24 November 2019

Anti-semitism in the Middle Ages and the twentieth century

During the Middle Ages, there were undoubtedly atrocities committed against Jewish people ... just as there were rather greater ones during the Century of the Triumph of the Enlightenment, between 1939 and 1945. But medieval intellectuals were usually aware of a healthier narrative than that of the anti-semitic bullies. This was because of their instinctive confidence in Holy Scripture. I reprint, with a couple of comments, an earlier piece of mine relating to this.

Most Sundays' Sarum/PrayerBook lections are basically the same as those in the Missal of S Pius V, although with dislocations which put Epistles and Gospels onto different Sundays.

But sometimes, there is a real difference from the Pian lectionary. This happens on the Sunday Next Before Advent, when Sarum (followed by the Prayer Book) and many other Northern European uses has a quite different provision. In these uses we find an Epistle (well, actually, a Lesson from Jeremiah) and a Gospel (from S John) which both moved around a bit in the Middle Ages but pretty well always came just before or just at the start of Advent, as a taster and a preliminary for that season. Their loss is an impoverishment in the Missal of S Pius V and, a fortiori, in the Novus Ordo.

I will explain the importance of these readings in the words of Abbot Rupert of Deutz (1075- 1129) - a considerable mystagogue. I believe that we can learn from his words about what Scripture and the Tradition teach concerning the redemption of our Jewish brethren, in greater detail than we can learn it from the fumbling (but not unorthodox) Nostra aetate or silly (non-Magisterial) documents from Rome.

"Holy Church is so intent on paying her debt of supplication, and prayer, and thanksgiving, for all men, as the Apostle demands, that we find her giving thanks also for the salvation of the children of Israel, who, she knows, are one day to be united with her. And, as their remnants are to be saved at the end of the world, so, on this last Sunday of the Year, she delights at having them, just as though they were already her members! In the Introit, calling to mind the prophecies concerning them, she sings each year: I think thoughts of peace and not of affliction. Verily, his thoughts are those of peace, for he promises to admit to the banquet of his grace, the Jews, who are his brethren according to the flesh; thus realising what had been prefigured in the history of the patriarch Joseph. The brethren of Joseph, having sold him, came to him, when they were tormented by hunger; for then he ruled over the whole land of Egypt; he recognised them, he received them, and made, together with them, a great feast; so too, our Lord who is reigning over the whole earth, and is giving the bread of life, in abundance, to the Egyptians, (that is, to the gentiles), will see coming to him the remnants of the children of Israel. He, whom they had denied and put to death, will admit them to his favour, will give them a place at his table, and the true Joseph will feast delightedly with his brethren.

"The benefit of this divine table is signified, in the office of this Sunday, by the Gospel, which tells us of the Lord's feeding the multitude with five loaves. For it will be then that Jesus will open to the Jews the five books of Moses, which are now being carried whole and not yet broken - yea, carried by a child, that is to say, this people itself, who, up to that time, will have been cramped up in the narrowness of a childish spirit.

"Then will be fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremias, which is so aptly placed before this gospel: They shall no more say, The Lord liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt, but, The Lord liveth, which brought up, and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north-country, and from all countries whither I have driven them.

"Thus delivered from the spiritual bondage which still holds them, they will sing with their heart, the words of thanksgiving as we have them in the Gradual: It is thou, O Lord, that savest us from our enemies!

"The words we use in the Offertory: Out of the deep have I called unto thee, O Lord, clearly allude to the same events; for, on that day, his brethren will say to the great and true Joseph: We beseech thee to forget the wickedness of thy brethren! The Communion: Verily I say unto you, what things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and it shall be done unto you, is the answer made by that same Joseph, as it was by the first: Fear not! Ye thought evil against me: but God turned it into good, that he might exalt me, as at present ye see, and might save many people. Fear not, therefore, I will feed you, and your children.
" (The Reading is Jeremiah 23:5 ff; the Gospel, John 6: 5 ff, is the Feeding of the Five Thousand. My translations of the propers are taken from the Book of Common Prayer and the good old English Missal.)

This is a superb exposition, in the biblical and patristic 'typological' idiom, of an important theme in Pauline eschatology - see Romans 9-11. The crucial passage, Romans 11:25-28, is omitted from the new Sunday lectionaries. There is significance, I suspect, in the fact that modern lectionaries delicately step around this theme: the Eschatological Submission of the Jews to the Call of Christ. 

Sometimes I feel that, despite the call for a "richer table of Scripture" in Sacrosanctum concilium, the Scriptures read to the People of God have in some respects, paradoxically, been made conceptually narrower in the post-conciliar books. I commend (yet again) to the reader the fine Index Lectionum by Matthew Hazell ... a must-have for anybody seriously concerned with Liturgy. ISBN 978-1-5302-3072-3 (paperback).

7 comments:

Woody said...

Most recently I noted that in yesterday's first reading for the new Mass, Rev. 14:14-19, verse 20, describing the flow of blood from the Lord's wine press, is omitted. It seems to me that such an omission robs the whole passage of much of its force as a warning of the terrible things that await the wicked at the end. Too harsh for modern sensibilities, perhaps? But I must confess that the ex-Protestant in me is very disturbed by the attempt of men to attenuate God's word.

Jesse said...

Many of us schismatic heretics who are nevertheless affectionately supportive of the Ordinariates would feel even more sympathetic and supportive if the Prayer Book Eucharistic lectionary were restored.

