I love opinionated non-PC people. This blog is to vent my opinions on life, the universe and everything. Which is 42 which in gematria is "My Heart" (LBY) according to Rabbi Abulafia. The Divine Heart is the centre of everything.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Hebrew Catholic Vocation

This article was first posted on this blog on December 20, 2006.

Archbishop Raymond Burke of St Louis in his letter to David Moss, President of the Association of Hebrew Catholics, states that “The mission of your association responds, in a most fitting way, to the desire of the Church to respect fully the distinct vocation and heritage of Israelites in the Catholic Church.” Here we see that the Church itself desires to respect the vocation of Israel in the Church just as she respects the vocation of the Jewish people and Judaism outside the Church. The Church sees that Israelites in the Church do not just share in the general vocation of all Catholics but that they have a distinct vocation connected to their Israelite heritage which is important to the Church itself.

According to Cardinal Lustiger, the Church has started to see that, since the 4th century, during the times of the Gentile dominated Church, “an essential element of the mystery of Israel” has been lacking and that darkness has descended on human history as seen in the terrors of 20th century Nazism and Communism, due to the destruction of the Jewish Church of the Circumcision. Cardinal Lustiger sees as “one of the tragedies of Christian civilization” the demise of the Church of the Circumcision and the bitter fruit of this demise in Human history. Lustiger perceives the Jewish Catholic Church [ or Church of the Circumcision ] “symbolized in the Catholic Church the continuity of the promise made to Israel and the confirmation of the favour granted to the pagan nations, through its intermediary”.

“The Church appears in Jerusalem, after Pentecost, as an "assembly" kahal in Hebrew, ecclesia in Greek. it is unthinkable that she would claim to replace Israel. She is not another Israel, but the very, fulfillment, in Israel, of God's plan...The Church is then faced with the question of the extent to which these pagans who share in Israel's Election should be obliged to observe the laws which are Israel’s trust, responsibility, and privilege. To what extent should these pagans be associated with the totality of Israel’s mission? This is the major problem facing the first generations of Christians, as all the New Testament writings testify...In this early Church, the status of the pagan-Christian assemblies begins to be established. They are not dispensed from observing the Law- if the pagans did not observe the Law, they would have no share in either Israel’s Election or grace. But the gift of the Holy Spirit, a grace of the messiah, enables pagans to observe the law differently from Israel, which remains charged with this “delightful” burden of observance. The Church of Jerusalem is, in the Catholic church, the permanence of the promise made to Israel, the presence of the fulfillment of that promise, an attestation of the grace bestowed on the pagans. Thus, the church is that of both Jews and pagans. The fact that this church of Jerusalem was to survive only until the sixth century is one of history’s great mysteries and may well be a great spiritual tragedy-whose final outcome remains hidden. For this matter the separation of the church into Eastern and Western branches, cannot be considered settled. These mysteries are a part of the wounds, the sins, that we must acknowledge...The commandment to love as Jesus loves is not to be substituted for the other commandments. That would make no sense. There is only one holy Law. The law is the revelation of God’s commandments. The newness is in God’s act, in that he sends Israel his obedient Son. ..Jesus obviously spent much time meditating on the commandments. Everything psalm 119 has to say about the “delights” of the Law was certainly an essential part of his prayer...The commandments were constantly being meditated by Jesus as word of life...Why do these commandments have such importance? How can we increase our understanding of them? The words from Leviticus – ‘You shall be holy; for I am holy (11:44;19:2)- are echoed in the Sermon on the Mount...It makes no sense to understand the Sermon on the Mount as the substitution of one commandment for another...It is essential to understand what is meant by the expression “a new law”. If the novelty meant is that the Holy Spirit enters the heart of the one who participates in Christ’s life – the ‘law of the spirit’ ,as Saint Paul expresses it- then, yes, the expression “new law” is appropriate. However to maintain that the revelation has been substituted for another is to understand absolutely nothing of the mystery of Christ. It is to deny the gift of God. Why have these commandments been given to us?...The Law enables us to act as God acts. And in Jesus meditation, the law reveals how God acts. Just as much as the law is a precept given to man, it is also revelation of God’s action and his mystery...How can it be suggested that by observing the Ten Commandments, we act as God does, unless the commandments reveal to us how God acts? We have to enter into Jesus’ prayer – the gospel makes it possible – to understand what the commandments tell us about the way God acts, how they allow us to participate in God’s own action...Undoubtedly, there are several ways of observing certain precepts and practices in religious life: that of the Church of Jerusalem, as described in the Acts of the apostles in the first days of Christianity, a community composed of observant Jews; an example of this way today is monastic life – whereas the pagan- Christian communities do not have the same obligations. All however, being ordered by love, which is the greatest good of the church. This diversity is given for the edification of all; but there is only one way to observe the will of God and that is to obey the commandments.” ( Cardinal Lustiger ‘The Promise’ JESUS AND THE LAW)

