Saturday, February 09, 2008

Jews Not Happy with Latin Mass

Last year Pope Benedict gave the green light to traditionalists in the Catholic Church who want to celebrate the old Latin Mass. But the Good Friday Mass in Latin prayed for the conversion of Jews, referring to their “blindness” and calling upon God to “lift a veil from their hearts.” It was considered a major step forward in Jewish-Christian relations when the post Vatican II mass celebrated in the vernacular removed this phrase. So in reinstating the Latin Mass the Pope approved a slight change in the offensive language. It hasn't helped:

The revision of a contentious Good Friday prayer approved this week by Pope Benedict XVI could set back Jewish-Catholic relations, Conservative Judaism’s international assembly of rabbis says in a resolution to be voted on next week...

The draft resolution states the prayer would “cast a harsh shadow over the spirit of mutual respect and collaboration that has marked these past four decades, making it more difficult for Jews to engage constructively in dialogue with Catholics.”

On Tuesday, the pope released new wording for the prayer, part of the traditional Latin, or Tridentine, Mass..

An unofficial translation of the new prayer reads: “Let us pray for the Jews. May the Lord Our God enlighten their hearts so that they may acknowledge Jesus Christ, the savior of all men.”

We are long past the time when we should be praying for the conversion of Jews, or those of any other faith tradition. There is more than one way up the mountain. We ought to be praying instead for the strength and wisdom to lives our lives in a manner that someone who is looking for a faith community or a spiritual path might look at us and say: 'I would like to learn more about your path.' Let our life be our way of sharing our faith.

The 2000 year history of Jewish Christian relations is filled with one shameful act after another of persecution and violence and blame and discrimination by Christians against Jews. A very sobering account of it can be found in James Carroll's book Constantine's Sword. Near the end Carroll says:

...there is no apology for Holy Week preaching that prompted pogroms until Holy Week liturgies, sermons, and readings have been purged of the anti-Jewish slanders that sent the mobs rushing out of church.... Forgiveness for the sin of anti-Semitism presumes a promise to dismantle all that makes it possible.
The Catholic Church has apparently not learned this lesson.

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