12 December 2015

Nostra Aetate (3): the post-Conciliar liturgical Magisterium

Lex orandi lex credendi. I have been examining the Two Covenant Dogma: the fashionable error that God's First Covenant, with the Jews, is still fully and salvifically valid, so that the call to saving faith in Christ Jesus is not made to them. The 'New' Covenant, it is claimed, is now only for Gentiles. I want to draw attention at this point to the witness of the post-Conciliar Magisterium of the Church; particularly that of the Liturgia Horarum. Critics who prefer the post-Conciliar Magisterium to that which preceded; who posit a rupture between the two; who hold in high regard the post-Conciliar liturgical dispositions; will be bowled over by this evidence!

The revisers, you remember, introduced a completely new set of lections to the post-Conciliar Office Book. I suggest that it would be instructive, as you read the LH daily, to make notes every time you catch the patristic lection saying or implying that the Jewish dispensation is superseded. If you had begun to do this last January, you would have made a marginal note against a phrase in the Homily (3) of S Leo which you read on Epiphany Day: "... benedictionem ... qua se filii carnis abdicant ..." [the Blessing of Abraham from which his children by the flesh are excluding themselves]. This is not some set-piece attack upon the Synagogue; S Leo speaks like this quite naturally, and does not need to argue the statement, because 'Supersessionism' is the basic assumed theological substructure of the Faith he shared with the other Fathers. "Intret, intret ..." he goes on: "let the fulness of the Gentiles enter into the family of the Patriarchs and let them, the children of promise, receive the Blessing". (Quite possibly it was S Leo who wrote the Supra quae of the Roman Canon in which we claim Abraham as our  Patriarch.)

The following day, S Peter Chrysologus applies to the Jews and Gentiles the Dominical promise that the First will be Last and the Last will be First ... I doubt if he would have approved of a phrase I read somewhere recently that the Jew is the Christian's Elder Brother. A couple of days later, S Proclus of Constantinople says that to both Jews and Gentiles equally God grants salvation through Baptism. Another few days: S Faustus tells us that, "by Christ's working in Galilee, wine is made; that is, the Law recedes, Grace takes its place; the Shadow is removed and Truth is made clear ... the ancient observance is transferred into the New Testament [in novum testamentum observatio vetusta transfertur]".

But perhaps this is peculiar to the Epiphany Season? Plunge with me at random into the middle of the Weeks per annum ... let's take Weeks XVII and XVIII ... immediately we descend upon S Cyril, who is having no nonsense about Two Covenanants. Both Wednesday's and Thursday's readings find him unambiguously referring to the rejection and repudiation of the previous covenant; and asserting the replacement of the old Gathering* of God's people by the new Gathering*. And - goodness gracious - in the next week we find "Barnabas" in the Office of Readings - a writer not known for being what S Paul would have called a Ioudaizon; the second excerpt from him begins "tauta oun katergesen"[therefore he swept all that away].

Easter is going to be a particularly difficult time for those who try to combine the use of the Liturgia Horarum with the Two Covenants dogma as well as with a prohibition on praying for the conversion of Jews. At Evening Prayer on Easter Day (and also on the Third and Fifth Sundays of Eastertide for those who are forgetful), the Preces prescribe "Israel in te Christum spei suae agnoscat". And, to reinforce this message, the Patristic Lection for Easter Monday will be a very typical and typological passage taken from the (highly supersessionist) Homily of S Melito of Sardis (worth, incidentally reading in its entirety). Those with a nose for dishonest hypocrisy may be starting to wonder why such a fuss is made about an element used in the Good Friday Liturgy of a comparatively tiny number of traddy Catholics when every Novus Ordo Latin Rite priest in the whole world who prays the post-Conciliar Office is expected to pray on Easter Sunday (and twice more in Eastertide) that "Israel may acknowledge in Thee [Jesus] the Christ/Messiah for whom it has hoped" ... and not a word is said. Hush!! Don't wake up the bigots!

