WDTPRS REVISITED: The “new” Good Friday prayer for Jews inserted into the 1962MR

Later today, I will participate in the Good Friday service in the Extraordinary Form.  Thank you, Holy Father for Summorum Pontificum.

During the Good Friday service, there are many intercessory prayers.  One of them is for the Jews.  Over the decades, the Good Friday prayer for the Jews has stirred controversy in diverse quarters. Benedict XVI changed the text of the 1962 Missale Romanum permitted for use according to Summorum Pontificum.  He inserted a new prayer for Jews of his own composition.

Let us revisit the issue and the prayer.  Some time ago, I wrote about this issue here.

Observations.

  1. Most people really don’t care one way or another about this prayer.
  2. It is used once a year.
  3. Missals were changed by Popes all along the way.
  4. Our Church is not a fly in amber.
  5. People should actually read the prayer and think about it before freaking out.

Let’s have a look at the prayer as it appears in the 1962 Missale Romanum and now in its revised form in the 1962 Missale. My translations:

MR62 Latin

MR62 English

Revised ‘62 Latin

Revised ‘62 English

Oremus et pro Iudaeis: ut Deus et Dominus noster auferat velamen de cordibus eorum; ut et ipsi agnoscant Iesum Christum Dominum nostrum. …

Let us also pray for the Jews: that our Lord and God take away the veil from their hearts; that they too may acknowledge Jesus Christ to be our Lord.

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

Let us also pray for the Jews: that our God and Lord may illuminate their hearts, that they acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Savior of all men.

Omnipotens sempiternae Deus, qui Iudaeos etiam a tua misericordia non repellis: exaudi preces nostras, quas pro illius populi obcaecatione deferimus; ut agnita veritatis tuae luce, quae Christus est, a suis tenebris eruantur. Per eundem Dominum.

Almighty eternal God, who also does not repell the Jews from Your mercy: graciously hear the prayers which we are conveying on behalf of the blindness of that people; so that once the light of Your Truth has been recognized, which is Christ, they may be rescued from their darkness.

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.

Almighty and eternal God, who want that all men be saved and come to the recognition of the truth, propitiously grant that even as the fullness of the peoples enters Your Church, all Israel may be saved. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

In first prayer of the couplet, the older version prayed that the darkness, in the image of a veil, be taken from the hearts of the Jews, presumably to let in the light of Christ, light being a metaphor for the Truth, who also is Christ. In first prayer of the newer version, we pray that God may illuminate, that is shed light, which is a metaphor for the Truth (who is Christ) in the hearts of the Jews.

Okay… it is a little less poetic in the new version. I like the poetry of the previous version and mourn its loss. I found nothing, zero, offensive to Jews in that older version. After, we Christians pray in terms our our own darkness. Still… the first prayers of both the older version and the newer version say the same thing.

The second prayer of the couplet, in the older version begins with a statement that God does not reject the Jews from His mercy. An obvious point. However, the Latin could be read to say in English: “O God, who does not reject even the Jews from Your mercy”. In English this could be made to sound rather like the Jews must be pretty bad indeed and that it would be reasonable for a less merciful God to not be merciful. However, Latin, not English, is the language of Mass and this phrase need not have that negative connotation. It is better to render it “also the Jews” and not just “even the Jews”. In the next part of the prayer we take it on ourselves to pray on behalf of their “darkness”, that is, that they lack the Truth, the light of Christ. That’s fine: we Christians pray for ourselves in those very same terms. We refer to our own dark sins all the time, etc. Then we pray that they will be rescued from darkness, which is a metaphor for error and the possibility of the loss of salvation. No problems there. I think we are pretty much praying for ourselves in those terms to. However, the force of the statement comes as much through the beautiful turn of phrase, the poetry that has an impact on the ear.

The second part of the newer version of the prayer, starts from the larger picture, rather than the smaller group. The older prayer focuses entirely on the Jews. The newer version starts from the fact that all men, whomever they may be, were made to be saved and happy with God in heaven. They are saved through “recognition of the Truth”. Christ is that Truth.

The interesting point here is what is being said in “grant that even as the fullness of the peoples enters Your Church, all Israel may be saved”.

This is a reference to Romans 11:25-26:

For I would not have you ignorant, brethren, of this mystery (lest you should be wise in your own conceits) that blindness (caecitas) in part has happened in Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles (plentitudo gentium) should come in (intraret). And so all Israel should be saved (omnis Israhel salvus fieret), as it is written: There shall come out of Sion, he that shall deliver and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.

