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Apostate Saint

In reflecting upon the witness of Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) whose feast the Church celebrates today, I came upon a provocative and illuminating article by the Jewish theologian, David Novak. Writing in 1999, Novak said in part:

Supersessionism is the subject of deep theological debate today. Many Jews have seen it as the core of Christian anti-Judaism. Many Christians are embarrassed by it, seeing it as part of the anti-Judaism that was so easily appropriated by modern anti-Semitism. Yet, Christian supersessionism need not denigrate Judaism. It can look to the Jewish origins of Christianity happily and still learn of those origins from living Jews, whom Pope John Paul II likes to call "elder brothers." Christian supersessionism can still affirm that God has not annulled his everlasting covenant with the Jewish people, neither past nor present nor future. Jews can expect no more than that from Christians, and Christians probably cannot concede any more to Judaism. For if Christianity does not regard itself as going beyond Judaism, why should Christians not become Jews? And, conversely, any Jew who believes Christianity supersedes Judaism can only in good faith become a Christian—as Edith Stein did.

Fruitful conversations of late between Jews and Christians have largely bracketed this critical issue for good reasons. It is, nevertheless, the crucial question that leaves the two communities at an impasse. All attempts to get beyond it—be they political, exegetical, or philosophical—have been failures. After all, it is the question of truth, and truth is what we are both all about. To bracket this question is quite different from either suppressing it altogether or reducing all discussion to it.

Edith Stein represents our impasse. She cannot be a bridge between Jews and Catholics because in this world one cannot be simultaneously both a faithful Jew and a faithful Catholic. Since the Jewish and Catholic communities are mutually exclusive, and both Jews and Catholics derive their identities from God’s covenant with their communities, no member of one community can also be a member in good standing of the other. Moreover, one cannot expect the approval of the covenanted community one has left. As with Abraham our father, the answer to God’s call always involves leaving some earlier household in one way or another, and that household does not and cannot provide one with a warm farewell.

One should be able to access the full article here.

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Father Imbelli, always grateful for your thoughful posts, I'll finally take this opportunity to say, thank you!

peace

Interesting article.  I've only recently read about Edith Stein and the controversy over her canonization ...  http://www.nytimes.com/1998/10/11/world/a-jew-s-odyssey-from-catholic-nu... ...   and I was kind of depressed to read elsewhere that she was such a champion of complementarianism.  She actually wrote that women have different kinds of souls than men.  No big surprise, I guess, that JPII liked her so much, given his attitude towards women and his Theology of the Body.

Shortly after that 1999 article, the USCCB issued a statement that Catholics should not be seeking the conversion of Jews. Avery Dulles objected to that and the USCCB softened the statement. In 2011, Joseph Ratzinger, in volume 2 of his "Jesus of Nazareth" endorsed the view that the Church should not be seeking the conversion of Jews.  Here is John Allen's review:

After excerpts from the second volume of the pope’s book on Jesus made the rounds last week, featuring his rejection of the idea that “the Jews” killed Christ, the full text adds another point with important implications for Christian/Jewish relations -- in effect, that Christianity “must not concern herself with the conversion of the Jews.”

The comment comes in Benedict XVI’s book Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week, the full text of which was released today.

While the pope does not affirm a theory propounded by some theologians holding that the Jews will be saved independently of Christ, experts say, he does clearly suggest the church should not be targeting Jews for conversion efforts

“Israel is in the hands of God, who will save it ‘as a whole’ at the proper time, when the number of Gentiles is full,” the pope writes. The historical duration of this “proper time,” Benedict says, cannot be calculated.

In terms of the proper Christian attitude in the meantime, Benedict approvingly quotes Cistercian abbess and Biblical writer Hildegard Brem: “The church must not concern herself with the conversion of the Jews, since she must wait for the time fixed for this by God.”

Although Benedict XVI stipulated in the first volume of his book that he writes as a private theologian rather than authoritatively as head of the Catholic church, his comments inevitably carry weight as indications of the way Benedict is likely to approach these questions as pope.

The question of conversion has long been among the most explosive in the arena of Catholic/Jewish relations. Still today, perceptions in the Jewish world that Christians are targeting them for missionary efforts produce sharply negative reactions.

Benedict XVI acknowledges that the question of “Israel’s mission” in God’s plan has a painful past

“We realize today with horror how many misunderstandings with grave consequences have weighed down our history,” he writes. Yet, the pope says, “the beginnings of a correct understanding have always been there, waiting to be rediscovered, however deep the shadows.”

The key to that correct understanding, Benedict writes, lies in the Biblical notion of the “times of the Gentiles.”