These lections (and preces) have the greater significance in that they are not accidental hangovers from the old Breviary; they were newly introduced (or composed) by the post-conciliar revisers. What all this clearly demonstrates is: not only did the conciliar decree fail in any way to mandate such a dogmatic revolution as the Two Covenants Dogma would have implied; but also that, as late as 1971, even those in charge of the liturgical revolution, up-to-the-moment trendies who saw themselves as the guardians and exponents of the 'Spirit of the Council', had not the faintest idea that they were supposed to be selecting patristic readings against a background of a Two Covenants Dogma. I add in 2015: the 2015 'Document' admits that "the Conciliar text is not infrequently over-interpreted, and things read into it which it does not contain ... example ... that the covenant that God made with his people Israel perdures and is never invalidated ... it cannot be explicitly read into Nostra aetate". And it goes on to date the first appearance of this idea to 1980. Nobody seems to have worried them [the post-Conciliar liturgical reformers]with the assertion that Nostra aetate made all those patristic readings unacceptable. Nor, thankfully and significantly, have successive revisions of the post-conciliar Office eliminated these passages. (Ouch ... I hope this piece of mine doesn't lead to loads of trendy bigots descending with deleting pencils on the Liturgia Horarum.) Until very recently, the supersession of the Old by the New Covenant/Testament would have seemed so clear and basic a part of the Christian hermeneutic of Scripture, the basic grammatical structure of how as Christians we read the Bible, that my examination of the texts I have just worked so laboriously through with you, would have seemed a time-wasting demonstration of the ******** obvious.

Yet there was the most almighty hooha a few years ago about the EF and its Good Friday prayer for the Jews, even including criticism of Pope Benedict XVI when he supplied a new collect strictly, even slavishly, in line with the words of Romans. And it is not unusual for Christians (both Evangelical and Catholic) who withold consent from the Two Covenants Dogma to be criticised. This is done not only by rabbinic interests naturally and understandably anxious to deter any erosion of their flocks but, perhaps more vehemently, by 'Christian' participants in inter-faith dialogue ... such as members of Councils of Christians and Jews. I wonder how balanced such groups are; in other words, I wonder whether it is only the sort of people who are ardent adherents of the novel dogma that put themselves forward for such groups; whether those who select the membership are careful to exclude Biblical Evangelicals and Patristic Catholics, so as to ensure that our Jewish brethren are protected from the risk that anyone might explain to them what two Christian millennia have taught.

I recall with wonderment the decision of the Anglican diocese of Manchester some years ago to call off the sale of a redundant church to the SSPX because of its adhesion to the traditional Good Friday prayer for the Jews. What other potential purchasers besides the SSPX would have elicited the Bishop of Manchester's  ill-judged and nutty veto? (Does he refuse to sell properties to Moslems?) Presumably that illiberal diocese keeps the Prayer Book Society** firmly under a rigorous diocesan ban; presumably the "MPs, peers, Manchester City Council" who, so the Church of England told us, were all such fierce and expert critics of the SSPX, have their eagle eyes upon the PBS too. I hope so. Otherwise we would have to suspect that the whole business was just a spiteful recrudescence of the basic old ancestral English no-Popery anti-Catholic hysteria ... of plain common and garden bigotry. Nothing has changed ... except that nowadays the English RC Church joins in the persecution.
To be continued.
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**"Have mercy upon all Jews, Turks, Infidels, and Hereticks, and take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of thy word; and so bring them home, blessed Lord, to thy flock, that they may be saved among the remnant of the true Israelites, and be made one fold under one shepherd, Jesus Christ ..." Part of the Prayer Book Good Friday Oratio Sollemnis for the Jews .... and for others ...

*Greek ekklesia.

22 comments:

Fr Paul Spilsbury SSC said...

It is no part of my contention that there are "two Covenants", one for Jews and the other for all the rest. It is clear that no-one, Jew or Gentile, is saved apart from the saving work of Christ, his death and resurrection. The old Covenant is indeed "superseded", in the sense explained by Pope Benedict. But for Jews who do not yet recognise Jesus as Messiah, observance of Torah remains a valid and God-given way of expressing the same faith that (as Hebrews says) was found in Abel, Abraham, etc. etc. In the end, if they are truly faithful to the partial revelation they have received, they will come to an explicit recognition of Christ. Meanwhile, Jews are not on the same level as Muslims or followers of other religions; which is why Catholic-Jewish relations are not placed under the Congregation for inter-religious dialogue, but that for Christian Unity. Jews are family.

Stephen Wigmore said...

Quite so, to the above. There is not a dichotomy between two-covenant theology and the idea that the Judaic covenant has been revoked. Both are clearly wrong.