Earlier in Romans St. Paul says that the Church is the fulfillment of the Israel. However, here Paul is saying that God is not therefore finished with the Jews. In chapter 11, Paul is exploring how the Gentiles must be very humble in regard to their salvation. However, Paul says that Israel has, in fact, a blindness problem (caecitatas)… and that this blindness of Israel, that is the part of the Israel that did not covert and come into the Church… until the fullness of the Gentiles should come in. So, Paul focuses on the responsibility of the Gentiles, but he is also saying that God is not finished with the unconverted Jews.

So, in the second part of the second prayer in the new, revised couplet: there is a direct scriptural reference to the “blindness… caecitas” of the Jews. This is very common with our Catholic prayers: often they only mention a fragment of a phrase of Scripture, and we must pick up the context.

If the Jews who hear this newer prayer think they have scored a victory over the Church because the Pope was persuaded to change the text, they are very much deluded. The reference to the blindness of the Jews is still there: you just have to take the veil off your Christian Bible and look up the reference. Frankly, I think that if the Jews who were really grousing at the Holy See look at this prayer, they are not going to like what the find. They won’t be happy until the Pope stands at the center balcony of St. Peter’s and says that Jews are right and that Christ irrelevant to salvation.

If any Catholic traditionalists are angry that the Pope changed the prayer, they too should pick up their Bibles and take a look around, thinking first, about what the prayer really says.

The new prayer has retained the substance of the old prayers. As a matter of fact, Pope Benedict has provided a deeper point of reflection. Let us not forget that the earlier versions, going back to the 1570 editio princeps, are not doctrinally wrong. We are free to change our manner of expression. What Pope Benedict has done is shift the style, yes, but also add a layer for our prayer life, rather than take one away.

WDTPRS REVISITED: The “new” Good Friday prayer for Jews inserted into the 1962MR
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31 Responses to WDTPRS REVISITED: The “new” Good Friday prayer for Jews inserted into the 1962MR

  1. moon1234 says:

    Thank you father. To many though, who are reading from the pews, the theology of the revised prayer will be lost on most. The old prayer seems to pay special respect to the Jews and has a clearer understanding for the layman. MOST people know about the temple veil as it is in the GOSPEL account for today. So when we hear about the Veil being lifted from their hearts, the people in the pews have a recent recollection of why a veil has significance.

    Removing that allusion from the prayer now means that those in the pews will need to “look it up” or hope their missal is annotated with an explanation.

    What I like about the EF is that the propers for the day are all tied together and they refer to each other. This makes it easier for a layman to grasp what is being petitioned.

    As to WHY the prayer was changed, I think MOST people would be offened that the prayer was changed because some NON-Catholic had a problem with a CATHOLIC prayer. If you are NOT Catholic, why do you care what our prayers say? If anything the OLDER form of the prayer sparked more interest by the Jews into what Catholocism actually teaches. Maybe that was the intent.

    Catholics should never modify our faith or Liturgy at the request of non-Catholics. Would we change our constitution and eliminate the 1st ammendment because what some people say may offend someone in another country? Of course not. We would simply explain the meaning of the 1st ammendement and then leave it to complaining party to accept/reject or research it.

    I know Pope Benedict may have meant well with this change, but “I” (I am entitiled to an opinion right?) think it was made for the wrong reasons.

  2. tzard says:

    While colloquially, the Jews are thought of as the enteire people of Moses, many tribes of the Kingdom of Isreal (10?) were “lost” or dispersed. The “Jews”, narrowly and probably practically defined are the descendents of those few tribes in the state of Judah.

    So, it seems to me, the new prayer, in mentioning “all men” and “all Israel” is better remembering God’s covenant – making it a broader, but no less proper prayer. It remembers the Jews for who they are – not in isolation.

  3. asophist says:

    None of Fr Z’s translations – or the Latin he cites – contains the phrase “perfidious Jews” (perfidiae Iudae) which I grew up with. Did that phrase go away during or before 1962?

  4. Re: “et Dominus noster auferat velamen de cordibus eorum”
    Wasn’t this now-changed line an allusion to 2 Cor 3.13ff?