The charge given by Jesus to carry the Gospel to the ends of the earth, Benedict says, implies a sequence: first the “full number” of the Gentiles comes to the faith, and only then the Jews. He quotes St. Bernard of Clairvaux’s advice to one of his predecessors, Pope Eugene III, that “a determined time has been fixed” for the conversion of the Jews “that cannot be anticipated.”

Benedict says that in the early church, the urgency of evangelization wasn’t based so much on the idea that every human being had to know Christ in order to be saved, but rather on a “grand conception of history,” according to which the Gospel had to reach all the nations in order for the world to fulfill its destiny.

Until God’s plan comes to fruition, Benedict says, the “particular task” of the disciples of Christ is to carry the faith to the Gentiles, not to the Jews.

The question of whether including Jews in the church’s missionary efforts is legitimate has long been a debated point in Catholic circles.

Almost ten years ago, the late Cardinal Avery Dulles was critical of a joint statement from the National Council of Synagogues and the Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference to the effect that “targeting Jews for conversion to Christianity” is “no longer theologically acceptable in the Catholic Church.”

Dulles replied that the church cannot curtail the scope of the gospel without betraying itself: “Once we grant that there are some persons for whom it is not important to acknowledge Christ, to be baptized and to receive the sacraments, we raise questions about our own religious life,” he wrote.

Subsequently, the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Doctrine issued a clarification in 2009 that most experts regarded as largely upholding the position taken by Dulles. Its conclusion was, “The fulfillment of the covenants, indeed, of all God’s promises to Israel, is found only in Jesus Christ.

Allen quoted Fr. Weinandy of the USCCB on the new book:

Capuchin Fr. Thomas Weinandy, executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Doctrine, cautioned that Benedict XVI’s lines on Judaism in the new book do not endorse a “two-covenant” theology, meaning that Christianity and Judaism represent two parallel paths to salvation, so that Jews are saved without any reference to Christ.

At the same time, Weinandy said, the pope’s words do clearly indicate that “there’s no specific program that the Catholic church has to convert Jews, which is in God’s time.”

http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/church-should-not-pursue-conversion...

Fr. Imbelli, I'm grateful for your daring to broach this sensitive topic.  It is one that I've struggled with.

If, as Novak states, supersessionism is the impasse, then might that be another way of saying that Jesus is the impasse, as Jesus is himself (we believe) the revelation and fulfillment of what God has planned for us?

We need to get precision and clarity as to what constitutes supersessionism.  If supersessionism is deemed to be sinful, and a Christian profession of faith is intrinsically supersessionist, and if Christians are under an obligation to profess our faith - that doesn't seem to be a resolvable conundrum.  

Novak's call for tolerance and understanding on both "sides" is welcome.

 

Here is a pertinent passage from Evangelii Gaudium:

249. God continues to work among the people of the Old Covenant and to bring forth treasures of wisdom which flow from their encounter with his word. For this reason, the Church also is enriched when she receives the values of Judaism. While it is true that certain Christian beliefs are unacceptable to Judaism, and that the Church cannot refrain from proclaiming Jesus as Lord and Messiah, there exists as well a rich complementarity which allows us to read the texts of the Hebrew Scriptures together and to help one another to mine the riches of God’s word. We can also share many ethical convictions and a common concern for justice and the development of peoples.

Contra Novak, isn't the most important question, how the believer undertands and articulates their identity? Edith Stein identified herself as a Jewish Catholic. She embodied the harmony and if the objective religious bodies have a problem with her self-identification, shouldn't they be in dialogue with her? Is not her experience a valid criteria upon which to base ecumenical dialogue.

Simone Weil, while not formally baptized, considered herself Catholic and was attracted to Catholicism universality. The only thing that kept her out, she wrote, was two little words "anethema sit". There is too much true and beautiful in the world religions that she wished to embrace and by becoming part of the institution, she felt, she would have to discard it. Maybe the Second Vatican Council would have helped her integrate multiple identities within a singular faith.

Faith is an interior process that requires an external witness. Edith Stein made her profession but never betrayed her Jewish patrimony. Isn't that enough?

And their covenant has never been revoked:

247. We hold the Jewish people in special regard because their covenant with God has never been revoked, for “the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable” (Rom 11:29). The Church, which shares with Jews an important part of the sacred Scriptures, looks upon the people of the covenant and their faith as one of the sacred roots of her own Christian identity (cf. Rom 11:16-18). As Christians, we cannot consider Judaism as a foreign religion; nor do we include the Jews among those called to turn from idols and to serve the true God (cf. 1 Thes 1:9). With them, we believe in the one God who acts in history, and with them we accept his revealed word.