God's covenant with Abraham and his children is forever. They are the chosen people forever, but that covenant is completed and enriched in Christ Jesus who alone saves men's souls, whether Jew or Gentile. For by the Law none were saved.

Romulus said...

Father, I was present at a talk given some years ago by a senior Austrian prelate (still very much with us) who assured his audience quite explicitly that the Old Covenant is salvific for Jews, who therefore needn't concern themselves with the Christian gospel. It was an "ecumenical" occasion and surely the speaker wished to be a good fellow and avoid giving offense, but still...

Romulus said...

But surely, an Elder Brother is exactly what a Jew is to a Christian, in the sense of Ishmael who was cast out, of Esau who casually sold his right to his father's only blessing (but in the fullness of time was reconciled to his gift-bearing younger brother), of Joseph and David who saved their people, and of the dutiful but angry Older Brother in the parable of the prodigal son, who refuses to enter the house and join the feast. Elder Brothers routinely fare very poorly throughout Scripture, though in our day it's awkward and impolitic to wonder why.

Maiestatis said...

If a new covenant was to be srought between God and man, it seems reasonable to suppose that we would find some trace of it in the various NT traditions of the institution of the Eucharist. Surely what our Lord, who gave so few commands, desired us to know and understand would be apparent there.

To turn to the Synoptics, my trusty RSV informs me our Lord says:

"Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the [new]* covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." (Mt. 26 26b-27)

"And he said to them, "This is my blood of the [new]* covenant, which is poured out for many." (Mk. 14. 24)

"And likewise the cup after supper, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood." (Lk. 22. 20)

The * marks the fact that the RSV notes that in some documents "new" is missing and in some that it is not. We might have here the trace of early Judaising; the man on the Clapham omnibus would probably think that a "new" covenant would mean the end of the old. A notion that this was merely another covenant (so attractive to modern sensibilities) might have tempted those who wanted to bring over their Jewish brethren on easy terms. The Lukan documentary tradition seems more emphatic; this is indeed a new covenant, with all its implications. As far as I know, there are no deletions. This is a NEW covenant, a new peace and reconciliation with God.

The Pauline tradition, probably significantly older than the Synoptic tradition, has the same unequivocal understanding as Luke:

"In the same way also [He took] the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood." (I Cor. 11. 22a)

If we wish to know the early Church's mind, we can do little better than this passage. Its undoubted authorship by Paul and its early origin show the Church's self-understanding of having surpassed "types and shadows". It is also reasonable to presuppose that if the Jewish covenant had continued, then its appointed means would likewise endure. Ten or twenty years after the words above were written, the Temple and the sacrifices disappeared for ever. The means for renewing the old covenant(s) vanished for ever. What was left was the Mass.

The Judaism we know today cannot be said to be that of Biblical times. It not only lacks the sacrifices but it is a Rabbinic reconstruction after the experience of Israel being forsaken and cast into an exile that lasted almost nineteen centuries. It is hard to believe that Jews themselves believed that the old covenant was now allied to the Christian when the Jews prayed against the Church. That has no bearing on our relationship with the Jewish people today, but it does show us their ancient and enduring self-understanding. To say otherwise sounds like the "branch theory" beloved of the nineteenth century.

It is difficult to see why Judaism (in its post-Biblical and rabbinical forms) should be singled out as being an exception from the necessity of conversion to Catholicism. There are undoubtedly good, holy and sanctifying things, not least because of the great Jewish and Hebrew privileges, but there are (fewer) good and sanctifying things in Islam and other religions. I am not sure why Rabbinic Judaism should be particularly privileged.

Those good and holy things will no doubt help lead Jews to faith in the Lord. But surely it cannot exclude the necessity of faith in Christ. It is hard to imagine any age of the Church telling the Jews, "You're OK. We're OK". And I do not intend to start now.

Sue Sims said...

The rejection of supersessionism, as Fr H implies, derives from 'Holocaust guilt' on the one hand* and ecumenism on the other. However, it implicitly ignores and devalues the experience of the many Jews who, like me, converted from Judaism because we realised that the Old Covenant was not, in fact, applicable since our Lord established the New Covenant.

I heartily recommend Roy Schoeman's Salvation is from the Jews for an excellent discussion of the issues.

