystery reverberates through time in both directions (otherwise, it could not be applied, for example, to Mary at her conception). Therefore, the story can be taken to do what the current statements do – hold the Covenant (yes, as salvific) and salvation in Christ in tension. Again, the HOW needs to be unfolded but such a view is not contradictory to the story.

      1. @Frank Agnoli:

        I suppose one further thing I should clarify is that I see two questions, which are the crux of what we are discussing. The first is does the Church currently teach as you propose, and the second is could it teach as you propose.

        It seems to me you are of the view the answer to the first question is yes, but I think it is very clear the Church does not do so, either now or previously. The teachings you attribute to the texts of VII and following simply are not there.

        It further seems to me your answer to the second question would be yes, and I acknowledge in this regard we cannot be so definite. Further theological reflection could always propose some new concept which might represent a legitimate development. However, based on the proposal as you have presented, I would also have to say no given the weight of the New Testament.

        I mean, the mission of Jesus himself was to the Jewish people, and almost exclusively so. So much so that the 12 Apostles were extremely unsure regarding the expansion of their mission to the gentiles. And we are now to say neither Jesus nor the Apostles could have any legitimate mission to the Jewish people? I just can’t see how that can be squared away with the New Testament.

      2. @Scott Smith:
        Thank you, Scott. In conjunction with the collection of essays to which I have been referring, you have given me much to consider. As you say, this is probably not the best forum for an in-depth exploration of such a topic. The question is certainly one that will not go away, and will take time and effort to continue to unpack. I do affirm both poles of the dilemma: the Covenant is valid and Christ is the savior of all humanity (cosmos). Which means we have to wrestle with HOW the Covenant and Christ-event are related… and, being related, how we, as Christians, can therefore speak respectfully and with integrity of the Covenant as salvific. Preamble or preparation alone do not seem sufficient to me, and dismisses the ongoing vitality and living faith of Judaism today. Covenant as mediating the divine relationship can’t be disregarded.

        This is all a work in progress to be sure, and I am grateful to those who have spent their lives committed to the hard work of interreligious dialogue. I find the explorations of the authors I have been reading promising in this regard; as I do the work of exegetes and others who continue to provide greater insights into the NT texts and the plurality of 1st century Judaism(s) – including the emergence of that particular group within Judaism who followed Jesus as the Christ. I also appreciate the challenge – perhaps one that we have not considered thoroughly enough – of how better to integrate the insights of NA (and following) into our liturgical life (and not just in regards to Good Friday).

        Perhaps I have not been able to clearly articulate their insights here, whether for lack of space, lack of expertise, or both; for that, I apologize and can only encourage personal engagement with their writing.

        It is a challenge to live in the tension we have been discussing, one that (it seems to me) we will continue to live with for some time to come… perhaps until the eschaton! But I hope that does not lead us to disengagement or despair.

  12. I still think my approach, which of course was the approach of the Universal Church some 50 years ago – (re)abbrogate the old Mass once and for all. Problem solved. Amen.

    1. @Sean Whelan:

      Given the existence of similar prayers in the revised rite, particularly the Liturgy of the Hours as noted up thread, it is difficult to see how abrogating the old rite would solve the offense caused.

      1. @Sean Whelan:

        My reply to #12 can be found at #14. If the offense is not firstly about the text, removing the text will not eliminate the offense.

        Doing something else, like not associating so closely with known anti-semites and holocaust deniers, seems to me an approach more likely to improve the situation.

  13. Thank you all for your comments; this has become quite an involved and interesting thread.

    Please allow me to come at this question another way.

    The lex credendi, lex orandi, and lex vivendi exist in a mutually-informing relationship.

    In the past, we taught that the Jewish Covenant had been abrogated, that the Jewish people were guilty of deicide and therefore accursed, and that the Old/First Testament existed simply to point the way to Christ (whom the Jewish people ‘missed’ because of their blindness and hard-heartedness). Such beliefs informed our prayer, as seen in the pre-Vatican II Good Friday prayer for the Jews. Such prayer (and belief) likewise informed how we lived, providing fuel for anti-Jewish pogroms (especially on Good Friday) and even (at least to some degree) for the Shoah.

    Thanks to Vatican II and subsequent magisterial statements, the lex credendi has changed considerably: the Jewish Covenant is viewed as valid and fruitful, the charge of deicide has been rejected, and the Old/First Testament is seen as valuable in its own right (as is Jewish exegesis). At the same time, the Church has continued to proclaim the unicity and universal salvific significance of Christ.

    What we have, then, is two statements in tensive relationship, as I noted in my first post: valid and enduring Covenant, Jesus as universal savior.

    I view these statements as analogous to other paradoxical formulations – such as Nicean Trinitarian theology and Chalcedonian christology. Such statements, rather than defining who God (or Christ) is, attempt to give us a grammar and language for speaking about God which centers on who/what God (Christ) is NOT. Hopefully, such faith informs our prayer and our way of life.

    (continued)

  14. Likewise, what we have in the post-Vatican II lex credendi vis-a-vis Judaism is this kind of tension. We are limited in where we cannot go: we cannot deny the validity of the Covenant for the Jewish people and we cannot deny the universal salvific significance of Christ. How these two truth claims are explained or maintained in tension requires ongoing theological reflection. Just as the Nicean and Calcedonian formulations did not end reflection on the Trinity and on the person of Christ, but inform ongoing reflection, so, too, the question posed here will need ongoing work. The book that I mentioned in my first post is but one attempt to wrestle with this relationship.
    (I do not claim that these authors propose THE answer, but that they are engaging the question with great care.)

