1 December 2018

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 happened last Sunday, when Sarum (followed by the Prayer Book) and many other Northern European uses had 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 that silly (non-Magisterial) document that came from Rome a year or two or three ago.

"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).

5 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.

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

Dear Fathers. Faith comes by hearing but the Catholic Church (Especially Bishop Emeritus Ratzinger in his trilogy) has chosen not to preach the Gospel to The Jews (who are the enemy of all men as taught in Holy Writ; 1 These 2:15) and so one wonders just how the Jews will be saved en masse at the end of time is supposed to work.

Will Jesus just strike and convert the Jews then living even though they rejected Him, and continue to reject Him, as Messias? Such a scenario seems to defy free will.

And as for anti-semitism, it is not a question of race as Jesus told His enemies they were not the sons of Abraham (by race) but sons of Satan and so the question of race is beside the point really.

Could Romans 11;25-28 refer both to the Jewish converts and faithful gentiles?

In any event, Saint Paul did not abandon the faithless Jews but continued to preach the Gospel to them.

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

Dear Father.

This scripture seems difficult to reconcile with the idea of a mass conversion of Jews near the end of days;

Luke 19:27. But as for those my enemies, who would not have me reign over them, bring them hither and kill them before me.


The great commentary of Cornelius a Lapide:


Ver. 27.—But those mine enemies (the Jews, His citizens, who would not have Him to reign over them) bring them hither—to my Tribunal, in the valley of Jehosaphat and Jerusalem—and kill them before Me.” In the Greek, “Kill them before my face.” Our Lord alludes to those victorious kings who slew and destroyed their conquered rebels. By this destruction Christ signifies the extreme judgment of the Jews and His other enemies, and their own condemnation to eternal death in Gehenna, and that a living and vital death, where they will be perpetually tormented by death-dealing flames, and yet will never die. Our Lord alludes to Titus, who slaughtered the conquered Jews. He describes precisely to the letter the condemnation of the Jews, and the Gehenna which He has appointed for them when He shall return from heaven to judge and condemn them and the reprobate

E sapelion said...

It seems strange that the response to the call to broaden the lectionary should leave some things now cut out. I suppose the sheer scope of the new lectionary made it difficult to see the omissions, except where such things as the Imprecatory psalm verses were explicitly labelled as too difficult for a general audience (the same argument as for not translating scripture into the vernacular at all).
There are always voices of sanity within the church, but I fear they often go largely unheeded, Abbot Rupert of Deutz was probably one such. Do not let your own voice fall silent Father, until the Lord calls you.