2 April 2011


So people are busy fishing out rose vestments for 'Mothering Sunday'; although I'm unclear why next Lord's Day is so observed by those who do not follow either the Tridentine Rite or the Prayer Book. The theme of the old Roman Mass is (Galatians 4) of our Mother the heavenly Jerusalem; but in the modern rite, the Roman Pontiff is not instructed to have a statio at the basilica of Holy Cross in Jerusalem (the church which the Empress Helena, my Colcestrian concivis, devised to be 'Jerusalem in Rome' and to which she imported cartloads of soil from Jerusalem together with significant relics of the Crucifixion). Sadly, moreover, choirs are rarely required to sing all those lovely Siony texts which embellish the old propers. Common Worship, of course slavishly follows the modern Roman Rite in abandoning the theme of the Heavenly Jerusalem, our Mother; the City whose politeuma we enjoy. [Does the Byzantine Rite visit this theme in the course of its annual lectionary?]

Of course, those old propers and S Paul's teaching in Galatians 4 raise in an acute form the very problem involved in the Good Friday prayers for the Jews. Has God's Covenant with the Jews been superseded? Do they need to take Christ on board to be saved, or are they, alone of all races and peoples, allowed a Christless way to salvation? It seems to me clear that S Paul teaches throughout Romans that there is no difference between Jew and Gentile either in the problem - sin - or in the solution - faith in Christ. The 'Jews-are-allowed-to-remain-Christless' line rests upon an interpretation of Romans 11 which doesn't hold water; I recall that the founder of the late twentieth century New Line on S Paul, Ed Sanders, concluded that, qua exegete of Paul, he had to to argue that in Paul's view Jews as well as Gentiles needed Christ (although qua liberal he did not think that Paul's view was now plausible).

So: 'cast out the bondwoman and her son'; Jews both need and are entitled to Christ. The Old Covenant was the type, the shadow, of the reality which is Christ. Not, of couse, that it would be particularly seemly somehow to to seem to single out Jews for mission in a Western society which largely consists of lapsed Christians: it would seem as if we were saying 'We've made a hash of hanging onto our own people so now we're going to try to get our hands on yours'. But the principle needs maintaining; all have sinned and all need Christ.

I have sometimes wondered if the Holy Father had in his mind, when revising the EF Good Friday Prayer for the Jews, that his own ordaining bishop, Cardinal von Faulhaber, was a member of the group Amici Israel, which proposed revision in the 1920s. (I seem to recall that Merry del Val may have been among those who scuppered the proposal.) But I am not convinced that, in its essence, the original Good Friday Bidding (Let us pray for the unbelieving Jews) was anti-semitic - on the contrary. There have always been Christian Jews and they are as fully privileged as any other Christians ... if not more so. In the Good Friday prayer we were not disdainfully and in a racist way praying against the Jews as a race but for those members of that race who do not believe. The reason why we prayed for them specifically (and not, e.g., for the Fijians by name) was simply their special place in God's dealings with Man and the steady New Testament witness, echoed in Pope Benedict's revised prayer, that the Eschaton will mean the combined redemption of Jew as well as Gentile. There is also, as S Paul reminds us in I Corinthians 10, a sharp reminder for all of us in the fact that the great majority of Jewry, for whom first the Euangelium was intended, failed to hear God's call.


Fr Ted said...

On looking up Merry de Val, I find that I was born on the day he died. Ought I to be glad, therefore, that I don't hold to a belief in re-incarnation?

Hardly a comment I'm afraid but it seemed worth asking!

Fr William said...

Rendering "perfidus" as "unbelieving" is, I feel, more than a little misleading. Certainly, in classical authors its connotation was clear, viz "deceitful/treacherous". The word (and its immediate cognates) doesn't turn up in the Vulgate, so unless the Latin Fathers changed the sense significantly there can be little doubt what is meant to be conveyed by the term "perfidi Iudæi" in the original (pre-1962? when did it get changed?) Good Friday bidding; as also the use of "perfidia" in the Collect following. (I agree that the purpose is clearly to pray for rather than against the Jews; but I don't think that it's simply a matter of modern hypersensitivity to find objectionable the terms in which that is expressed.)

F.G.S.A. said...

Isn't the Church the True Israel? So isn't it reasonable to pray that the unbelieving 'Joos' be re-incorporated into the True Israel...Truth in charity

Racine in his Esther:

Hélas! Ce peuple ingrat a méprisé ta loi;
La nation chérie a violé sa foi;
Elle a répudié son époux et son père
Pour rendre a d'autres dieux un honneur adultère.

This is perhaps too simplistic or crude for certain 'ecumenical' and judeomaniac ecclesiastical mandarins.

Jens said...

Some (modern) liturgist think, that the Good Friday Prayer for the Jews are from the second half of the 3. century.
"Fides" is good latin for the greek "pistis". Perfidia means false faith, which is not in acordance with the christian faith. In his letter to the Romans Saint Paul accuses the Jews four times of "apistia" ("incredulitas in the Vulgate, Rom 11, 20; 23; 30; 32). So the Prayer is perfect biblical, which was defended by Father de Lubac. (Exégèse médiéval – Les quatre sens de l’Écriture, Paris 1962, II, 1, 171f).

E contrario: The elimination of "perfidis" by John XXIII. has given the prayer a strange "racist" connotation in a first view.

Look on Rom 11, 28 as citation in Nostra Aetate 4 as in Lumen Gentium 16. Why this verse is cut off twice?

Священник села said...

The theme of the Heavenly Jerusalem / Sion as our Mother is certainly not a prominent one in the liturgical cycle and service books of the Orthodox Church, and there is no feast in which it plays a role such that you'd notice (I am leaving a loop-hole in case I've forgotten something), however a 'spiritual reading' of Jerusalem / Sion is woven into many texts throughout the course of the year.

Fr William said...

Jens: "Perfidus/perfidia" does not translate "ἄπιστος/ἀπιστία", which (with their derived parts of speech) are generally rendered in the Vulgate as either "incredulus" (as you note) or "infidelis". Both "infidelis" and "ἄπιστος" can have both an active and a passive sense: either "not believing/trusting" or "not to be believed/trusted". So if the bidding had said "Oremus et pro infidelibus Iudæis", that would at least have left room for interpreting it in the former sense. (Cf. the "uxor infidelis" of 1 Cor. 7.12, who is not unfaithful as we would understand the word, but unbelieving.) But, to the best of my knowledge, "perfidus" only ever has the second sense. The force of "per-" is more than merely negatory (like "in-" and "ἀ-"); the OLD draws attention to the analogy with "pe[r]iurium", i.e. wilful breaking of an oath.

Marc said...

Surely the use of rose vestments on this Sunday has more to do with the Introit verse, "Laetare", than with the theme of motherhood? Thus it seems quite appropriate for celebrants of the OF of the Roman rite to wear rose vestments. Likewise, the use of rose on the third Sunday of Advent is inspired by the Introit "Gaudete", in both the EF and OF of the Roman rite.


Marc said...

Surely the use of rose vestments on this Sunday has more to do with the Introit verse, "Laetare", than with the theme of motherhood? Thus it seems quite appropriate for celebrants of the OF of the Roman rite to wear rose vestments. Likewise, the use of rose on the third Sunday of Advent is inspired by the Introit "Gaudete", in both the EF and OF of the Roman rite.