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.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Cardinal Schonborn and the Jewish Roots

Cardinal Schonborn the Archbishop of Vienna a great friend of Israel writes: "...No infidelity on the part of Israel, no sin of the people, not even the misjudgment and rejection of Jesus the Messiah, can ever destroy God’s fidelity to “Abraham and his posterity for ever”. And so Paul writes to the Christian community in Rome: “[A]s regards election they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable” (Rom 11:28-29). Twice Paul asks the question, and twice he gives the resounding reply: “I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! So I ask, have they stumbled so as to fall? By no means!” (Rom 11:1, 11).

What does this mean for the Church? It opens up the need for a change of outlook, in fact, a change of heart. The indelible impression left by the Shoah, the Holocaust, teaches the same lesson. It makes us realize that the deadly hatred of Israel is also, deep down, aimed at the Church, in fact at the God of Israel himself, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

There is much that ought to be said here. Let me mention just three areas in which a change of outlook is necessary and indeed already, to some extent, taking place. The Catechism points the way forward.

1. We cannot find Christ when he is cut off from his roots. The Catechism shows this in its meditation on the Solemnity of the Epiphany (cf. CCC 528). The Wise Men from the East (cf. Mt 2:1-12) represent the “Church taken from the Gentiles”. They show the permanently valid way for the pagans to come to Christ, even in our own times. The Catechism says:

The magi’s coming to Jerusalem in order to pay homage to the king of the Jews [cf. Mt 2:2] shows that they seek in Israel, in the messianic light of the star of David, the one who will be the king of the nations. Their coming means that pagans can discover Jesus and worship him as Son of God and Savior of the world only by turning toward the Jews and receiving from them the messianic promise as contained in the Old Testament. The Epiphany shows that “the full number of the nations” now takes its “place in the family of the patriarchs” [Leo the Great] and acquires Israelitica dignitas [Easter Vigil, Prayer after third reading] (CCC 528).

Mount Zion

The first thing to be noted about this very dense text is this: the ancient promise, that the nations will come and worship God in Israel, on Mount Zion, is fulfilled. From the beginning, the mission of Jesus is shown to fulfill this promise. He fulfills it, not, of course, in the Temple, not on Mount Zion, but in his very person: “He has made ... both one” (Eph 2:14). The pagan religions, the world’s religions, “can play the role of the star that puts men on the path, that leads them to search for the kingdom of God. The star of the religions points toward Jerusalem; it is extinguished and relit in the Word of God, in the Holy Scripture of Israel. The Word of God preserved in Scripture appears as the true star, which we cannot dispense with or ignore if we wish to reach the goal.”

What does this mean? It means that the Gentiles, the nations and religions of the world, can only find Christ, and so can only become Church, when they enter into the promises of Israel, when the history of Israel becomes their history. “Salvation is from the Jews” (Jn 4:22). There is no access to Jesus, and therefore no entry to the People of God, without the acceptance by faith of the revelation of God that speaks to us in the Sacred Scriptures of the Old Testament.

The Old Testament is and will always be God’s great catechesis in preparation for Christ. That is why the Old Testament cannot and must not be replaced by the writings of other religions. We must not try to solve the difficulties of the Old Testament by removing its readings from the liturgy but by learning to read and love and expound it in the light of Christ. A Carthusian lay brother once said to me: “The Old Testament is the love story of God.”

2. The second point concerns this very question of the correct way of reading the Old Testament, in other words, the question of the relationship of the Old and New Testaments. The Catechism regards typology as a privileged expression of their unity. We are talking here, not about one exegetical method among many, but about a deeply theological view of salvation history. Typology is not a method of interpreting texts but a distinctive view of the events of salvation history. It derives from the fact that God’s saving plan is one. The events of the Old Testament foreshadow the events of the New Testament; they are “prefigurations of what [God] accomplished in the fullness of time in the person of his incarnate Son” (CCC 128). Just as the ark saved Noah and his family, so even more does baptism save us now (cf. I Pet 3:21).

This does not devalue the Old Testament, as the Catechism insists time and again: "The calling of the patriarchs and the exodus from Egypt, for example, [do not] lose their own value in God’s plan, from the mere fact that they were intermediate stages” (CCC 130). No, “typology indicates the dynamic movement toward the fulfillment of the divine plan” (ibid.). But this also means that the church can never renounce the Old Testament. To do so would be to disown God himself, for he is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, a God of the living, not of the dead (cf. Mk 12:26-27).

3. One sore point is the relationship of law and gospel. If the Church is wonderfully prepared for in the Old Testament, in what sense does the law prepare for the gospel? By contrast to the widespread contemporary view that law and gospel are in opposition to each other, the Catechism sees them in a relationship of promise and fulfillment: “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” (CCC, 1968).

At this point, in line with the Catechism, which stands in the great Catholic tradition, we need to consider and reflect on why and how Jesus perfectly fulfills the law. The Jewish tradition has its own feast of “rejoicing in the Torah”. One takes the Torah under one’s arm, as if it were a bride, and dances with it in the synagogue.5 The reason why joy in the law of God is so great is that it springs from his very own will, from his heart. According to a Jewish tradition, it is the Torah that is the beginning in which God created heaven and earth. It 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 being totally faithful to God’s law. Jesus will even say that this fidelity is his “food” (Jn 4:34).

Chief Rabbi Israel Zolli

This is all just a hint, a sketch. We can grasp the heart of the matter if we go back to what we said earlier: the mysterious encounter of Israel Zolli with Jesus Christ in the Great Synagogue in Rome. It took place when the Rabbi was standing in front of the shrine of the Torah. Is not Christ “the fulfillment of the law”? Is he not “the beginning” in whom, through whom, for whom God created all things, and in whom God’s plan is carried out: the Church?

Opposite the Great Synagogue of Rome, in Lungotevere dei Pierleoni, stands a small church, San Gregorio. Above the entrance is an inscription in Hebrew and Latin. It calls the Jews to conversion. Here, for centuries (from the time of Pius V to Pius IX), sermons were given to which the Jews were obliged to listen. Is it not now a time of conversion for us? This church, at the entrance to the ghetto, bears witness to the long history of suffering of God’s beloved Chosen People. The Council said that the Church is “wonderfully prepared” (mirabiliter praeparata) in the Old Testament and in the history of the people of Israel. Perhaps today we realize more deeply that this remains valid, through the permanent presence of the people of Israel, until the Lord himself returns to perfect the Church."[Christoph Schonborn "Loving the Church"]

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