This makes me wonder about the meaning of ecumentism.  I've always assumed it meant respecting other religious groups' beliefs but so often in Catholicism it seems to mean turning everyone else into a Catholic.  The church does seem to make a big deal about those who have converted, like Stein, as if we and other religious groups were rival sports teams.

 

"And their covenant has never been revoked:"

Glad to know the Church has revoked its own former teaching about the Jews.  From the Baltimore Catechism:

Q. 1138. When did the civil and ceremonial laws of the Jews cease to exist?

A. The civil laws of the Jews ceased to exist when the Jewish people, shortly before the coming of Christ, ceased to be an independent nation. The ceremonial laws ceased to exist when the Jewish religion ceased to be the true religion; that is, when Christ established the Christian religion, of which the Jewish religion was only a figure or promise.

http://www.baltimore-catechism.com/lesson29.htm

How fortuitious to read this -- and to learn that it's Edith Stein's feast day! -- on the day I'm finishing up revisions to an article on Merchant of Venice, Jewish conversions, and the struggle to read supersessionist theology as being more generous and ecumenical than it actually ever can be.

Many thanks.

If I understand Pope Benedict here, unless we understand ourselves to have been baptized into the life and mission of the Jew Jesus, then we have no genuine mieeion to the Gentiles, for the covenant with the Jews is the sole Covenant by which God's Chosen People have a mission to the Gentiles.

I would be interested to hear from someone like Alan Mitchell on whether or not the apostles and other Jewish members in the earliest Church thought it was impossible to be a Jew and a follower of Jesus. Gerelyn brings up the Baltimore Catechism, which was the basis of my Catholic education in elementary school in the 1950s. In it we found the following:

Q. 390. Why was the veil of the Temple torn asunder at the death of Christ?

A. The veil of the Temple was torn asunder at the death of Christ because at His death the Jewish religion ceased to be the true religion, and God no longer manifested His presence in the Temple.

 

Q. 391. Why did the Jewish religion, which up to the death of Christ had been the true religion, cease at that time to be the true religion?

A. The Jewish religion, which, up to the death of Christ, had been the true religion, ceased at that time to be the true religion, because it was only a promise of the redemption and figure of the Christian religion, and when the redemption was accomplished and the Christian religion established by the death of Christ, the promise and the figure were no longer necessary.

And yet, as I understand it, the apostles continued as practicing Jews, including attendance at the Temple. According to Acts, the so-called Council of Jerusalem did not oblige Gentile converts to the "Jesus movement" to follow most of the Law, but it certainly did not declare Judaism no longer "the one true religion" or exempt Jewish followers of Jesus from the Law. As one of my commentaries points out, if Mark was correct in saying that Jesus declared all foods clean, the apostles failed to grasp the fact. 

 

Looking back on the Baltimore Catechism, it is difficult not to feel that, even if it was not tinged with anti-Seitism (and I am not saying it wasn't), it must have made the Christian anti-Semite's heart fill with pride to know that at the moment of Jesus's death, Judaism ceased to be the true religion. 

Gerelyn, the next article is in tnat 1891 Catechism is:

Q. 1139. Why were not also the moral laws of the Jews abolished when the Christian religion was established?

A. The moral laws of the Jews could not be abolished by the establishment of the Christian religion because they regard truth and virtue and have been revealed by God, and whatever God has revealed as true must be always true, and whatever He has condemned in itself must always be bad.

However, I agree that prior to Vatican II, there wasn't much talk about whether what was true for gentiles was true in exactly the same way for Jews.

For instance, Pius XII's Mystici Corporis Christi of 1943:

29. And first of all, by the death of our Redeemer, the New Testament took the place of the Old Law which had been abolished; then the Law of Christ together with its mysteries, enactments, institutions, and sacred rites was ratified for the whole world in the blood of Jesus Christ. For, while our Divine Savior was preaching in a restricted area - He was not sent but to the sheep that were lost of the House of Israel [30] - the Law and the Gospel were together in force; [31] but on the gibbet of His death Jesus made void the Law with its decrees [32] fastened the handwriting of the Old Testament to the Cross, [33] establishing the New Testament in His blood shed for the whole human race.[34] "To such an extent, then," says St. Leo the Great, speaking of the Cross of our Lord, "was there effected a transfer from the Law to the Gospel, from the Synagogue to the Church, from the many sacrifices to one Victim, that, as Our Lord expired, that mystical veil which shut off the innermost part of the temple and its sacred secret was rent violently from top to bottom." [35]

30. On the Cross then the Old Law died, soon to be buried and to be a bearer of death, [36]....

I think the current view is to thread a line between supercessionism (the New Law replaced the Old for everyone, including Jews) and dual-Covenant Theology (the Old Covenant is still in effect for Jews and remains a permanent valid path to salvation for them) by introducing a time factor - that the New Covenant has replaced the Old for gentiles but not for Jews until some until some unknown time in the future when God will bring the Jews, as a nation, to know Christ. In the meantime, we should stick to spreading the Gospel to gentiles and not try to convert Jews -since that is in God's hands and to happen in His good time - perhaps not until the instant before the end of the world. 

