Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Oh, that Good Friday prayer.

Over at the America Magazine blog, Fr. James Martin SJ posted a bit on the Holy Father amending of the Good Friday Prayer for the Jews in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. Most of those who leapt into the combox decried the decision. I take issue with their conclusions and in doing so I must, alas, disagree with my pal Steve Bogner.

I am puzzled by the dismay on several fronts. One guy said this was a throwback to pre-Vatican II (ahem) "Dark Ages" language. He is precisely wrong. When you change the language to something new-for-2008 it cannot, by definition, be pre-Vatican II. You can say the new Mustang has retro overtones, but you can't say it's a 1965 model.

However, if we as Catholics believe in the salvific and redemptive power of Christ and in His Church (and at last count, we did) and if we believe the Catholic Church alone posesses the fullness of truth (and at last count, we did) and if take very seriously the command to evangelize everyone* why wouldn't we pray that others come to that same belief? How does it show disrespect to pray that God illuminates hearts in the direction of His Church? After all we are not praying for God to smite anyone, nor are we calling fire down on those who believe differently. This is not a recognition or validation of anti-Semitism or Jewish inferiority.

Where this gets many people uncomfortable is that we're saying something akin to "Other religions aren't quite as good." And, um, yeah...we kind of are. Rather, we're praying that. But in this day and age, politesse trumps revelation. It strikes many people as disrespectful to say that one religion -- especially a religion the adherents of which have been persecuted for centuries -- does not contain the fullness of Truth.

The 1970/Novus Ordo prayer was not used, as some have suggested, I surmise for two simple reasons:
1- To demonstrate the 1962 Missal is a living and organic thing (important, because I believe the Holy Father wants the Extraordinary form to be used), and
2- To underscore the differences between the Extraordinary Form and the Ordinary Form.

Is the prayer in the Extraordinary Form more pointed (or more precise, depending on your stance)? Yes, it is. But it also serves to underscore the belief it is valid and legitimate for Catholics to desire Jews (and Protestants, and Muslims, and...) to see the light of Christ and His Church. Which is what we're praying.

After all, in a weak-tea sort of way the 1970 prayer asks exactly the same thing. It's not a prayer for God to make nice to one group or another. The revised prayer is NOT "Please God, help the Elbonians, who are such an awful and miserable bunch." Why this has been the (emphatically)subjective interpretation thereof, I'm at a loss.

In sum, it would be a massive disservice to leave anyone out in our prayerful desire that all people -- and Scripture** very specifically says for us to give primacy to the Jews -- come to Christ and His Church. As a Catholic, you simply cannot love humanity unless you prayerfully desire all people to come to know Christ sacramentally.

Not really sure why this is so complicated.

-J.

P.S. Over at First Things, they have an EXCELLENT entry on the contrast between the main denominations of Judaism today, and it impacts on how we perceive this issue.

* Mt. 28:19 Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
Mk. 16:15 And He said to them: Go ye into the whole world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
Lk. 24:47 And that penance and remission of sins should be preached in His name, unto all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

** Incidentally, the prayer has been revised to omit language used by St. Paul his own self in Romans 11:25-26, so if you really want to get all bent out of shape, take it up with Scripture and/or St. Paul and/or the Holy Spirit who inspired same.

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