Sunday, December 18, 2005

A chanted Penitential Rite for 4th Sunday of Advent

You heavens, open from above,
to rain down the Just One: Lord, have mercy.

Do not remember, O Lord, our sins,
for desolate is your holy city, Jerusalem: Christ, have mercy.

Console us, console us, your Israel,
and send the Redeemer
to free your captive people: Lord, have mercy.

10 comments:

Mark Anthony said...

Sounds beautiful, but just one nit-picking note (or not so nit-picking) -- we are not God's Israel; he already has one of those. We are his Church, grafted into the promises of Israel, but not its replacement.

Father Martin Fox said...

Mark:

I adapted this from the traditional prayer, Rorate Coeli, and the opening antiphon for Mass for the 4th Sunday of Advent.

Since that prayer so freely uses Zion, Jerusalem and Israel, I didn't see a problem . . .

Jim Tucker said...

I disagree that this is a problem at all. Catholic theology and liturgy have always understood that the ingrafting of the Gentiles did not create a new thing called the Church. Rather, the Church is the continuation of God's Israel, made inclusive by the joining of the circumcision and uncircumcision into a single People, heir to all the promises. This isn't "replacement theology," but the recognition that God's Israel is not identical with what Paul calls "Israel according to the flesh."

Mark Anthony said...

Fr. Martin:

I did not realize the source, so I stand corrected. Such imagery when used, though, is easily misunderstood and should be explained. There are a lot of Catholics out there who think in terms of a "replacement theology" without realizing the error.

Perhaps I am misguided here too, but I have some trouble with Fr. Tucker's statement that the Church is somehow "God's Israel" while today's Jews are "of the flesh."
We will be one people at the End, but can we really say we are now without doing violence to the present integrity of the covenant with the Jewish people?

Father Martin Fox said...

Mark:

You raise interesting questions, which I wanted to think about before I offered a response.

I share a concern about suggesting the Jewish People are simply tossed aside and "replaced"; however, that's not to say -- as some have suggested -- that the Mosaic Covenant per se is sufficient for salvation.

(I disagree with those who seem to say that Christians needn't proclaim Christ to their elder brothers and sisters in Abraham -- not to suggest you have said as much.)

As you say, Gentile believers are "grafted in."

What of the natural branches that disbelieve? We hope and pray for their re-grafting back in, as Paul suggests in Romans.

My preference is to refer to both the Church in the NT and present setting, and Israel in the Old Testament, as "God's People," especially so that OT passages not be about "them" when they're critical, but about "us" when praiseworthy. They're all about both "them" and "us."

I would be disinclined to attempt an "explanation" of a Penitential Rite, per se; I'd prefer to deal with the matter over time, in teaching and preaching. (Now, one might "ding" me for composing a text for the Penitential Rite at all, as opposed simply to using existing texts. However, I think composing a text, especially one based on the antiphon, is a reasonable interpretation of the GIRM.)

Jim Tucker said...

Israel according to the spirit needn't exclude Israel according to the flesh. As St Paul put it, he had a claim to both. But as he also put it, his hope in the promises did not come from the fact that he belonged to Israel according to the flesh (by his Hebrew lineage and circumcision), but rather because he belonged to God's Israel according to the spirit, in Christ Jesus.

Augustine, picking up this New Testament teaching, could speak of an "ecclesia ab Abel" -- the Church existing from the time of Abel, the first just man, and extending throughout the Old Testament up to the present day -- God's faithful People "called out" from the world. This corresponds, as well, to the Old Testament concept of the "faithful remnant of Israel," which Paul sees as being that which receives the Gentile ingrafting. The Israel of God is one single entity, existing in continuity first under the various old covenants, and now under the New and Eternal One. The one true God, and His (one) spotless Bride.