I have read a little about the Messianic Jews, who try to practice Jewish cultural traditions while confessing belief in Jesus Christ.  But apparently they are considered Christians (and not Jews)  by the Jewish community. So I wonder if all Jews still await a messiah, or if some have given up on that, or have decided that the prophecies meant something other than an actual person who would fulfill this role on earth.

John, the Q. you quote is less anti-Semitic than 1138.  What about  1089?

 

Q. 1089. To what may we attribute the desire of the Jews to put Christ to death?

A. We may attribute the desire of the Jews to put Christ to death to the jealously, hatred and ill-will of their priests and the Pharisees, whose faults He rebuked and whose hypocrisy He exposed. By their slanders and lies they induced the people to follow them in demanding Our Lord's crucifixion.

 

 

---------

Some Catholics were/are less anti-Semitic than others.  The 1891 Baltimore Catechism was mild compared to what was to come.  (Coughlin on the radio, e.g.)  And today, of course, the recrudescence of anti-Semitism is found on all points on the Catholic spectrum.  

 

Not to mention the 4th centurt church ... http://www.fordham.edu/Halsall/source/chrysostom-jews6.asp

My experience with a few Jews is that being Jewish is as much a cultural identity as anything else.  There most certainly are secular Jews.  Across the street from my house is a synagogue that is about as liberal as can be (they fly the gay pride flag in front on a daily basis -- and they rent their facility on Sundays to an Ethiopian Coptic Christian group).  Of course, the Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jews will take issue with any Jewish identity except for theirs.

Within Judaism itself there are as many opinions as to what is means to be Jewish as their are those opining.

A bit like Catholicism these days.

I didn't approve of the canonization of Edith Stein.  It seemed like an affront to her family and to all Jews.    (And to everyone who dislikes the political aspects of canonizations.)

But canonizations are political.  

This article is about some recent canonizations that troubled some observers:  Stein, Kolbe, Pio, Escriva, Maria Goretti, Juan Diego:

http://www.bostonphoenix.com/boston/news_features/top/features/documents...

I don't think many/most Catholics pay much/any attention to these events.  Those who do should, imho, read widely, not narrowly, about the saint in question and the politcal, cultural, historical context in which s/he flourished.

Jim Pauweis,

thanks for your thoughts. You write that "Jesus is the impasse." One could equally say: "Jesus is the stumbling block" for Christians and Jews alike.

From the above quote, these lines particularly struck me:

if Christianity does not regard itself as going beyond Judaism, why should Christians not become Jews? And, conversely, any Jew who believes Christianity supersedes Judaism can only in good faith become a Christian—as Edith Stein did.

Fruitful conversations of late between Jews and Christians have largely bracketed this critical issue for good reasons. It is, nevertheless, the crucial question that leaves the two communities at an impasse. All attempts to get beyond it—be they political, exegetical, or philosophical—have been failures. After all, it is the question of truth, and truth is what we are both all about. To bracket this question is quite different from either suppressing it altogether or reducing all discussion to it.

"After all, it is the questionof truth, and truth is what we are both all about." As you know, a crucial spur to Edith Stein's conversion was her all-night reading of Teresa of Avila's Vida, after which she said simply: "this is truth!"

I fully agree with you when your write: " We need to get precision and clarity as to what constitutes supersessionism." Thus I would not write, as Novak did, that Edith Stein believed that "Christianity supersedes Judaism." I don't believe that "fulfillment" and "supersessionism" are equivalent notions. The icon of the Transfiguration, I believe, points the way.

