Skip to comments.Can a Catholic Christian Pray Like a Jew? Conclusion
Posted on 12/26/2009 3:23:12 PM PST by Teófilo
Folks, Ive really taken a long time to write this conclusion to the posts Can a Catholic Christian Pray Like a Jew parts I and II. The delay was due to various reasons, but the most important were that I wanted to reflect longer on the meaning of each post, as well as the review of an ever increasing stack of material that Ive either discovered or that some of my correspondents have kindly referred me to. Therefore, please know that mine is not the last word on this subject. Nevertheless, what Ive found fascinates me.
There seems to be a mysterious convergence of people of faith, Catholic and non-Catholic, drawn to the rediscovery of Christianitys Jewish roots and a renewed attempt to reconcile ourselves with our brothers and sisters of postbiblical Judaism after 1,600 years of openly hostile enmity. This effort includes a scholarly attempt to resituate Jesus firmly within his First Century Jewish milieu, as well as a recalibration of Christian dogmatics that takes full advantage of this resetting. A respectful apologetics of Christianity and Catholicism has also been taking shape, one that is respectful of the Jewish post-Christian experience and mindful of the responsibility that our ancestors bear in the promotion of hostile, destructive, and persecutory actions aimed against Judaism as a religion and Jews, both as a people and as believers. While acknowledging this tragic past, the apologetic and evangelistic presentation of Jesus as both Messiah and Savior of the Jewish people and principally for the Jewish people continues relentlessly, albeit with delicacy and a full consciousness of how much Anti-Semitism has damaged the visible reunion between the historical Israel and the New Israel founded by the Blood of the Lamb.
Tragically, the Jewish-Catholic dialogue and rapprochement has also resulted in a resistance which as vocal as it is vile and vitriolic in its anti-Jewish hate. We can see examples of these regrettable attitudes here and here. It is a shame that people who consider themselves Catholic are still able to fall so short from the standard of Love the Lord left to us. But I will address the causes of Anti-Semitism and Anti-Judaism the devil, the flesh, and the world in a future post. For now, let me briefly review with you Can a Catholic Christian Pray Like a Jew parts I and II:
On part I we briefly discussed the Jewish characters of a number of hymns and prayers found in the Gospels that point to a definite convergence between Christianity and First Century Judaism. In fact, for these prayers and hymns to be fully intelligible, they must be read against the context of Judaism or not at all. We also talked about the Psalms and how these were Jesus own prayer book, and how Jesus went by himself many times to commune with the Father. I concluded with the observation that a Christian in general, and a Catholic in particular, can pray like a Jew, albeit a first century Jew, inasmuch as we pray like and in Jesus. Yet Jesus presence in the praying Catholic Christian is not a mere memory of someone who existed once in the past but who is only available to us through holy writings, but a living, breathing presence indwelling in us, who both prays in us and moulds us to pray like Him. In this sense, a Catholic prays like a Jew all the time. The reality of praying like a Jew is present in each one of us through Jesus Christ Our Lord.
On part II we spoke mostly of divergences. The first divergence was that Jewish prayer was mostly liturgical in character, in both its public and private manifestations, and that these prayers include a fervent element designed to strengthen the Jewish identity of the praying community or individual. We also saw than within this context, intimacy with God was assumed or conceived differently from the way we usually understand it from the writings of our greatest mystics. I said that if I were to encapsulate Jewish theology in one catchphrase, I would say that Jewish theology is a theology of boundaries between man and his Lord that cannot be crossed. These boundaries have dropped for Catholic Christians, and our communal experience of contemplative prayer has developed a vocabulary of quest, ascent, and union with God in the order of grace and that we found this grammar of ascent in the New Testament itself.
Some of the statements I said above regarding Jewish contemplative understandings are liable to further review, I am afraid. What Ive written has been mostly based on very preliminary readings from a couple of authoritative primers. However, I must also say that the reasons why a number of Jesus own Jewish contemporaries picked up stones from the ground to throw at Him was because they understood very clearly the consequences of Jesus claims to be Gods ultimate, personal, Incarnate manifestation to them: that meant that the boundaries had fallen. Jesus was now the Temple and anyone could approach God in Him at any time without consideration of status or class. His claims must have been deeply unsettling and threatening to the Jewish identity of his hearers and to Israels claim of being Gods unique people, as well as deeply subversive to established political interests.
Modern Judaism exists because of the adhesion of most of Jesus Jewish contemporaries to the eternal Israel. We can see that in the quotes from Rabbi Neusner that Pope Benedict XVI included in his book Jesus of Nazareth. Hence the theology of dropped boundaries and direct, personal, and unmediated experience with God in incarnated human form didnt make it into Judaism. Of course, post-biblical, post-second Temple Judaism was not impervious to Christian reflection on this issue and one may see here and there a shifting of the boundaries now closer to God, that allow the individual Jew a closeness and intimacy they never had before, when their sacrificial priesthood was in full functioning. But the barriers, and the boundaries, those closer to God than ever before, still remain.