Israel "according to the flesh" is of historical interest, and those of its members who were also Israel "according to the spirit" were the first to accept the Gospel and those who received the ingrafting. There's honor in that. And there's a hopeful expectation that the merely fleshly Israel will itself be grafted back into the spiritual Israel, together with the Jews and Gentiles who are already part of her now, as the Scriptures seem to anticipate toward the End. But you won't find any liturgical, dogmatic, or patristic text claiming a special spiritual status simply for having Abrahamic bloodlines. For that, one has to turn to modern Evangelical Protestants.

Mark Anthony said...

Fr. Martin:

You are absolutely right that the Mosaic covenant is not sufficient, in and of itself, to provide salvation. Christ is the only source of salvation (Hopefully, no one here is going to dispute that!) And you are right it saying that the term "People of God" is proper for both Israel and the Church, because, grafted or not, we are in some mysterious way all branches of the one Vine.

My point at the beginning of all this was that appropriating the term "Israel" for ourselves comes uncomfortably close to obscuring the uniqueness of both Christian and Jewish traditions. As an example, I detest the practice of some Christians of performing Seder services since "it is part of our tradition." No it is not! How would we like a Jewish group to play act the Mass because of its Jewish roots? Would we see it as an honor? I think Rahner was wrong to coin the term "anonymous Christian." Wouldn't we be "anonymous Jews?" Salvation is a very mysterious thing...

Fr. Tucker:

Since i do not know you, I hesitate to presume too much. However, I think it is important to note that nowhere in the New Testament is the Church called the "new Israel." When Paul speaks of the "Israel of God," he seems to be referring to Jewish believers in Christ, but not to all members of the Church. Indeed, Paul presumes that Israel - as a corporate body, not just as individual persons - will find salvation; otherwise, the Old Covenant would be revoked in favor only of the New. Recent Church teaching emphasizes that Israel, as a body, maintains a special, unbreakable bond with God.

I find especially helpful a document from the Pontifical Biblical Commission, published in 2001, entitled "The Jewish People and their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible." It covers a lot of ground, but here is one part that is pertinent:

c) The People. The New Testament takes for granted that the election of Israel, the people of the covenant, is irrevocable: it preserves intact its prerogatives (Rm 9:4) and its priority status in history, in the offer of salvation (Ac 13:23) and in the Word of God (13:46). But God has also offered to Israel a “new covenant” (Jr 31:31); this is now established through the blood of Jesus. 304 The Church is composed of Israelites who have accepted the new covenant, and of other believers who have joined them. As a people of the new covenant, the Church is conscious of existing only in virtue of belonging to Christ Jesus, the Messiah of Israel, and because of its link with the apostles, who were all Israelites. Far from being a substitution for Israel, 305 the Church is in solidarity with it. To the Christians who have come from the nations, the apostle Paul declares that they are grafted to the good olive tree which is Israel (Rm 11:16,17). That is to say, the Church is conscious of being given a universal horizon by Christ, in conformity with Abraham's vocation, whose descendants from now on are multiplied in a filiation founded on faith in Christ (Rm 4:11-12). The reign of God is no longer confined to Israel alone, but is open to all, including the pagans, with a place of honour for the poor and oppressed. 306 The hope placed in the royal house of David, although defunct for six centuries, becomes the essential key for the reading of history: it is concentrated from now on in Jesus Christ, a humble and distant descendant. Finally, as regards the land of Israel (including the Temple and the holy city), the New Testament extends the process of symbolisation already begun in the Old Testament and in intertestamental Judaism.

Father Martin Fox said...

Mark:

OK -- regarding "Israel" . . . you make a fair point. Actually, I was rather free with the Latin on that point in any case. I'll keep it in mind.

Mark Anthony said...

If I pushed too hard there, Fr. Martin, I'm sorry. You know that I have a hard time knowing when to shut up sometimes.. ;)

Father Martin Fox said...

no problem. If your comments ever disappear...then you'll know.

By the way, I remember how I came to put "Israel" in there; I didn't want to use "people" twice. Ah well.