On Jews Within the Church

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Ed. This article appeared in The Hebrew Catholic #84.

On Jews Within the Church

Compiled by David Moss

From a transcript of my talk given in New York, March 2005 (included in The Hebrew Catholic, #82)

As part of the preparation for the ingrafting, Fr. Friedman believed strongly that the Jews who had entered the Church needed to preserve their identity and their heritage and to once again exercise their collective and irrevocable calling, especially with regard to their collective witness to Jesus and His Church. This thinking has seemed to so fittingly and providentially accompany the Church’s call for a new evangelization, a re-evangelization, the dialogue with the Jewish people, and the Church’s exploration of the “mystery of Israel.” Here are some thoughts of leading Churchmen in accord with the thinking of Fr. Friedman.

From The Church of God by Fr. Louis Bouyer (included in The Hebrew Catholic, #78)

Judeo-Christianity cannot be considered a transitory phase of abolished Christianity, forever surpassed by pagano-Christianity, which would have triumphed over it. The Christian synthesis must always be renewed by renewing its contact with the primary and, in a sense, definitive expression of the Gospel, in the categories and forms of Judaism.

Judeo-Christianity, as Paul and Peter recognized and proclaimed, remains forever the mother form of Christianity, to which all other forms must always have recourse. It is therefore a weakness for the Church that Judeo-Christianity, from which it was born and from which it cannot free itself, no longer subsists in her except in tracings. It can be believed that she will not reach the ultimate stage of her development except by rediscovering it — fully living in her.

From The Mystery of Christmas by Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa (included in The Hebrew Catholic, #72)

If Christ is “the glory of his people, Israel’, we Christians must do all we can, first of all to acknowledge this ourselves and then to remove the obstacles that prevent Israel from acknowledging it.

… the Church is responsible for Israel! It is responsible in a unique way, differently from how it is to all other people. The Church alone guards in her heart and keeps alive God’s project for Israel

… What is required is that the Israel according to the flesh enter into and become part of the Israel according to the Spirit, without for this having to cease being Israel also according to the flesh which is its only prerogative

… because only in Christ is the destiny of the Hebrew people fulfilled and its greatness discovered.

… it is certain that the rejoining of Israel with the Church will involve a rearrangement in the Church; it will mean a conversion on both sides.

From Chapter 14 in Epiphany: A Theological Introduction to Catholicism by Fr. Aidan Nichols OP;
(included in The Hebrew Catholic, #78)

Judaism’s distinctive continuing light can add to the Church an orthopractic concern with the mitzvoth, the divine precepts, whose actualization is a sign that makes present the Creator’s reign and a celebration of a total liturgy, referring the creation to the Creator and so consecrating it to God through human agency.

Since Judaism is not in the fullest sense a different religion from Christianity, there can be and are such a thing as Hebrew Catholics, Jews who have entered the Church but with every intention of maintaining their Jewish heritage intact. They insist with Paul that “God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew,” for “the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable” (Rom 11:29). A Catholic Christian, contemplating the mystery of Israel, can be, accordingly, only a qualified supersessionist. Inasmuch as Israel’s Messiah has come, and fashioned his new community, the call of Israel is indeed superseded. Yet the vocation of Israel, to witness that the One who has come is truly her long-expected Savior and that the salvation he wrought is the genuine fulfillment of the promises of the Hebrew Bible, remains intact. For the Paul of Romans, the prospect of this perduring election of Israel reaching full term is a cause of eschatological joy: “If their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!” (11:12). Hebrew Catholics, meanwhile, have a special place within the Church; their association enables them to experience a common identity as the prototype of the Israel of the end, and not merely a random collection of assimilated Jews.