*The problem with modern gentiles rejecting such guilt is not its correctness - indeed we can't be held responsible for all the sins of our ancestors, especially when they weren't even our ancestors - but the fact that for Jews speaking casually, the word 'goy' (technically a non-Jew) is generally translated 'Christian' rather than 'gentile'. My parents, pretty secular Jews, would talk about Hitler and the Nazis as 'Christians', and when I became a Christian, they reacted as if I'd become a declared Nazi. That's the sort of problem which 'parallel convenant' theology tries to defuse: "Don't worry - you don't have to join the enemy. You can stay Jewish." It's also the motivation for the 'Messianic Jews' movement (as in the evangelical group Jews for Jesus).

Deacon Augustine said...

Stephen, it is important to make proper distinctions when speaking of the "Old Covenant". There are at least six major covenants in the Old Testament, one of which was with Abraham and two with Moses.

You are quite right to say that the covenant with Abraham has not been revoked. This was a unipartite covenant in which God gave unconditional promises to Abraham. God does not take His promises back. This covenant can rightly be said to be both fulfilled in Christ and still extant.

However, the covenant with Moses (normally what is referred to as "the Law") was a bipartite covenant between God and Israel. i.e. God said, "If you do this, I will do that." The Mosaic covenant was thus conditional upon the fidelity of Israel and hence capable of being superceded.

The final infidelity of Israel was testified to by Our Lord Himself
:

"Jn 15,23 He that hateth me, hateth my Father also.
24 If I had not done among them the works that no other man hath done, they would not have sin: but now they have both seen and hated both me and my Father.
25 But that the word may be fulfilled which is written in their law: *They have hated me without cause."

In the writings of St Paul and St John, it is the Mosaic covenant which has been abolished and replaced - not the Abrahamic covenant. However, neither of these covenants were salvific as we would understand the term. As you say, nobody received everlasting life by the works of the Law.

Francis Arabin said...

Whence the Jew's unbelief? From the keeping of the Old Covenant, and the purported negligence of the New. Can unbelief lead to salvation? Assuredly not. Therefore, keeping the Old Covenant cannot be salvific. Et antiquum documentum...

Ichabod, indeed. The Presence dwells no more among Israel, but upon Christian altars. Either God is indeed present on our altars, or the Old Covenant is still valid. We can't have it both ways. For if the law is salvific, Christ died for nothing. A point belaboured by St Paul and St Augustine.

Their law, on its own, is now invalid, yet their presence among us is an anamnesis, a reminder of the mystery of God's grace and election.

Elder Brother? Estranged relative would be better. The Church is now the True Israel, and it is thus that Scripture should be read and understanded by all. Hence, the danger of Christians throwing seder parties with nativity play costumes, lamps, and endives.


Francis Arabin said...

Re: St Leo. In the Solesmes lectionary readings, retaining some of the old ones, I find "et veritas, quam Judaeorum obcaecatio non recipit, omnibus nationibus lumen suum invexit." (Sermo 32, 1.4)

rick allen said...

"...a phrase I read somewhere recently that the Jew is the Christian's Elder Brother."

I think that that was the phrase used by John Paul II in his first visit to the Roman synagogue. Seems to me, though, that it refers to temporal primacy of election, and nothing about the relationship of the old and new covenants.

I am not Spartacus said...

Many Jews reject our description of them as Elder Brothers, and for good reason:

http://www.culturewars.com/2012/ElderBro.htm

Shawn said...

[Jorge Bergoglio, in a document which is non-Magisterial, wrote "their covenant with God has never been revoked" (EG247).]

I am unaware of a single instance where an Apostolic Exhortation issued by the pope is considered "non-magisterial."

Stephen Wigmore said...

The Old covenant is not salvific because it never was, as the Letters of Paul clearly state. Christ clearly stated that he did not come to abolish the Law. The Jewish covenant continues and is as effective as it ever was. The Apostles themselves continued to worship in the temple. Christ's life, death sacrifice and resurrection are only understandable within the framework of the Abrahamic & Mosaic covenant, and the mission of the Prophets. God does not change his mind or go back on his word but builds consistently with his foundations. Historic anti-semitism motivated the idea that the Jews or the Jewish covenant were rejected by God. We should have no part of it.

Nicolas Bellord said...

And is not Islam referred to as an Abrahamic religion? Can we expect a document from Rome explaining that Muslims who follow the Koran are also saved so no need to convert them? It would save an awful lot of bother.

