Saturday, March 12, 2016

The other Prayers for the Jews

'But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil 
remains when the old covenant is read.
It has not been removed, because only in Christ

 is it taken away.' 2 Cor 3:14

Over on Rorate Caeli I am today publishing a Position Paper on the Prayer for the Jews said during the Good Friday Liturgy in the Extraordinary Form. Go over there to read it.

Here I am going to add some additional commentary, in a hope a digestible form. The first thing I want to tackle is the other Prayers for the Jews: the ones the English bishops don't want to change, at least not at the moment, or at least aren't petitioning Rome about.

So here's a little competition. Which of the following prayers is a serious threat to peaceful and productive dialogue between Catholics and Jews?

A. Let Israel recognise in you the Messiah it has longed for; fill all men with the knowledge of your glory.

B. Let us pray also for the Jews: that our God and Lord may be pleased to shine the light of his face over them; that they too may acknowledge Jesus Christ our Lord as the Redeemer of all.

C. Let us pray also for the Jews: that Almighty God may remove the veil from their hearts so that they too may acknowledge Jesus Christ our Lord.

D. Christ, Son of David, fulfilment of the prophecies, may the Jewish people accept you as their awaited Deliverer [Messiah].

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

The answer, according to the English Bishops, is E. C is the version found in the 1962 Missal. If it were in use, no dount the Bishops would object even more strongly to that.

But what of B? This was composed by Annibale Bugnini and his collaborators, and promulgated in March 1965. Nostra aetate was promulgated by Pope Paul VI that October, but it had been debated and approved by the Second Vatican Council in the course of 1964. The debate would have been ringing in Archbishop Bugnini's ears, and that is presumably precisely why he wanted to substitute a new Prayer for the Jews. The old one, in a phrase used in the 1940s and 1950s on the subject, 'sounds bad'. So out goes the reference to the 'veil' over their hearts, for all its Pauline origin (the image is used in 2 Cor 3:15). Does Bugnini also remove the reference to the Jews being converted? No.

And nor does his team have any qualms about having prayers for the conversion of the Jews again and again in the Liturgy of the Hours. For that is where A and D come from, and they are used, not just annually, but over and over again. (Full details in Appendix B of the Position Paper.)

In that case why, you may ask, is the Prayer for the Jews in the Novus Ordo Good Friday Liturgy so vague? The most this says is that the Jewish people 'may continue to grow in the love of his [sc. God's] name and in faithfulness to his covenant.' and 'may arrive at the fullness of redemption.'

First off, it should be noted that this prayer is not quite as vague as all that. Asking that the Jews arrive at the 'fullness of redemption' (a perfectly literal translation of the Latin, if you were wondering), implies that they do not have the 'fullness of redemption' at the moment. It is obvious that redemption, properly speaking, is like pregnancy: either you have it, or you don't. The non-full redemption currently enjoyed by the Jews must refer to the promise of redemption, which is not, for them, yet fulfilled. That is the only possible meaning the idea of 'fulfilling redemption' could have.

Admittedly the wording is extraordinarily convoluted, in a way which seems designed to cause confusion, which is exactly what it has done. Why did Bugnini and co. do this to the 1970 Missal and not to the Liturgy of the Hours in 1971? 

The answer can be found by looking at the other petitions of the series in the Good Friday Liturgy. These 'Orationes sollemnes' are, in the Old Mass, really fantastic prayers. They go back to the third century, when they were said throughout the year. Their preservation in the Good Friday service gives us a glimpse of the atmosphere of the early centuries. And they are wonderfully robust.

The Prayer for the Unity of the Church (for heretics and schismatics), which immediately precedes the Prayer for the Jews, calls on God to 

'look upon the souls deceived by diabolical fraud, that abandoning all heretical depravity, the hearts of the erring may regain sanity and return to the unity of truth.'

The Prayer for the Conversion of Pagans, which immediately follows the Prayer for the Jews, calls upon God to ‘remove iniquity from their hearts’ and ‘deliver them from the worship of idols’.

It is clear from these prayers that it is the objective state of those referred to which is addressed, and not their subjective blameworthiness for being in that state. Nevertheless, they are hard-hitting. Clearly the Catholics of the heroic age of the Church knew that they had the True Faith, and others did not. 

What happened to these in the Novus Ordo? Well, they are, ahem, phrased rather more diplmatically. Of heretics and schismatics (the 'Unity of the Church' has become 'the Unity of Christians') we ask God to 'keep us one in the fellowship of love'. For pagans ('Those who do not believe in Christ') we ask that they may 'grasp more fully the mystery of your [God's] godhead, and to become more perfect witnesses of your love'.

In the context of these prayers, the Prayer for the Jews in the 1970 Missal seems rather emphatic. There certainly isn't any suggestion that the Jews have their own, unique, path to salvation, which does not involved Christ, any more than pagans do. The reason Bugnini left in a more explicit reference to conversion in 1965, and then took it out in 1970, was not a change of theology, but the application of a consistent policy covering the whole series of prayers, which was, for the first time, being re-written from top to bottom. The new prayers were to be totally anondyne.

In short, there is no justification in the 1970 Missal, any more than in the 1971 Liturgy of the Hours, for the view that the Jews have a separate path of salvation: the 'Dual Covenant' view condemned in a series of recent official documents. This fantasy theology was dreamt up since then. 

Not for the first time, here I am defending the orthodoxy of the Novus Ordo. What surprises me this time is that those impugning it, at least by implication, are not the usual foam-flecked letter-writers to The Tablet, but our revered Bishops of England and Wales. I can only say: they have not been well advised.

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  1. Surely the irony of all this is that at the time of the recent paper from Cardinal Koch on relationships with the Jews it was made clear by Koch's dicastery that the version introduced by Pope Benedict was perfectly okay in that it called for the salvation of the Jews rather than their conversion.

    Poor old CBCEW just got it wrong trying to hang onto the coattails of their German colleagues. Not very bright?

  2. What are the documents that condemn the dual covenant view?