From an article on The Jewish People and their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible by Roch Kerestzy, O Cist. (in the Winter 2002 issue of Communio; included in The Hebrew Catholic, #80)

Reflecting upon Israel’s resistance, we should ask ourselves if God does not allow it because we have ignored the significance of historic Israel, the noble olive tree into which we Gentile-Christians have been grafted and in whose rich sap we share (Rom 11:17-18). What should we say to the Jews who think that any baptized Jew is a loss for the people of Israel? The cross of Jesus Christ has removed the separating wall between Jews and Gentiles and united us into one body, into his own Body. Should Israel turn to Christ, it seems that its great challenge would be to die to its own separate status and to embrace all humankind in the Church. However, analogously to the individual Christian whose dying with Christ results in a new risen life with Him, an Israel that would die to its own refusal of Christ would be exalted to a new life in Christ. It would not lose its identity but rather discover its own transcendent perfection and dignity. It would look upon its privilege of being the firstborn son of God as a service for all the nations. Its great joy and pride would spring from the fact that ‘the fullness of the world is elevated to the dignity of Israel.’* Then it would discover in the face of Jesus its own deepest mystery, the face of the eternal Israel of God.

*. “ut in Israeliticam dignitatem totius mundi transeat plenitudo” (Prayer of the Easter Vigil in the Roman Rite).

From Christ’s Fulfillment of Torah and Temple by Matthew Levering.

In recognizing that Israel prefigures Christ, one does not therefore dismiss Israel as a reality in itself. Rather, as Aquinas explains, each aspect of Israel’s history takes on importance in a way that no other ancient people’s history does. (p. 27)

From Behold the Pierced One by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.

In the time of Jesus, too, Passover was celebrated in the homes and in families, following the slaughter of the lambs in the Temple. … Israel had to make a pilgrimage, as it were, to the city every year at Passover in order to return to its origins, to be recreated and to experience once again its rescue, liberation and foundation. A very deep insight lies behind this. In the course of a year, a people is always in danger of disintegrating, not only through external causes, but also interiorly, and of losing hold of the inner motivation which sustains it. It needs to return to its fundamental origin. Passover was intended to be this annual event in which Israel returned from the threatening chaos (which lurks in every people) to its sustaining origin; it was meant to be the renewed defense and recreation of Israel on the basis of its origin. And since Israel knew that the star of its election stood in the heavens, it also knew that its fortunes, for good or ill, had consequences for the whole world; it knew that the destiny of the earth and of creation was involved in its response, whether it failed or passed the test.

Jesus too celebrated Passover according to these prescriptions, at home with his family; that is to say, with the Apostles, who had become his new family. … thus the Church is the new family, the new city, and for us she signifies all that Jerusalem was – that living home which banishes the powers of chaos and makes an area of peace, which upholds both creation and us. … There are many reasons, I believe, why we should take a new look at these factors at this time and allow ourselves to respond to them. For today, we are quite tangibly experiencing the power of chaos. … We realize that neither money nor technology nor organizational ability alone can banish chaos. Only the real protective wall given to us by the Lord, the new family he has created for us, can do this. From this standpoint, it seems to me, this Passover celebration which has come down to us from the nomads, via Israel and through Christ, also has (in the deepest sense) an eminently political significance. We as a nation, we in Europe, need to go back to our spiritual roots, lest we become lost in self-destruction.

This feast needs to become a family celebration once again, for it is the family that is the real bastion of creation and humanity. Passover is a summons, urgently reminding us that the family is the living home in which humanity is nurtured, which banishes chaos and futility, and which must be protected as such. But we must add that the family can only be this sphere of humanity, this bastion of creation, if it is under the banner of the Lamb, if it is protected by the power of faith which comes from the love of Jesus Christ. (pgs. 104-106)

From Lovely Like Jerusalem by Aidan Nichols OP

It does not suffice us as Catholic Christians, thinks Von Balthasar, to have the text of the Old Testament. Equipped merely with the text, we might content ourselves with being philologists, antiquarians, or historical-literary critics. What the Church needs is more than texts. What she needs is the heart of Israel. The Church “does not want its praise of God to derive simply and solely from the written word, but from the mind and heart of the Jews at prayer, from those who first formed the words, so that it can embrace them in its living tradition.”* (pgs. 273-274)

* Von Balthasar, Martin Buber and Christianity, p. 78

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  • You are my witnesses (Is. 43:10)  •  You shall be my witnesses (Acts 1:8)