Sandro Magister has an interesting piece today. He presents defenses of the Holy Father’s changes to the Good Friday prayer for Jews in the 1962 Missale Romanum by the Jesuit publication Civiltà Cattolica, Prof. Jacob Neusner and by Archbp. Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture. Magister is bringing together various threads so that we can think about the Good Friday prayer through their lenses.
In other words, a particular "Benedictine hermeneutic" is developing.
Remember: Ravasi is an up and coming Vatican star. I translate his whole piece below.
First, to Magister.
Magister mentions that there is a defense in the last number of Civiltà Cattolica, published by the Jesuits under the close scrutiny of the Secretariat of State.
We will get to the defense by Ravasi, below, but first let’s look at what Magister says in in Civiltà Cattolica (my translation):
In the present climate of dialogue and friendship between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people it seemed to the Pope to be just and opportune [to make this change], to avoid any expression that could have also the smallest appearance of office or, in any case, displeasure to the Jews."
"Dog bites man" point: that didn’t stop some Jews from continuing to gripe about Catholic forms of prayer.
Civiltà Cattolica continued:
"It has nothing offensive for Jews, because in it the Church asks God that which St. Paul was asking for Christians: that, namely, ‘the God of our Lord Jesus Christ [...]might illuminate the eyes of the mind of the Christians at Ephesus so that they could comprehend the gift of salvation that they have in Jesus Christ (cf. Ephesians 1:18023). The Church, in fact, believe that salvation is from Jesus Christ alone, as it is said in the Acts of the Apostles (4:12). And it is clear, on the other hand, that the Christian prayer cannot be anything other than ‘Christian’, founded, that is, on faith – which not all possess – that Jesus is the Savior of all men. Therefore, the Jews have no reason to be offended if the Church asks God to illuminate them so that they might freely recognize Christ, the sole Savior of all men, and they also might be saved by Him whom the Jew Shalom Ben Chorin calls ‘Brother Jesus’."
In sum: Jews should be offended because that is what St. Paul says in Christian Scriptures and it is what the Church beleives. Ho hum…. But… no matter…
Magister goes on to point out the content of the prayer for Jews in the Novus Ordo (that Jews should also be faithful to their covenant, etc.) and underscores the fact that the prayer isn’t terribily biblical in its starting points.
"With the new formulary, in fact, Pope Ratzinger didn’t attentuate, but very much reinforced the prayer with weightier Christian content. From this point of view, then, the new prayer for Jews in the liturgy of the old rite doesn’t impoverish, but rather implies an enrichment of the sense of the prayer in use in the modern rite".
Magister got this exactly right. Elsewhere on this blog I made the argument that now there are actually two authorized ways of praying for Jews in the Roman Rite on Good Friday, and that Benedict didn’t just port the Novus Ordo prayer over into the older form (as Card. Bertone suggested might happen) because he obviously thought the Novus Ordo prayer didn’t say what it ought to say in the context of the older form!
"Exactly as in other cases it is the modern rite which postulates an enriching evolution of the old rite. In a liturgy as perennially alive as Catholic liturgy, it is this sense of cohabitation between the old rite and the modern rite which is desired by Benedict XVI with the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum.
A cohabitation not destined to last, but to consist in the future ‘anew in one sole Roman Rite’, taking the best of both. This he wrote in 2003 still as Cardinal Ratzinger – revealing his inmost thoughts – in a letter to a learned expontent of Lefebvrite traditionalism, the German philologist Heinz-Lothar Barth."
A couple things here. First, Magister s taking and confirming the WDTPRS line here. Years ago I gleaned from Card. Ratzinger that he foresaw (and hoped) with a widespread use of the older form of Mass that perhaps a tertium quid would emerge, that the use of the older form would jump start, so to speak, the organic development of liturgy that the Church experienced through history until the artificial imposition of reforms sparked by the Consilium after Sacrosanctum Concilium.
However, this is the subtle point which is often overlooked. Papa Ratzinger foresaw that the older form, not the Novus Ordo, would be the starting point for organic development of a tertium quid. In other words, elements of the Novus Ordo which showed themselves to be useful might enrich the older form, rather than integrating elements of the older rite into the newer form. The development would spring from the form that had itself developed organically, not from the form that is artificial.
So, in a way, it is far more interesting that Benedict XVI change the prayer in the older form of Mass that it would have been had he changed the prayer in the newer Mass, to make it more… traditionally Catholic, so to speak.
But let’s go on with what Magister presented.
Magister presents in Italian what Jacob Neusner brilliantly wrote for Die Tagespost (23 February 2008) and il Foglio (26 febbraio). We had that on this blog. I urge you to read it.
Here is what Archbp. Ravasi wrote in my translation and emphases:
One day Kafka responded to his friend Gustac Janouch who was questioning him about Jesus of Nazareth: "This is an abyss of light. You have to close your eyes in order not to get involved."
The relation between the Jews and this their "big brother", as the philosopher Martin Buber curiously called him, was always intense and tormented, reflecting also the far more complex and troubled relationship between Judaism and Christianity. Perhaps it might be in the simplification of the formula that the joke of Shalom Ben Chorin [there's that name again] in his work of 1967 with the emblematic title "Brother Jesus" is so striking: "Faith in Jesus unites us with Christians, but faith in Jesus divides us."
I wanted to set up this backdrop, in reality far vaster and varied, to situated in a more concrete way the new "Oremus et pro Iudaeis" for the liturgy of Good Friday.