 

Gerelyn, what a difference a hundred years makes in the Catechism

I. The Trial of Jesus

Divisions among the Jewish authorities concerning Jesus

595      Among the religious authorities of Jerusalem, not only were the Pharisee Nicodemus and the prominent Joseph of Arimathea both secret disciples of Jesus, but there was also long-standing dissension about him, so much so that St. John says of these authorities on the very eve of Christ’s Passion, “many... believed in him,” though very imperfectly.378 This is not surprising, if one recalls that on the day after Pentecost “a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith” and “some believers... belonged to the party of the Pharisees,” to the point that St. James could tell St. Paul, “How many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed; and they are all zealous for the Law.”379

596      The religious authorities in Jerusalem were not unanimous about what stance to take toward Jesus.380 The Pharisees threatened to excommunicate his followers.381 To those who feared that “everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation,” the high priest Caiaphas replied by prophesying: “It is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish.”382 The Sanhedrin, having declared Jesus deserving of death as a blasphemer but having lost the right to put anyone to death, hands him over to the Romans, accusing him of political revolt, a charge that puts him in the same category as Barabbas who had been accused of sedition.383 The high priests also threatened Pilate politically so that he would condemn Jesus to death.384 (1753)

Jews are not collectively responsible for Jesus’ death

597      The historical complexity of Jesus’ trial is apparent in the Gospel accounts. The personal sin of the participants (Judas, the Sanhedrin, Pilate) is known to God alone. Hence we cannot lay responsibility for the trial on the Jews in Jerusalem as a whole, despite the outcry of a manipulated crowd and the global reproaches contained in the apostles’ calls to conversion after Pentecost.385 Jesus himself, in forgiving them on the cross, and Peter in following suit, both accept “the ignorance” of the Jews of Jerusalem and even of their leaders.386 Still less can we extend responsibility to other Jews of different times and places, based merely on the crowd’s cry: “His blood be on us and on our children!” a formula for ratifying a judicial sentence.387 As the Church declared at the Second Vatican Council: (1735839)

...[N]either all Jews indiscriminately at that time, nor Jews today, can be charged with the crimes committed during his Passion.... [T]he Jews should not be spoken of as rejected or accursed as if this followed from holy Scripture.388

All sinners were the authors of Christ’s Passion

598      In her Magisterial teaching of the faith and in the witness of her saints, the Church has never forgotten that “sinners were the authors and the ministers of all the sufferings that the divine Redeemer endured.”389 Taking into account the fact that our sins affect Christ himself,390 the Church does not hesitate to impute to Christians the gravest responsibility for the torments inflicted upon Jesus, a responsibility with which they have all too often burdened the Jews alone: (1851)

We must regard as guilty all those who continue to relapse into their sins. Since our sins made the Lord Christ suffer the torment of the cross, those who plunge themselves into disorders and crimes crucify the Son of God anew in their hearts (for he is in them) and hold him up to contempt. And it can be seen that our crime in this case is greater in us than in the Jews. As for them, according to the witness of the Apostle, “None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” We, however, profess to know him. And when we deny him by our deeds, we in some way seem to lay violent hands on him.391

Nor did demons crucify him; it is you who have crucified him and crucify him still, when you delight in your vices and sins.392

I see that the link will not work.  Back to the drawing board.

 

(John, I won't go into the reasons why I haven't read the CCC, but I think you're pointing out that it rejects anti-Semitism.  Glad to know that.  Thanks.)

Alan:

Do you have a website of your own, maybe at Georgetown, where you could post the paper so that we could all see it?

One of my major disillusionments after becoming a Catholic was the realization that saints are usually not chosen because they're super good but because their canonization benegits the church in some way.

Gene Palumbo

Thatl ast link I posted should have worked.  Let me know if it didn't and I can put the article on my own website.

 

Regardless of what the various catechisms have said, and regardless of the need for the bishops' own doctrine guy to squish down Pope Benedict when he deviated from what Fr. Weinandy learned in the seminary, isn't the fact the Edith Stein is a saint what actually becomes controlling here, not the doctrine? If she can't be squared with the doctrine, so much the worse for the doctrine. No one has been raised to the altars for a paragraph in a catechism. Sister Teresa Benedicta was canonized for reasons the Church teaching and the Church theologizing may not fully understand. But now that she is there, the theology and teaching will just have to catch up. ISTM from their citations above that the most recent popes may  have decided to deal with supersessionism by ignoring it. Pray to Saint Teresa B, and she will help you understand.

Very interesting, Alan.  Thanks.

---

James Carroll's Constantine's Sword:  The Church and the Jews is free on Kindle Unlimited.  (One month free trial for those who don't have Unlimited.)

Nowadays we are also allowing that Muslims can enter. Even others who truly follow their conscience.. It is really heart rending to read Paul's love for the Jews.

We are truly living in a blessed age where we  relate to others according to thier good will rather than doctrine. 

Now if we can learn how to stop all these wars.