“Pagans also have a right to the Law , as a holy law inscribed in their hearts. It is by acting through the Messiah , with him and in him who made himself obedient to the Law to death on the Cross, that they obey the Law. The discipline of the church dispenses them from Israel’s observances, a burden to heavy for them, and which remains Israel’s privilege. It is not for the pagans to take on the physical history of the Hebrews, since they, through Christ, have become spiritual offspring of Abraham, but not his physical descendants. Nevertheless, in Christ they have access to the plenitude of the law, and receive the Holy Spirit which allows them to fulfil it.”

Louis Bouyer the great modern Catholic theologian states: “…the Church of the Gentiles subsists only as a graft on the trunk of Israel…Christianity will always be the legacy of Israel, which the Jews alone could give to the whole of mankind…”. Louis Bouyer calls the Church of the Circumcision, Judeo-Christianity, and states that it “cannot be considered a transitory phase of abolished Christianity” replaced and superseded by Gentile Catholicism. He emphasizes that Judeo-Christianity is the mother form of the Faith and the one which all other forms of Catholicism must have recourse to for authentic renewal and development. He perceives that it is a great weakness for the Church that the Jewish form of Catholicism does not at present subsist fully in the Church but only in tracings. Louis Bouyer believes that the Church will not reach its ultimate stage of development until the Jewish form of Catholicism has been rediscovered and allowed to fully live and breathe in the Church. This Jewish Church must express the definitive expression of the Gospel in the forms and categories of Judaism contained in both the Written and oral Torah of Judaism for the sake of the whole Church. Louis Bouyer states: “The Word of the Gospel, as Christ uttered it, as the apostles elucidated it, is woven entirely of the written Word of the Old Testament and its living commentary in Jewish tradition. To uproot them from the New Testament would make it not only incomprehensible but dumb and empty, for all its notions, images and vocabulary, like all the realities to which this totality applies, proceeds from the Old Testament, and from the unwritten as well as the written Torah.” He sees the survival of Judaism outside the church as providential for Christians during this period until the time they enter the Church bringing the full Israelite heritage with them. He sees this as the final blossoming of ‘the great tree of all the sons of Abraham”. Louis Bouyer published this in 1970 and as in fulfillment Father Elias Friedman published “Jewish Identity” and established, with Andrew Sholl, the Association of Hebrew Catholic in the late 1970’s.

The statements on Jews in Nostra Aetate and other developments in magisterial teaching, since Vatican II, on the Church’s relationship to the Jews outside the Church (Judaism) has opened a new understanding of the place of Jews in the Church leading to the revival of the mother form of the Church.
Father Aidan Nichols another leading orthodox Catholic theologian also speaks of the Jews in the Church: “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…Hebrew Catholics…have a special place in 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…”. Father Aidan sees that “Judaism’s distinctive continuing light can add to the Church an orthopractic concern with mitzvoth, the divine precepts, whose actualization is a sign that makes present the Creator’s reign... and so consecrating it to God through human agency.”
Both Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Schonborn see no opposition between the Torah and the Gospel. They both quote the Catechism of the Catholic Church 1968 “The Lord’s sermon on the Mount, far from abolishing or devaluing the moral prescriptions of the Old Law, releases their hidden potential and has new demands arise from them: it reveals their entire divine and human truth. It does not add new external precepts, but proceeds to reform the heart, the root of human acts.” Cardinal Schonborn states that the Torah “is the plan of God’s heart, the plan by which he created the world, the plan that he revealed to his people. That is why there is no greater happiness than to be faithful to God’s Law. Jesus will even say that this fidelity is his ‘food’ (John 4:34).”

Thus the distinctive vocation of the Jews in the Church is the witness to Torah and mitzvoth as revealed in Divine Revelation and unfolded in salvation history through the reality of the Messiah and his acts of perfect adherence and fulfillment of the Torah and mitzvoth as the way of perfect sanctification. Salvation is in the Messiah and his coming, sanctification is the way of Torah and mitzvoth that leads one into the heart of the Torah which is the Messiah himself. It is a way of merciful service (hasidut) that leads to union and unity of wills with the Divine Mercy himself through the heart of his Mother. This way of sanctification leads to divinization and the time of God’s Will being done on earth as it is in Heaven. Father Aidan Nichols understanding of the continuing light of Judaism is the ultimate meaning of the ‘Ingrafting’ of the Jews in to the Church. As the Messiah fulfilled the Torah in acts perfectly, so we in the Messiah redo and do all human acts so every act becomes an act of the Messiah, which gives God the glory that he is due from all creation. This allows his Kingdom to come and his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. This Jewish insight into Torah and Mitzvoth will lead to the final holy flowering of the Church. As Louis Bouyer envisions it: “Thus the Church in the latter days would be neither Jewish Church or Church of Gentiles, but the ‘Mount Sion, the Heavenly Jerusalem, the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven’ (Hebrew 12:22-23). It would be broadened to gather in ‘all the children of God who are scattered aboard’ (John 11:52).”