    “13 And not as Moses put a veil upon his face, that the children of Israel might not steadfastly look on the face of that which is made void. 14 But their senses were made dull. For, until this present day, the selfsame veil, in the reading of the old testament, remaineth not taken away (because in Christ it is made void). 15 But even until this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart. 16 But when they shall be converted to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away.” (Douay-Rheims)

    The Clementine Vulgate of vv. 15-16 reads, “…sed usque in hodiernum diem, cum legitur Moyses, velamen positum est super cor eorum. Cum autem conversus fuerit ad Dominum, auferetur velamen.”

    I think the substance is the same, true, but we gained one allusion, and, unless I am wrong, lost another. I don’t think it’s worth getting uptight about, and think Benedict was well within his rights to change it and probably wise, prudentially, to change it, but did want to point it out.

    The problem, of course, lies in the divine revelation that is Scripture itself, on which liturgies are based. And there I suppose it’s important to remember that the earliest Christians were Jews, and that Christianity is a fully Jewish phenomenon, and thus the harsh stuff in Scripture that appears anti-Semitic is actually intramural, intra-Jewish polemic. In Walker Percy’s words, it’s important to remember we belong to “that Jewish sect, the Catholic Church.”

  5. Neal says:

    In a recent interview, His Holiness specifically rejected the idea of a Church mission to the Jews. Surely that’s relevant when considering the change in the prayer and the reasons behind it?
    Also, of course Popes have the right to change the liturgy. They don’t have the right to damage it, however. (Whether this is what happened is up for debate.)

  6. APX says:

    From my pretty much ignorant first impression as a layperson, if I were going to get all offended and freak out it would be because I might see it as saying “the Jews are wrong, and Catholics are right.” perhaps that’s why people get offended.

  7. JohnMa says:

    I was a bit surprised to hear the old prayer today instead of the new one.

  8. Maltese says:

    “I think that if the Jews who were really grousing at the Holy See look at this prayer, they are not going to like what the find. They won’t be happy until the Pope stands at the center balcony of St. Peter’s and says that Jews are right and that Christ irrelevant to salvation.”

    LOL! I consider myself an “entrenched” traditionalist, and find no problemo with the new prayer. I wouldn’t care less if the Jews prayed for me in Temple, why the controversy contrariwise? I know of no Temple prayer for our conversion (or retrogradation) to Judaism, but wouldn’t be offended in the least if it occurred!

  9. shin says:

    Changing the liturgy to please the Jews..

  10. Dan says:

    Pope Benedict’s change in the langauge of the prayer is perfectly reasonable – as Fr. Z points out, the SUBSTANCE of the prayer never changed. I actually prefer the newer version because it specifically alludes to St. Paul’s discourse in Romans 11 about the mystery of salvation and how the Jews, as the recipients of God’s original covenant, fit into God’s plan in the new testament.

    That brings me to another question- does St. Paul mean to say that the body of unconverted Jews will only come to the faith after ALL the gentiles have come into the Church? Given the state of things today, that sounds pretty far off…considering that most gentiles who once had the faith are now abandoning it! (Unless this New Evangalization really kicks off…we can only hope so)

    Or, does St. Paul mean that the Jews will come into the Church once all the Gentiles have had the opportunity/exposure necessary to acknowledge Christ as the Truth? That would seem more in line with what can be reasonably expected, but then again I should be wary of imposing my own expectations on God’s will. As St. Paul says a few lines later, “how incomprehensivle are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!”

    Overall, I think a proper understanding of praying for the conversion of the Jews has to be rooted in Romans 11:30-32. There, St. Paul tells us that that just as Gentiles were humbled by thier earlier disbelief so that they could be raised up to God through Christ, the Jews are also being humbled by their present disbelief so that they too may be raised up.

    In other words, Israel’s rejection of Christ has led that once privileged people to “fall from grace” so that they too (like the Gentiles who “fell from grace” and into error long before them), can be “lifted up” by God’s mercy. This is a very beautiful teaching, and it shows that the inverse relationship between the Jews and the Gentiles is about the superiority of one over the other, but about a loving Father humbling his children in turn so that both would seek His mercy and return to Him.

    In a very real way, we all experience this through personal sin- our own personal “falls” from grace often help us to trust more confidently in God’s mercy and to strive all the more to return to Him in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This is the spirit that God worked in the first Gentile converts in Paul’s time, and, based on Romans, it would seem that this is how he is working in the hearts of the Jewish people today. So, when we pray for the conversion of the Jews, we aren’t praying for the “others” who aren’t as good as us Christians…we’re praying that this now-humbled people will return to God in the same way that our own fall inspired us to seek his mercy.