    Which brings us to the originating question of this post: the prayer for the Jewish people on Good Friday. Or, put this way: which version of the prayer (lex orandi) best reflects current belief, in all its tension (lex credendi)?

    It seems to me that the 1970 prayer is better reflective of this tension. The validity of the Covenant is upheld. Prayer for the “fullness of redemption” – a prayer that we make for ourselves as well – is left ambiguous in terms of “how” such fullness is to come about. The 1962 prayer, even in its revised form, collapses the tension in the direction of the christological pole at the expense of the Jewish/Covenantal pole.

    Which then begs the question: what are the implications for the lex vivendi? The 1970 prayer seems to encourage the kind of respectful dialogue called for by Nostra Aetate and subsequent documents; the 1962 prayer seems to call us back to what has been rejected: a mission to the Jewish people as such. Worst, might it also encode anti-Jewish sentiment (note the use of dark-light image, and the suggestion that salvation for Jews is in the future tense)?

    (continued)

  15. Given that prayer against the Jewish people led to violence against the Jewish people in the past, it is no wonder that Jewish leaders and those committed to the vision of Nostra Aetate and subsequent church teaching reacted with concern to the Good Friday prayer in the Extraordinary Form, even in its revised form.

    It seems to me that, as Christians, we are called by our faith – and required by our part in the shameful history of atrocities committed against the Jewish people – to listen with open hearts and minds to the concerns that the use of the 1962 prayer (or its variant) raise.

    Does the Good Friday prayer in the Extraordinary Form (lex orandi) truly reflect the lex credendi in all its ambiguity and tension? What kind of lex vivendi does it promote? These are important questions for us to consider, and the word of challenge issuing from Germany is both welcome and worthy of our careful attention.

  16. @Frank Agnoli:

    Thank you for your expansive response. I am also finding this discussion rewarding. I will try to keep my own response brief as I can, but only because this forum does not cope well with overly extensive comments.

    Thanks to Vatican II and subsequent magisterial statements, the lex credendi has changed considerably

    Less considerably when the entire rite, including the Liturgy of the Hours, is taken into account. And we can only assess the lex credenda of the reformed rite on a holistic basis, as otherwise we will have a false picture.

    Or, put this way: which version of the prayer (lex orandi) best reflects current belief, in all its tension (lex credendi)? It seems to me that the 1970 prayer is better reflective of this tension … The 1962 prayer, even in its revised form, collapses the tension in the direction of the christological pole at the expense of the Jewish/Covenantal pole.

    Again, once the entire reformed rite is taken into account, it seems to me this distinction falls apart. The reformed rite, particularly in the Liturgy of the Hours, confirms the christological pole just as strongly as the revised EF prayer.

    a mission to the Jewish people as such.

    The Church has a mission to the whole world, to all of humanity, with no exclusions. This remains the case, and will until Christ comes again.

    How these two truth claims are explained or maintained in tension requires ongoing theological reflection.

    It seems to me, that in your insistence on the old covenant being salvific, you are not respecting the co-existence of these two truth claims. Indeed, to apply your own words you are falling into the mistake of “collapsing the tension in the direction of the Jewish/Covenantal pole at the expense of the christological pole.

    If the above cannot be taken to mean that a Covenantal relationship with God is salvific (however that might be understood), then what is meant by being in Covenant? If the Covenant is not salvific, then what does such an understanding of Covenant say about God? That God creates and calls just to destroy?

    Something else is meant – The something on which the whole New Testament and the Creeds are based. And in this understanding, as I have said, the Church is clearly in continuity with certain strands of 2nd Temple (and indeed modern) Jewish thought. Which is why, incidentally, this understanding is reflected so early in the Tradition of the Church.

    This does not demean the old covenant, the Jewish people or God. The messiah, salvation, was still to come. This is not a Christian imposition, but a thoroughly Jewish truth, which forms part of the Jewish inheritance of the Church.

    Second, the story may be read symbolically: the point is that salvation is through Christ… not that the individuals were saved at that particular point in time.

    I see no reason to understand the teaching symbolically, nor any real benefit for your desired conclusion in doing so. If it is symbolic, it is symbolic that salvation comes through the redeeming death of Christ, and not via the old covenant. The timing is neither here nor there – The fact is they were saved by their implicit faith in Christ, and not from their adherence to the old covenant per se.

    the story can be taken to do what the current statements do – hold the Covenant (yes, as salvific) and salvation in Christ in tension. Again, the HOW needs to be unfolded but such a view is not contradictory to the story.

    Again, this is not what the magisterial statements do, and you have not been able to point to any which do. They do not hold the old covenant is salvific, simply because they cannot.

    The New Testament and the Creeds are too soaked in the truth that salvation comes from Christ, and cannot come from the old covenant as such, which is why your preferred conclusion is contradictory.

    And as such, this is not something we can develop our way out of with ongoing theological reflection, and nor should we want to. We should seek to be formed by the Gospel, not look for complex ways to deny the truths it teaches us.

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