The role of the Hebrew Catholics is to now gather the Jews in the Church and educate them in their distinctive vocation and in their Jewish heritage. Through this a Hebrew Catholic spirituality and theology will further develop and thus create the space in the Church for the full ingrafting of the Jewish people and Judaism in the Catholic Church, which will lead to a spiritual resurrection for the whole Church and riches for the Gentiles and the world. This will then fulfill this desire of the Church to fully respect the distinct vocation and heritage of the Jews in the Church as articulated by Archbishop Burke.

Pope Benedict XVI states that the Catechism of the Catholic Church “holds principally to the portrayal of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, seeing in Jesus the Messiah, the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven: as such he knew he was “to fulfill the Law by keeping it in its all embracing detail…down to ‘the least of these commandments’ (CCC 578)” The Catechism thus connects the special mission of Jesus to his fidelity to the Law…” Cardinal Schonborn also speaks of this fidelity of Jesus to the Torah as his food as mention above. Jesus lived the Torah perfectly as did his Mother. In their persons they represent all Israel’s fidelity to the Torah. This perfect fidelity allows the Messiah through his life, death and resurrection to open the Torah to be universalized. Pope Benedict states: ‘The faith of Israel is directed to universality…But, the Law, in which it was expressed, was particular, quite concretely directed to Israel and its history; it could not be universalized in this form. In the intersection of these paradoxes stands Jesus of Nazareth, who himself as a Jew lived under the Law of Israel but knew himself to be at the same time the mediator of the universality of God…Jesus opened up the Law…claiming to be, acting as Son, with the authority of God himself…Jesus broadened the Law, wanted to open it up…but in strictest obedience to its fulfillment…”. The Pope sees that in God the Law and the Promise are One in person of the Messiah. He also sees that one cannot just separate out the moral laws of the Torah and leave the rest. The Torah is a whole and the Revelation of God. He says “…one cannot simply separate out universally valid moral principles and transitory ritual and legal norms without destroying the Torah itself, which is something integral, which owes its existence to God’s address to Israel. The idea that, on the one hand, there are pure morals which are reasonable and universal, and on the other that there are rites that are conditioned by time and ultimately dispensable mistakes entirely the inner structure of the five books of Moses. The ‘Decalogue’ as the core of the work of the Law shows clearly enough that the worship of God is completely indivisible from morals, cult and ethos.”
How then does the Pope and the Church resolve this paradox of universalizing the particular to the universal. The Pope gives the solution- it is the mystery of the Cross. He states: “..all the cultic ordinances of the Old Testament are seen to be taken up into his death and brought to their deepest meaning…The universalizing of the Torah by Jesus…is not the extraction of some universal moral prescriptions from the living whole of God’s revelation. It preserves the unity of cult and ethos. The ethos remains grounded and anchored in the cult, in the worship of God, in such a way that the entire cult is bound together in the Cross…on the Cross Jesus opens up and fulfills the wholeness of the Law and gives it to the pagans, who now accept it in its wholeness, thereby becoming children of Abraham.” Thus both Jew and Gentile in the Church share in the whole of the Torah and its mitzvoth (commandments), but are called to witness to it by observing it in ways appropriate to their calling. For the Gentile nations are under the Covenant of Noah, according to the Catechism, and thus observe the Noachide laws until the time of the end of the Gentiles. "The covenant with Noah remains in force during the times of the Gentiles, until the universal proclamation of the Gospel...Scripture thus expresses the heights of sanctity that can be reached by those who live according to the covenant of Noah, waiting for Christ to "gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad" (CCC 58). Gentiles who enter the New Covenant through the Messiah also enter on a universal level the covenants and heritage of Israel. Gentile Catholics observe Torah at the universal heart level as revealed by the Messiah and this manifests in outward observances appropriate for the differing Gentile cultures. The Church of the Circumcision however, like its Jewish Messiah, was to witness to and observe the Torah in the particular as well as the universal. According to Cardinal Lustiger, the Church of the Circumcision was to embody the continuity of the promise made to Israel. A revived form of this church also needs to fulfill this role. This particular Church is called the Church of the Circumcision because those who enter the physical people of Israel must enter the Covenants in the particular through circumcision of Jewish males but the universal through baptism. The continued circumcision of Jewish children in the Church, which Paul approved of in Acts 21, is not a means of salvation or initiation into the Church, but an initiation into the physical people and its vocation. It is also a means of sanctification. Paul states that this Jewish circumcision means one is called to observe the whole of Torah and mitzvoth as one’s particular Jewish path of sanctification. This is done in imitation of the Messiah and his mother in their physical earthly life under the Torah. The Gentiles however do not need physical circumcision as they enter into the universal meaning of circumcision and the Torah and its mitzvoth through baptism. St. Paul states in Romans 2:25 that circumcision has much value for the Jews who are called to observe the whole Torah at the particular level and in Galations 3 he states that the circumcised are called to observe the whole Torah, for circumcision into the Jewish people is a circumcision in to the particular level of sanctification appropriate to physical Israel. This is not appropriate for Gentiles and the Judaisers are in fact distorting and cheaping Jewish Torah observances by linking them to salvation and limiting them to circumcision and food laws and a few other Jewish observances. Gentiles through baptism and the Cross in the person of the Messiah are already receivers of the whole Torah on the Universal level. Salvation for both Jews and Gentiles is by grace not observances. However we attain to God's free gift of Grace through Faith and it manifests in mitzvoth (good deeds). We attain to faith through the Messiah who is revealed in the Torah both Oral and Written and we live out good deeds (mitzvoth) appropriate to our calling as Jews or Gentiles in the one Body of Messiah.