 

Anyone who has wandered around in the wilderness of Church teaching re. Judaism will notice “developments.” In tomorrow’s reading we’ll hear Paul affirm: “They are Israelites; theirs the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; theirs the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, is the Messiah.” In the pre-1987 edition of the New American Bible we would have heard: “Theirs were the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the law-giving, the worship, and the promises; theirs were the patriarchs, and from them came the Messiah.” The shift away from the past tense makes a difference. Abrogationists prefer the past tense. 

 

In his book Jesus of Nazareth, Gerhard Lohfink devotes a chapter to “Jesus and the Torah.” Lohfink indicates that “what Jesus proclaims is nothing other than the center of the Torah -- an insight that is of the utmost importance for Christian-Jewish dialogue.” 

George D.

You wrote,

Simone Weil, while not formally baptized, considered herself Catholic and was attracted to Catholicism universality.

I had read about her attraction to Catholicism, but have never heard that she "considered herself Catholic."  Can I ask where you read that?

 

Christian supersessionism can still affirm that God has not annulled his everlasting covenant with the Jewish people, neither past nor present nor future.

Amen!  I have believed this for a number of years now and am exhilirated to find out that I'm not alone.  God does not revoke His covenants, nor will He ever.  That is why I cherish the Jewish people, especially the orthodox.  When I see photos them at the Wall, rocking slightly back and forth as they pray, I am instinctively drawn to them as my brothers and sisters.  For Heavens sake, Mary was a Jew, as was Christ's stepfather Joseph, as was John the Baptisit's mother, and Jesus taught in the Temple.  He called the Temple "His Father's House". 

I do not even pretend to understand the Divine sociology and logistics of all this, I only know in my heart that I am a Christian by birth, belief, and practice, and I am also a Jew in my heart.

Nostra Aetate 4 is a true innovation in Catholic teaching, as we see from the quote in the Baltimore Catechism above; the Council went back to Romans 9-11 and stressed the irrevocability of the First Covenant. John Paul II drew the conclusion that Christians, as grafted on to the chosen people, did not have a mission to Jews. Benedict XVI drew back from that somewhat, and it is heartening to see Francis advance more boldly along the conciliar line.

Here over Sunday breakfast in Cork I am chatting with a confrère about something that always bothers me when teaching Genesis: the extreme weirdness of the central theme in the saga, namely, the promise that the land where Abraham is merely an immigrant will one day belong to him entirely. In light of the later extermination of the Canaanite tribes, not to mention current events, how can we make sense  of this? Teaching Genesis as literature I tell the students it is a McGuffin, just a plot element to keep the story going, and I am unable to find anything theologically or religiously or spiritually edifying in it. Has anyone any thoughts on this?

Joseph O'Leary,

having just finished breakfast in Boston, allow me to offer a comment on your statement that "Christians, as grafted on to the chosen people, did not have a mission to Jews." I suspect that Saint Paul would have been surprised at the assertion.

Of course, you may be understanding "mission" in the invidious sense of "proselytizing." But is there anything in Vatican II (much less the New Testament) that negates the responsibility of Christians to witness to and proclaim that Jesus Christ is the Savior of all peoples?

I quoted above from Evangelii Gaudium: "the Church cannot refrain from proclaiming Jesus as Lord and Messiah" And you are, of course, well familiar with the earlier passage in Nostra Aetate, which declares: "without ceasing the Church preaches, and is bound to preach, Christ who is 'the way, the truth, and the life' (Jn 14:6), in whom men and women find the fulness of religious life and in whom God has reconciled all things to himself."

The joy of the Gospel, which is the joy of knowing and loving Jesus, who loved us and gave himself for us and for all, impels "mission." That mission may take different forms in different contexts, but the Good News of Jesus Christ is always at its heart.

 

Gene

 

I cannot find my text of Waiting for God at the moment but found some excerpts online. I really liked that book and have read and re-read it several times.

 

It is in one of her letters to her priest friend in “Waiting for God” Letter IV. She tells him that she owes him a tremendous debt although she was never baptized. She said that he neither brought her the Christian inspiration or brought her to Christ as it had already been done without the intervention of any human being. Granted, she stayed out of the Church for intellectual reasons (the anethema sit which she writes in another letter). However she had a desire but at the same time a vocation to be outside the church. As she writes, "to be born of the water and spirit, she must abstain from the visible water."

 

She had to sort out her vocation which she believed was to remain at the threshold of the Church while being tied in some way to it and she uses a Greek word to express it (that is in letter V of her intellectual vocation). It is in Greek and i don’t know what it means but she uses it as a term to express her spiritual existential condition. “The position may seem to be very unstably balanced, but faithfulness, of which I hope God will not refuse me the grace, makes it possible to remain thus indefinitely without moving (greek word)”

 

 

Fr. Imbelli wrote to JOL: Of course, you may be understanding "mission" in the invidious sense of "proselytizing." But is there anything in Vatican II (much less the New Testament) that negates the responsibility of Christians to witness to and proclaim that Jesus Christ is the Savior of all peoples?