    For me, that is what the prayer really says…but I’m open to what others have to say about the subject!

  11. Dan says:

    sorry…that line in the fifth paragraph above should read “…is NOT about the superiority of one over the other…”

  12. Ezra says:

    We had the old prayer – the pre-1955 form, with perfidis Judaeis and no genuflection – at our Good Friday liturgy. In fact, from what reading I’ve done since getting back, it would seem that both yesterday and today’s liturgies were done entirely according to the pre-1955 forms. I won’t say who or where for fear of getting him into trouble, but the celebrant is a diocesan priest in good standing and the liturgies have been advertised as the Holy Week EF provision for the diocese.

  13. JayneK says:

    I was at a diocesan EF celebration and expected to hear the new version. My priest, however, used the 1962 form of this prayer. While I prefer the older one, I am not especially bothered by the new one. I also attended an OF celebration today and found the prayer for the Jews in that disturbingly difficult to reconcile with the traditional teaching of the Church:

    Let us pray for the Jewish people, the first to hear the Word of God, that they may continue to grow in the love of His name and in faithfulness to His covenant.
    Almighty and Eternal God, long ago you gave your promise to Abraham and his posterity. Listen to your Church as we pray that the people you first made your own may arrive at the fullness of redemption. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

    It does not seem at all clear from this that Jesus is involved in the salvation of the Jews. Perhaps it is better in the Latin.

  14. Jason Keener says:

    JayneK,

    I find the Ordinary Form Prayer for the Jews to be very problematic, too. Is the prayer actually expressing hope that the Jews might grow in faithfulness to the OLD Covenant? If so, how can the Ordinary Form Prayer be reconciled with this from Pope Pius XII’s “Mystici Corporis”:

    “29. And first of all, by the death of our Redeemer, the New Testament took the place of the Old Law which had been abolished; then the Law of Christ together with its mysteries, enactments, institutions, and sacred rites was ratified for the whole world in the blood of Jesus Christ. For, while our Divine Savior was preaching in a restricted area – He was not sent but to the sheep that were lost of the House of Israel [30] – the Law and the Gospel were together in force; [31] but on the gibbet of His death Jesus made void the Law with its decrees [32] fastened the handwriting of the Old Testament to the Cross, [33] establishing the New Testament in His blood shed for the whole human race.[34] “To such an extent, then,” says St. Leo the Great, speaking of the Cross of our Lord, “was there effected a transfer from the Law to the Gospel, from the Synagogue to the Church, from the many sacrifices to one Victim, that, as Our Lord expired, that mystical veil which shut off the innermost part of the temple and its sacred secret was rent violently from top to bottom.” [35]

  15. cameloligist says:

    None of Fr Z’s translations – or the Latin he cites – contains the phrase “perfidious Jews” (perfidiae Iudae) which I grew up with. Did that phrase go away during or before 1962?

    I think Pope John XXIII removed it in 1960. I could be wrong though.

  16. Ezra says:

    I also attended an OF celebration today and found the prayer for the Jews in that disturbingly difficult to reconcile with the traditional teaching of the Church

    I think it’s clear that the authors of the new prayer must have been trying to imply conversion without saying as much. For the Jews to “grow in the love of His name and in faithfulness to His covenant” and to “arrive at the fullness of redemption” would require their conversion to Christ, in Whose name the prayer is offered.

  17. JayneK says:

    Ezra,
    I think it’s clear that the authors of the new prayer must have been trying to imply conversion without saying as much.

    It may be a possible interpretation, but I think you are overstating to claim that it is clear.

  18. Dan says:

    In the Ordinary Form Liturgy of the Hours, we prayed in Evening Prayer today:

    Lead the Jewish People to the fullness of redemption.
    -By the merits of your Son’s death, hear us, Lord.

    So it would seem that the office is a bit clearer than the OF Missal on the subject, but since both are part of the same liturgy, I think we can imply that the prayer in the Missal, as toned down as it is, is not asking for the Jewish people to grow in faith to the old covenant.

  19. PostCatholic says:

    cameloligist, only wrong about the date. John XXIII struck the “perfidious jews” prayer by calling for a pen during the first Good Friday of his papacy, which I think would make it 1959.

