6 February 2008

Prayers for Jews: new and old

So, of course, the Holy Father has resisted the clamour to rewrite the Good Friday prayer for the Jews according to a racist agenda; those who believe that the Jews alone among all the races of the world should be excluded as a matter of principle from the saving grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ will find little comfort in the prayer he has composed. If omnes homines are called to recognise Christ as Saviour, it would be preposterous if that privilege were denied to His own race. And, happily, the Pontiff has introduced a reference to S Paul's teaching in Romans that, as the fulness of the Gentiles is gathered in, so that people also, to whom God promised that his Covenant would not fail, will turn back to Him.

From an Anglican perspective, perhaps two points can be made. The Anglican equivalent of the 'Tridentine' Rite is the the Prayer Book of 1662, which is still the normative rite of the Church of England, especially in the doctrinal sense. It has been amended since 1662 (one recent change is the removal of the ban on ordaining ordinands who don't know Latin), but its Good Friday prayer, summarising the last three of the old Orationes sollemnes, has been left unchanged. It runs: O merciful God, who hast made all men, and hatest nothing that thou hast made, and willest not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted and live: have mercy upon all Jews, Turks, Infidels, and Hereticks, and take away from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of thy word; and so fetch 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 ... I wonder why those who made such a kerfuffle about the 'antisemitic' nature of the Tridentine Rite have never turned their catterwauling attention to the Anglican Rite. What a shame it is that Anglicanism is now not even held in enough regard to be unfairly attacked.

My other point is a trifle more literary. The ancient Solemn Prayers were, as the great Anglican student of the classical Romamn Rite G G Willis pointed out, composed with careful attention to cursus: the system whereby the final words of clauses bore rhythms, derived from pagan Roman rhetoric, designed to make their public declamation sonorous and elegant (Willis used this discovery to date the prayers). In the 'Benedictine' prayer, the first clause-end has the rhythm veritatis veniant - which is not a recognised clausula. The final clause, salvus fiat, is also irregular; unless one 'scans' it Israel salvus fiat ... hurrying over the word salvus ... which would allow us a respectable velox.

I am unsure what dogmatic conclusion to draw from this.


Andrew Teather said...

I would be in support of the retention of the ban on ordinands. Then,at least, there could be sensible conversations.

Athanasius of Alexandria said...

Some thoughts - though not in Latin - on this topic at http://www.massinformation.blogspot.com

Little Black Sambo said...

It is not so much the Jews we need to worry about at the moment but the "Turks" - or perhaps we should call them Saracens?

Anonymous said...

All my relatives by marriage are Jews. I hope we pray for one another, we certainly attend one another's confirmations, barmitzvahs, weddings, stone-settings, and funerals.