31 July 2017

Old Testament Saints

Tomorrow, in old calendars, the Holy Maccabees were celebrated - indeed, they still get a commemoration in the Old Mass. These were the seven superb Jewish brothers whose martyrdom, described in II Maccabees 7, reads so much like a rehearsal for the Acta of so many Christian martyrs under the Roman Empire, especially under the divine Diocletian.

There is manifestly no theological reason why we should not give calendar space to the saints of the Old Covenant. After all, we claim that our New Covenant community, the Church, is directly in continuity with that Jewish Faithful Remnant which did accept their Messiah and the Visitation of their God; and so we are rooted in the patriarchs and prophets ... to be frank, they are more our possession than that of the Synagogue. I presume that the reason why, in practice, we do not have festivals of S Moses and S Jeremias, has a lot to do with the fact that the Christian Sanctorale finds its origins in the cult of relics: martyrs were celebrated where their bodies rested. As Fr Zed often laudably points out, the Martyrology does commemorate more Old Testament Saints; and so do particular calendars such as those of the Carmelites and of the Diocese of Jerusalem.

The Carmelites keep S Elias (Elijah, for Protestant readers) on July 20. For them, the impetus was their enjoyment of the sacred sites in Palestine. What ensured the commemoration of the Maccabees at Rome was the veneration of their relics in the same titulus Sanctae Eudoxiae in which S Peter's Chains are kept.

We live in a nasty age in which one favourite game of nasty people is to imply 'Antisemitism' on the part of those whom they dislike. One of these periodic unpleasantnesses occurred when the English bishops, obedient to the instructions of Cardinal Marx, agitated against the prayer which Benedict XVI had composed only a few years previously for the Old Rite to use on Good Friday. Since the Liturgy of the Hours, a quite widely used form of prayer, itself has a prex for the Conversion of the Jews at Vespers on Easter Sunday (and on other Sundays in Paschaltide), one does rather wonder whether these prelates, and the shadowy anonymous bureaucrats who put them up to such things, take much notice of what they say in their own Divine Office.

And it was the Novus Ordo which evicted the Maccabees from its Calendar, in pursuit of a Rigid and unbending rubrical rule, so that no mere dead Jews should get in the way of a single-minded observance of S Alfonso on August 1*.

One might wonder who the real, practical, antisemites are. For me, I shall pray, especially tomorrow, for God's mercies to rest on the millions of Jews who were slaughtered during the Third Reich.

And may God glorify yet more our magnificent brethren the Maccabees, reigning in heavenly glory beside their Messiah.

*They do not even survive in the Proprium pro clero almae Urbis.


Christopher Boegel said...

Re: the Novus Ordo lectionary, it is a remarkable feat to triple something in size and simultaneously impoverish it.

JMcCarthy said...

An alternative and Jewish interpretation of the story by the accapella group formed at Yeshiva University, NY

tradgardmastare said...

Amen to that Father!

Patrick Sheridan said...

Well, I tend to view the defeat of the Hellenist regime of Antiochus Epiphanes by the Maccabees as a tragedy that retarded civilisation. I am very much in favour of forcibly suppressing such barbarous practices as circumcision. I had thought that the removal of the Maccabees from the kalendar was earlier than the Novus Ordo, but I can once again raise my glass to the blessed and eternal memory of Paul VI, a Christian among modern Popes!

Augustine Pinnock said...

I'm afraid that Pope Benedict composed the new Good Friday prayer for the Jews for the exact same reason that certain prelates found issue with it. There was a perfectly good prayer for the Jews before the composition of the new one and this is another example of how the 1954 missal is superior to the 1962 missal, albeit a small one.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

Deer Patrick

The Maccabees, of course, feature on the Greek and Russian Calendars, and on the same day as on the ancient Roman. I'm not sure all Orthodox would necessarily agree that the Byzantine Rite should be eviscerated by a Byzantine equivalent of Paul VI! My own view, for what it is worth, is that the venerable and ancient Byzantine Rite should be left unpolluted by modern Latin corruptions.

Melinda said...

Is not their splendid mother celebrated in the feast? Her speech is just the icing on the cake: she raised those boys well.

Anonymous said...

St. Moyses has been celebrated at least at Venezia on Sept. 4. So, eventhough not ontained in the official Roman Calendar, it was at least in a local calendar of the Roman Church.

George said...

About OT saints I have written here:

Most of the prophets are commemorated during Lent. Elijah on the 20th of July, Moses on the 4th of September etc. Things ARE like that, and they do not need the approval of any one.