  20. Mike Morrow says:

    There’s a very comprehensive (save for Latin citations) discussion of the history of this prayer in modern times at:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_Friday_Prayer_for_the_Jews

    I was attending the local Catholic school when the major change came in 1959, but I only remember the prayer as it existed after 1959. I am comfortable with the changes made by John XXIII. I’m not entirely sold on the changes made by Benedict XVI. I wouldn’t go to war on either issue.

  21. kallman says:

    The old prayer is beautiful and entirely charitable. Political correctness has gone too far.

  22. canon1753 says:

    Does anyone have next year’s OF translation of this prayer? I would be curious how the new translation tackles the Good Friday Prayers.

  23. canon1753 says:

    I think this is the prayer for next year :

    Let us pray also for the Jewish people
    to whom the Lord our God spoke first,
    that he may grant them to advance in love of his name
    and in faithfulness to his covenant

    Almighty ever-living God
    who bestowed your promises on Abraham and his descendents,
    hear graciously the prayers of your Church,
    the the people you first made your own
    may attain the fullness of redemption.
    Through Christ our Lord.

    No guarantee that this is 100% accurate, I did find it on the net and it seems credible

  24. pgoings says:

    In the E.F. we still have S. Augustine at Matins of Good Friday:

    “Let not the Jews say, we have not killed Christ.”

    So there has not been a comprehensive effort made to purge the liturgy of texts which some might find offensive.

    It is certainly within the competence of the Supreme Roman Pontiff to alter the Roman liturgy, but it is not inappropriate, in my opinion, to ask why this was done, either in 2008, or in 1960, or in 1955.

    With respect to the 2008 prayer, there is also the issue of the manner in which it was promulgated. There was a notification from the Secretariat of State that appeared in O.R., but nothing from the C.D.W.D.S. I do not know whether it ever appeared the in A.A.S., but the form in O.R. had no music, and the incorrect conclusion.

  25. Steve K. says:

    The old prayer is beautiful and entirely charitable. Political correctness has gone too far.

    Yes, this. Why must the Jews continue to kick the goad, two millennia later? There is nothing salvific in Judaism and altering the language merely hides that critical fact. The people who want it changed, will only be satisfied if the Catholic Church renounced Christ, I don’t see why the Vatican bothers. If anything, we should pray this harder and with more emphasis on the fact the Jews must convert and embrace the Messiah.

  26. Athelstan says:

    I think it is difficult to say that the new translation does not preserve the same theological thrust as the old. It does so in a less…pejorative fashion, which is what might raise the hackles of some traditionalists – either because they believe it was done purely under Jewish pressure, or because they really prefer the pejorative language out of anti-Jewish prejudice.

    The prayer in the OF, on the other hand, really is inadequate, and abandons any sense that Christ is in any way necessary for salvation of the Jews. No matter which translation (or Latin) you use.

  27. Ezra says:

    Though obsessing over the content of the Talmud is usually a sign one is headed for outright crankery, I do find it astonishing that the Jewish religious authorities who presume to tell the Church what she may and may not pray do not feel inclined to alter or remove the various anti-Christ blasphemies contained in that work.

  28. JayneK says:

    Canon1753, thanks for the soon-to-be OF words. Even without ICEL’s magic touch, there does not seem to be any explicit statement that Christ is necessary for salvation of the Jews. There is merely room to imagine that it is implied. As Athelstan says, that seems inadequate.

    This issue hits very close to home for me. I am a convert from Judaism who became Catholic over 30 years ago.

  29. MikeM says:

    I don’t know why people were offended by the old prayer, unless by the assertion that we all (even the Jews) need Christ as Savior. I’m not sure why the new version would be less offensive to anyone.

    Even so, the prayer was frequently thrown up as a complaint about the Church and was also used by some Catholics as a way to beat back the Extraordinary Form. While I don’t think it makes any substantive difference to fair and thoughtful people, perhaps making a change can satisfy those who think in headlines. We have to recognize that we live in a world where soundbite perceptions play a big role in things… perhaps this was one of those rare occasions where playing along with that world can work to our advantage.

  30. James Joseph says:

    Let us pray for the Perfidous Catholics.

  31. rinkevichjm says:

    At least the pope new prayer is better than the rather lame answer he gave on why we suffer (basically admitting he didn’t know why) to a child’s question. The better answer I heard from a nun who knows suffering:
    Suffering is given “so we can become greater saints” —Mother Angelica on her show Mother Angelica Live.