The Catholic Jew is to be a living icon of the Jewish Messiah for the Gentiles. The Hebrew Catholic family is to be an icon of the Jewish family life of the Holy Family. The Jewish or Hebrew Catholic is now free in the Spirit of the Messiah to observe Judaism at its deepest Messianic depths in joy and from its treasury bring out riches both new and old for the enrichment of the Universal Church and all its peoples. This revived mother form of Judeo- Christianity will not be a Jewish religious museum but a living, growing and developing community led by the Spirit into a new blossoming of Jewish spiritual life in the Church. The spiritual insights of this Community will take Catholics into new depths of understanding the Scriptures and to a new level of sanctification. Their Jewish Catholic mystical understanding will shine a new light of understanding on the writings and teachings of the Mystical saints of both Catholicism and Judaism and led to a deeper Eucharistic devotion and a richer understanding and appreciation of Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration. The Jewish Catholic interpretation of the Zohar will usher in a new era of Marian devotion and understanding. Jewish Hasidut united with sacramental graces and the fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit will enrich the Charismatic Catholic communities. The Catholic Jew is called to the vision of being perfect like our Heavenly Father and entering into the fullness of the Torah. However many Jewish people come from diverse backgrounds of differing levels of Jewish Torah observance when they enter the Church. A Jewish Torah lifestyle is a rich and detailed way of sanctification to which one must grow into gradually step by step. One needs freedom to choose such a path and it is not the place of others to judge others decision or level of attainment. It is a way of love and a way of sanctification encompassing all aspects of our life and walk in the Messiah. We do not place legalistic burdens on others but demonstrate the joyful and lifegiving nature of such a walk of Jewish Catholic sanctity.
We also should be aware of those Jews who have been hurt by those who practice Judaism in a dry legalistic manner and just see such a way as an enormous burden. We must ensure that our Jewish Torah way of sanctity is based in simplicity and joy focused on the Messiah.

The whole of Jewish spirituality is directed to Adoration of the Divine Presence, the revived Jewish Church of the Circumcision will be focused on the Adoration of the Divine Presence in the Eucharist. As Jesus the Suffering Messiah of Israel began salvation and opened up and universalized the Torah; so the Jewish People as the Suffering People of the Messiah will bring salvation history to its fullness. Louis Bouyer states: “It remains forever destined that the pagans’ entry into the Church will find its fullness only in the final salvation of the Jews. Israel’s fidelity to the Torah, which today seems closed on itself but is still directed by invincible hope, will open itself…to their witness in order to be part of the new form of Judeo-Christianity…”. Pope Benedict sees that Judaism outside the Church has a role in God’s economy of salvation during the time of the Gentiles. How much more important, when the Jews and Judaism enter the Church, will this role be? Paul sees it resulting in a spiritual resurrection of the dead for the whole Church. Archbishop Burke states in his letter to the Association of Hebrew Catholics, “…permit me to express my esteem for the apostolate of the Association of Hebrew Catholics…The Roman Catholic Church knows and treasures the particular and privileged part in the economy of salvation, assigned by God the Father to the people of Israel.”