That's what interested me in the distinction Benedict made in Book 2 of JON (as summarized by John Allen in his review I quoted above)

 

Benedict says that in the early church, the urgency of evangelization wasn’t based so much on the idea that every human being had to know Christ in order to be saved, but rather on a “grand conception of history,” according to which the Gospel had to reach all the nations in order for the world to fulfill its destiny.

Until God’s plan comes to fruition, Benedict says, the “particular task” of the disciples of Christ is to carry the faith to the Gentiles, not to the Jews.

That is what I meant when I said the current view is to thread a line between supercessionism and dual-covenant theology by introducing a time factor. It avoids denying that all salvation is through Christ. 

George D

The two Greek words at the end of the sentence you quoted are en hypomenē  which basically means to "stay behind" but also had the meaning of "bearing up under difficulty" as in 2 Tim 2:10.

 But is there anything in Vatican II (much less the New Testament) that negates the responsibility of Christians to witness to and proclaim that Jesus Christ is the Savior of all peoples?

Simple respect for those who suffered and died at Auschwitz should make it clear that the papal cross does not belong there.   

The first few pages of Carroll's book (part of the free sample) describe the manner in which this was imposed on "the abyss in which meaning itself died".

 

http://smile.amazon.com/dp/B004M5HKJI/ref=rdr_kindle_ext_tmb

 

The collect for the optional memorial of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, 9 August:

 

God of our Fathers,

who brought the martyr Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

to know your crucified Son

and to imitate him even until death,

grant, through her intercession,

that the whole human race may acknowledge Christ as its Savior

and through him come to behold you for eternity. 

Edith Stein's path to martyrdom is convoluted. In 1942, she was a refugee in a convent in the Netherlands. That year, the Dutch bishops were told by the Nazis that if they abandoned their intention to denounce the deportation of Jews, the Nazis would spare Jewish converts. When the bishops refused, Edith Stein and hundreds of other converts were deported. The Congregation for the Causes of Saints concluded that because the Nazis rounded up Jewish converts in retaliation for the bishops' defiance, they were persecuting the Catholic Church, and hence, Edith Stein.

As the religion writer Kenneth Woodward described it in his book ''Making Saints,'' the Dutch bishops' act was a kind of ''class action'' that covered all converted Jews who died as a result of the bishops' resistance. The Rev. Simeon Tomas Fernandez, the 81-year-old Carmelite priest who has been the postulator, or chief church advocate, for Edith Stein's cause since 1962, does not disagree. ''They were all martyrs, of course, but nobody else was proclaimed a saint by the local population,'' he said in an interview.

The Vatican reasoning baffles some of Edith Stein's survivors. ''If the Nazis wanted to persecute the Catholic Church, why didn't they arrest the clergy who wrote the letter?'' said Susanne Batzdorff, 77, a niece of Edith Stein who fled the Nazis by emigrating to the United States in 1939.''Instead, they rounded up the Jewish converts.''

Mrs. Batzdorff, who said she planned to attend the canonization, explained that the family still views her as a Jewish martyr.

http://www.nytimes.com/1998/10/11/world/a-jew-s-odyssey-from-catholic-nu...

Alan

Thanks

...given the context it is more likely meant to convey bearing up under difficulty

Interesting 2012 paper on Edith Stein's Conversion, revising some aspects of the standard recounting.

http://www.carmelite.org/documents/Heritage/gibbsconversionofstein.pdf

Quoting from that:

Like many other young people, Edith lost her faith in God when she was about 15. This is not to say she became an intellectually convinced atheist or sceptic. Edith never identified herself as an atheist. All she says in her autobiography (148) is that she gave up praying, deliberately and consciously, while she was staying in Hamburg in a completely secular environment, the home of her married sister Else Gordon. In much the same way, many young Catholics growing up in worldly surroundings lose interest in the faith and give up practising it, without actively rejecting it or declaring their conversion to atheism. 

[she was baptized as a Catholic 15 years later, at age 30]

Edith began to develop an informed understanding and appreciation of her Jewish heritage only after her conversion to Catholicism. 