There is no need to repeat that we are dealing with an intervention with a text already codified for a specific use, regarding the liturgy of Good Friday according to the Missale Romanum in the form promulgated in 1962 by Bl. John XXIII, just before the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council. A text, therefore, already crystallized in its version and circumscribed in its present use, according the already known dispositions contained in the Motu Proprio of Benedict XVI Summorum Pontificum of July 2007.
As so within the link that intimately unites the Israel of God and the Church we seek to individuate the theological characteristics of this prayer, in dialogue also with the severe reactions which it roused up in Jewish circles.
The first consideration is "textual" in the strict sense: remember that the word "textus" brings us to the concept of "textile", that is composed with different threads. So, the thirty or so Latin substantive words of the Oremus are entirely the fruit of a "weaving" of New Testament expressions. We are dealing, therefore, with a language that comes from Sacred Scripture, the pole star of faith and Christian prayer.
We are invited, above all, to prayer that God "illuminates the hearts", so that the Jews might also "recognize Jesus Christ as the Savior of all men". Now, that God the Father and Christ can "illuminate the eyes and mind", is a hope St. Paul already directed to same Christians of Ephesus of both Jewish and pagan origin (Ephesus 1: 18; 5:14). The great profession of faith in "Jesus Christ Savior of all men" is set into the first letter to Timothy (4:10), but is also insisted on in analogous forms by other New Testament authors, as, for example, Luke of the Acts of the Apostles who puts in the mouth of Peter this testimony before the Sanhedrin: "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
At this point we see the horizon line that this prayer truly delineates: we ask God, who "desires that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth", to see to it "that, with the entrance of the fullness of the gentiles into the Church, also all Israel will be saved". The solemn epiphany of God Almighty and eternal whose love is like a mantle that extends around all humanity is raised on high: He, indeed we read again in the first Letter to Timothy (2:4), "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth". At the feet of God, on the other hand, it is in motion like a grand planetary procession, composed of every nation and culture and which sees Israel as it were in a privileged row, with a necessary presence.
A prayer, therefore, which corresponds to the classical method of composition in Christianity: "to weave" together the invocations on the basis of the Bible so as intimately to plait together both believing and praying, the lex orandi and the lex credendi.
At this point we can propose a second reflection focusing more on content. The Church prays to have at her side in the unique community of believers in Christ also the faithful Israel. This is what St. Paul in chapter 9-11 of the Letter to the Romans, which I mentioned above, awaited with great eschatological hope, namely, as the harbor of all history. And this is what the Second Vatican Council proclaimed when, in its constitution on the Church, it affirmed that "those who have not yet received the Gospel are related in various ways to the people of God. In the first place we must recall the people to whom the testament and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh. On account of their fathers this people remains most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts He makes nor of the calls He issues" (Lumen gentium 16).
This intense hope obviously belongs to the Church and has at its heart, as a spring of salvation, Jesus Christ. For the Christian He is the Son of God and He is the visible and efficacious sign of divine love, because as Jesus said on that night to "one of the leaders of the Jews" Nicodemus, "God has so loved the world that He gave His only Son, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him." (cf. John 3:16-17). It is, therefore, from Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Israel, that there flows out the purifying and fecund wave of salvation, for which one could also say in the final analysis, as the Christ of John does, that "salvation comes from the Jews" (4,22). The estuary of history hoped for by the Church is, therefore, rooted in that spring.
Let us repeat: this is the Christian vision and it is the hope of the Church that prays. This is not a programmatic proposition of theoretical adhesion nor a missionary strategy of conversion. It is the characteristic attitude of the praying invocation according to which one hopes also for people considered to be close, dear, significant, a reality that is held to be precious and saving. Julien Green, an important exponent of French culture if the 20th century, wrote that "it is always beautiful and legitimate to wish for another than which is a good or a joy for yourself: if you are thinking about offering a true gift, do not draw back your hand." Certainly, this must always happen in respect for the freedom and the different paths the other adopts. But it is an expression of affection to wish also to your brother that which you consider to be a horizon of light and of life. [The most compelling bit in the piece, IMO.]
From this point of view also the Oremus in question, recognizing its limitations of use and its specificity, can and must confirm our bond and dialogue with "that people with whom God deigned bind up the Old Covenant", nourishing us "from the root of that well-cultivated olive tree onto which have been grafted the wild shoots, the Gentiles (Nostra aetate 4). And as the Church prays on the next Good Friday according the liturgy of the Missal of Paul VI, the common and final hope is that "the firstborn people of the covenant with God can reach the fullness of redemption".
A couple point as an afterward.
First, Ravasi can really turn a phrase. Take note of his imagery of water, the destination of a harbor. This is a classical topos.
Second, Ravasi is saying that the fact that the Church prays for Jews on Good Friday does not mean there by (that is, because of that prayer in that specific context) that the Church is saying that we must have a prgroam of converting Jews. I add that it may in fact be our Christian duty out of love to help people to fuller understanding of truth and make their salvation easier if possible, but Ravasi’s point is that this prayer doesn’t lay down any program.
Third, I think Ravasi’s piece begs us to ask whether or not the same argument Ravasi presents in defense of the newest Good Friday prayer couldn’t also be applied to the older Good Friday prayer. I don’t know. I haven’t tried that yet. I suspect that the new prayer really says something different from what the older prayer says. But does the older prayer also say what Ravasi thinks the newer prayer says?
Finally, Ravasi’s argument about extending in love to others what you truly treasure is really the important point Jews ought to take away from Benedict’s decision. Read this last point in relation to what Neusner said.