K. M. Young said...

Bless, Father!

As troubling as this is, wasn't it Benedict XVI who publicly agreed to stop evangelizing during his trip to Jerusalem, and who disavowed "missional" activity directed towards Jews in his Jesus of Nazareth books?

Jacobi said...

I shall do this from memory since my old 1954 R Kn books are somewhere in the basement. But the New Testament of the Risen Christ contains and is the Completion of the Old Testament. All are required to believe that as were the Apostles.

Those who didn't/don't are in heresy, and that include Jews, and lots of others.

Again we must distinguish between Objective and Formal, but that is another discussion.

Stephen said...

Part of the consternation is that the west has much more that one must believe than is made known in common prayer. Indeed, the gap has grown so wide between "what is prayed" and "what must be believed" - specifically that the majority of what one must believe is NOT to be found anywhere in what is prayed - that a Magisterium and Catechism must be formalized and endowed with the power to reveal what must be believed, because the hoi polloi will not have access to it in common prayer.

And, once the gap has grown so great that the hoi polloi laity will no longer have ownership of what is to be believed and lose the sensus fidelium, they will accept whatever the Magisterium declares.

Which is what has happened over the last 100 years, and doesn't appear to be changing. To which the only response to all these noxious nostrums ANAXIOS!!

Cherub said...

While waiting for my precious post to be posted and responded to, I further ask Father Hunwicke to respond to my question taking into account the Letter to the Hebrews chapters 8, 9, and 10.

Mary Phifer said...

Don't know how these two covenant fellows expect to get around the rather specific words of Our Lord in the 8th chapter of John on the Jews and the Covenant of Abraham...unless it be to abolish his words totally. W

Nicolas Bellord said...

Stephen: I don't know about you but I pray the Creed at every Sunday mass.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Father: You mentioned that at the Press Conference on the release of this document that Christopher Lamb of the Tablet asked a question. More interestingly I thought was the presence of Edward Kessler on the panel as he was presumably part of the team that produced this report on relations with the Jews and the recommendation that we should not try to convert them. Kessler is the founder and director of the Woolf Institute which produced the CORAB report, chaired by Baroness Butler-Sloss, which essentially seems to recommend the removal of Christianity from any privileged position in this country public in favour of a mish-mash of different traditions. Their website tells us:

"The Woolf Institute is a global leader in the academic study of relations between Jews, Christians and Muslims. Established in Cambridge (UK) in 1998, with close links to the city's famous University, the Institute is recognized around the world for the excellence of its research, teaching, policy and public education programmes. The aim of our work is to connect the multidisciplinary study of relations with broader practical and theoretical questions, including the importance of trust in everyday life, the role of religion in international diplomacy, and improving end of life care in local hospices"

As to the CORAB report one of the major contributors was that of Christopher Lamb's boss Catherine Pepinster, Editor of the Tablet. Apart from making a reference to anti-Semitic prayers her contribution is quite good in pointing out the utter ignorance displayed by the media when it comes to religious matters. However she does not mention the rank bias that is usually shown when it comes to matters like abortion, euthanasia and homosexuality which are unashamedly promoted by the BBC in particular. Nor does she mention the lack of any programmes discussing religion in depth with orthodox members of the faith.

The CORAB report itself in its chapter on the media is pretty waffly. Their line seems to be a hopelessly liberal one that all religions can live with each other provided points of difference are glossed over. In particular it seems to subscribe to the idea that Islam is a religion of peace – an idea that arises if you think that anyone who points to a religious text is really not with it or at worse a fundamentalist.

The Vatican is right in wanting to dialogue with other religions but dialogue is different from buying into the ideas of something like the Woolf Institute with their syncretic ideas. I get the feeling that many in the clergy lack faith and are only too prone to lap up the views of outside experts uncritically – whether it be sociology or climate change. You only have to look at the proceedings of the Shadow Synod last May to see this happening.

Stephen said...

Nicholas: Indeed you do - albeit with a slight alteration that is not as old as the rest, and nowhere near as universally believed in time nor space as the rest. Justifying that change was the first exercise in the raw power by which the Magisterium can and does go down paths such as the conversation highlighted by our blog's erudite host, and increases the gap between what is prayed and what is to be believed - a very insidious gap indeed.