 

Conclusion

In summary: Edith Stein’s conversion to the Catholic faith was the culmination of a prolonged and painful spiritual process that began in 1913 [she was 22] when she encountered Christians among her philosophical colleagues in Göttingen. The process of gradual conversion continued for eight years, as she struggled with deep philosophical and personal issues and observed with wondering admiration the unselfconscious witness of the Reinachs and other faithful [Lutheran] Christians. Edith received the gift of faith which she had desired for so long in the summer of 1921, after an experience of empathic communion with a kindred spirit, the great Teresa of Avila. 

 

Interesting that Sister Teresia Renata Posselt felt the need to plump up Edith's story, just as Mother Agnes Martin plumped up Therese's.  

I had read of "the Master's" bad treatment of Edith before, but I hadn't heard of her unrequited love for Hans Lipps.

Sad and depressing.  If only she had been less patriotic and had fled Germany when there was still time.

George D:

Thanks for your reply.

Like you, I really liked Waiting for God.  In fact, I had it in mind – had in mind my understanding of what she said there – when I asked you the question.  I’m not trying to split hairs or pick a fight; I’m just saying that my impression was that if someone had asked her, “Do you consider yourself Catholic?” she would  have said “No.”  She might well have added that she found, in Catholicism, much that attracted  her, that drew her, but that’s different – or so it seems to me.  My guess is that she would have said (using the first translation provided by Alan) “I’m staying behind.  I’m not entering.”  But maybe I’m mistaken.

Catholic and Jewish - Cardinal Lustiger

"Along with Cardinal Francis Arinze[11] and Bishop Jean-Baptiste Gourion of Jerusalem, Lustiger was one of only three prelates of his time who were converts to the Roman Catholic faith; he and Gourion were the only two who were born Jewish and still considered themselves 'Jewish' all their lives.[12][13] He said he was proud of his Jewish origins and described himself as a "fulfilled Jew," for which he was chastised by Christians and Jews alike. Former Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel Yisrael Meir Lau publicly denounced Lustiger. Lau accused Lustiger of betraying the Jewish people by converting to Catholicism.[14]Lustiger, who claimed that he was still a Jew, considered being "Jewish" as an ethnic designation and not exclusively a religious one. Lustiger's strong support for the State of Israel, which conflicts with the Vatican's officially neutral position, also won him Jewish support.

On becoming Archbishop of Paris, Lustiger said:

I was born Jewish and so I remain, even if that is unacceptable for many. For me, the vocation of Israel is bringing light to the goyim. That is my hope and I believe that Christianity is the means for achieving it.

The former chief rabbi of France, Rabbi René Samuel Sirat, says he personally witnessed Lustiger entering the synagogue to recite kaddish—the Jewish mourners' prayer—for his mother.[15]

Cardinal Lustiger gained recognition after negotiating in 1987 with representatives of the organized Jewish community (including Théo Klein, the former president of the CRIF)[16] the departure of the Carmelite nuns who built a convent inAuschwitz concentration camp (see Auschwitz cross).[2][6] He represented Pope John Paul II in January 2005 during the 60th-year commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz camp by the Allies.[17] He was also in Birkenau along with the new Pope Benedict XVI in May 2006.[18]

That is from the Wikipedia article on +Lustiger

HI Gene

 

You might well be right. She alludes to a Catholic identity in that work and maybe I was reading too much into it or maybe not. An awful lot of circumlocution there but interesting at the same time.

John Hayes

 

Thank you for reminding us of the magnificent Cdl. Lustiger, who had a way of capturing our imginations as few wearers of the scarlet do.  His descripion of his mission sounds a lot like a much earlier compatriot of his, who always described himself as a Jew (and not a Chrostoan) and felt that his mission too was to the goyim. I think what you quoted from the cardinal gives me a better idea of what his ancient counterpart was really all about.

.

George D and Gene P,

Since I make my living playing with ancient languages both of you have really intigued me about what Simone Weil may have meant by en hypomenē, since you have split on the meaning each otping for one of the two meanings I suggested.  Her words: “The position may seem to be very unstably balanced, but faithfulness, of which I hope God will not refuse me the grace, makes it possible to remain thus indefinitely without moving  en hypomenē”.  As you have pointed out the meanings "by staying behind" and "by bearing [the situation] with difficulty" would both fit.  What might tip it is that whereas some have translated these words in her letter as "in patience", the Greek word is much stronger than that, as "patient endurance" captures.  So there has to be some measure of difficulty that she is referring to and I suspect it is her experience of anathema sit which holds her back from committing to Catholicism.  Now does this mean, then, that she is saying, in faith, she will remain stationary not going forward to Catholicism, or that by the grace of God she will patiently endure through this difficult moment by staying in the same place?  I guess what I am asking is whether both of you are correct.

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