I come to appreciate more and more the integrity and value of the medieval lectionary, particularly in how it systematically communicates the essentials of the faith in an annual cycle. It is not a source of images for homiletic reflection, but a means for the Church to remember who and what she is. (Some interesting introductory studies: http://www.lectionarycentral.com/writings.html)

This was brought home to me by the following passage from Cesare Alzati's Ambrosianum Mysterium: The Church of Milan and its Liturgical Tradition, trans. George Guiver, 2 vols., Joint Liturgical Studies 44, 47–8 (Grove Books, 1999) I, 47–49:

In reality the tradition of a church, and of the Milanese in particular, seems in the late antique and early medieval centuries to be tied not so much to individual texts of prayers (in those times anyway still at the stage of evolution) as to ecclesial catechesis. This came into its own in the rites of initiation and was connected to a precise system of readings which characterized not only initiation but all the most important solemnities and feasts of the year.

The liturgical systematization of the biblical pericopes has a special importance for the unique identity of the Milanese church, something quite clear in the period of the Lombards, as the prose poem in praise of the city and its church attests, above all mentioning the rich ordering of the lessons, solidly structured (pollens ordo lectionum). So-called Landulfus could be echoing this text in the eleventh-twelfth century, pointing in his apologia for the Milanese church to this expression in the lectionary of the "Ambrosianum Mysterium", on which -- he says -- Gregory the Great himself had drawn in editing the liturgical books of the church of Rome.

Already in Ambrose's sermons and more generally in his writings it has been possible to sift out the elements of an annual cycle of celebrations. . . . In the following period this ancient nucleus not only became a settled system, but round about it -- and in a way modelled on it -- the entire yearly cycle was reaching definition. . . .

[There follows a summary of evidence for the pre-ninth-century development of calendar and lectionary.]

The readings for feasts and the periods making up the annual cycle . . . were, then, already established and fixed in Ambrosian usage in the pre-Carolingian period: in the first part of the eighth century we can confidently speak of pollens ordo lectionum. Here we have an organic lection system which in various of its elements, passed on in subsequent ages, shows a precious continuity with practice as known in the time of Ambrose, and is in significant agreement with other ecclesiastical areas of the Latin west.

I try to impress on my students that one can also speak, in a way, of a Mysterium Anglicanum, viz., the medieval northern European liturgical tradition "Englished" and transformed at the Reformation, but coming to first maturity in the seventeenth century. If "Anglican Patrimony" is to mean anything at all, it would seem that the classic lectionary will be part of it. This might also include the 1561 cycle of Old Testament lessons at Mattins and Evensong, so ably explained and defended by John Keble, and which inspired, like the Prayer Book Eucharistic lections, so much of his The Christian Year.

Athelstane said...

"Many of us schismatic heretics who are nevertheless affectionately supportive of the Ordinariates would feel even more sympathetic and supportive if the Prayer Book Eucharistic lectionary were restored."

Well, why not Sarum?

That, at least, was an unquestionably *Catholic* lectionary.

That said, in truth - like Fr. Hunwicke - I am surprised we got as much tradition in the Ordinariate liturgy as we wound up with. It could have been better. But on all odds, it should have been worse.

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

Dear Father Luke 21:24-27 teaches no mass end times conversion of the Jews and so it is difficult to understand how such a thing can be expected as one can not be saved unless he accepts Jesus Christ as His Saviour.

How is Saint Luke to be reconciled with the putative teaching of Saint Matthew?

As for the idea of all Israel being saved, they are being saved and will be saved individually but not all those descended from Abraham in the flesh are considered part of Israel.

The claim makes no sense for over two thousand years to pass with no mass conversions if it is to happen at all for all of those Jews who were Messias-Deniers have chosen Hell instead of The Messias and they were not part of a Mass conversion. How is it they were more culpable than those who will be the object of a late mass conversion who are also Messias-Deniers? Sorry, this appears to make our God seem akin to the putative God of Calvin.

Romans 9:6-8 For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his descendants; but “Through Isaac shall your descendants be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are reckoned as descendants.

ABS knows the argument Israel will be saved en masse is in the trilogy of Bishop Emeritus Ratzinger and that he cited St Bernard of Clairvaux and an obscure Nun as authorities that convinced him the Catholic Church should not preach the Gospel to the Jews but to not preach the Gospel is a mortal sin according to Catholic Tradition and the New Testament.

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

"Luke 21:24-27 teaches no mass end times conversion of the Jews"

But it would seem that Apocalypse 7 does?

It might be suggested that Jews staying off that conversion, especially if Ashkenasi, would in the end be, not Israel but Magog.

Apocalypse mentions "four corners of the [land]" (I suppose that land is a better translation of "terra" and of "eretz") twice, in Apocalypse 7 and in Apocalypse 20.

It can be added, Judaism counts Judaity according to maternal lineage and while the Y chromosomes of Ashkanasi Jewry are reassuringly Oriental, their mitochondrial DNA has mainly four lineages hailing from Northern parts of Eurasia. One or more than one of which could come from Magog.

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

Dear Hans. ABS notes that The Aztecs experienced a mass conversion in the Americas owing to Our Lady of Guadalupe and so it is, obviously, not beyond the possibility (likelihood?) that a mass conversion is in store for the Jews.

And there was also the promise of the conversion of Russia...

ABS is really just thinking out loud and he is not trying to cause trouble or deny any possible prophetic promises as ABS would be like The Dave Clark Five, glad all over, were the Jews to be converted because even the Jews of the time of Christ were less culpable for their rejection of the Messias than ABS has been for his sins for they did not know who He was.

ABS does

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

May I leave a comment to simply laud that of ABS?