We Christians must understand that why our Jewish brethren still set up and maintain these barriers and the motivations behind them. But we cant make their barriers our own. The only limit we face in knowing God is Jesus own instrumental humanity which is, paradoxically, as finite as ours and yet bottomless and boundless in the expression of the eternal, infinite divinity of God. God in human form has become intelligible to our minds and senses while the mystery remains inexhaustible and unfathomable.
Its a lot like looking at the Sun: we can tell its bright, hot, pretty large, and very active. But we can only guess at whats going on in its core even though we dispose of a set of mathematical symbols that gives us an idea, but not the actual experience of whats going on at the heart of the Sun.
Similarly, when we look at the Heart of the Son, we can use a set of symbols words, phrases, and sentences that may describe analogically and in fragments whats going on in there, at the core of Jesus humanity; however, although we might never experience what is like in the core of our nearest star, we are called, even impelled, to experience the Trinitarian perichoresis the dancing together going on in the Heart of the Son of God.
Therein lays the difference between the objects of Jewish and Christian prayers: Jewish prayer looks at God the way we would look at the Sun, but Christian prayers looks at God by looking at the Son, beyond symbol and expression and by full participation in the Sons divine life.
This is not to say that Jewish prayer can never take us to the Heart of Christ. Remember that we said that all those very Jewish canticles and prayers we find in the Gospels and elsewhere in the New Testament and first and foremost Jewish in essence. The mystery is completely intelligible in Jewish-Hebraic terms to those who heard it and in the Gospel we are privy to their reactions: acceptance by some and rejection by others. In this the Jews of Jesus times were no different than the Jews and Gentiles of today, including Catholics who think they know Him and that hating the Jews is doing Gods service. But they do not. The message of Gods ultimate entry into contingent human history continues actual and fresh and challenging to this day.
We can pray the Our Father and those other prayers and hymns in the New Testament as Jews and only in this way we can experience them primarily as Christians. Theres simply no way around it. In this manner, all Catholics could and should pray like Jews. May the blessing of the Almighty God, Father, Son, and + Holy Spirit be with all of us.
As a non-Christian, do you consider Christianity a myth? Do you expect me to reject that?
The catholic church was started in the fourth century at Nicea run by a Pagan.
I can certainly expect a non-Christian to want to rewrite Christian history like that, but you meet with EPIC FAIL.
Christ walked the earth in the first century. That's why we call it the first century.
I guess there are those who are vincibly ignorant
and will require Yah'shua to disabuse them of their myths.
For all to know who Hyam Maccoby was and what he believed. Is this your hero? He says Judas Iscariot was a Christian invention?
Do Messianic Jews believe Jesus is God? Yes or no?
Jesus Christ will disabuse me of my Christianity?
As a non-Christian, do you consider Christianity a myth? Do you expect me to reject that?
Beautiful and very interesting to me. I was surprised for instance to hear that I believe Catholics (I forget which Christians, I think it’s Catholics) use a version of the Priestly Blessing, which we use to bless our children weekly. I think that MOST of the Jewish prayers would be satisfying to Christians because they are prayers to our same, One and Only, G-d. Since you also have Jesus, you can add your own to it.
Interesting conjecture considering the inconsistancy and differences, ommissions, etc. of the Gospels on quite a few counts; and that the cruel and bungling Pilate would have released a prisoner, ie., the “Passover Privalege”, without consultation with Rome is equally intriguing.
Iscariot: dagger man....
As for myself, I think Jesus was an interesting rabbi, that is, a Pharisee, but not divine. I believe in the strict “oneness” of God. Not two, nor three, nor...what you will.
Oh, you know, T, I worked long and hard to stop setting the rules for God and at my advanced age I have pretty much succeeded so I have no definite idea about that. My gut says yes, they are saved by observance of the Old Covenant which cannot be "apart from Christ" since "Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος" but I don't know; way, way above my pay grade, my friend.
"Different perceptions of a phenomenon whose underlying Reality is the same, K."
So the priests and the rabbis around here in my youth always said.
So, I take it you are a Christian who believes Chirst is not God? What was he then?
Jews can't believe in another God.
K: So the priests and the rabbis around here in my youth always said.
That's really stretching it. I am sure no self-respecting Jew would say Christianity is just a different perception of the same underlying reality.
My gut says yes, they are saved by observance of the Old Covenant which cannot be "apart from Christ" since "In the beginning [sic] was the Word..." but I don't know; way, way above my pay grade, my friend.
Well, they leave out the Christ, Kolo. The NT really doesn't leave that option.
Perhaps he believes in some kind of ersatz modalism.
They are God's Chosen People; they were called that long before Christ arrived. I kinda agree with Kolo. I don't believe that God has withdrawn His covenant from the Jewish Nation.
I’ve been to several websites that go into Messianic Jews and it appears as if they become neither Jewish nor Christian, but consist of a few tens of thousands scattered around the world, a group of entities to themselves.
Jews can't believe in another God.
NAU Mark 12:29 Jesus answered, "The foremost is, NAU John 10:30 "I and the Father are one."
There is only one YHvH. shalom b'SHEM Yah'shua HaMashiach
NAU Deuteronomy 6:4 "Hear, O Israel! YHvH is our God,
YHvH is one!
'HEAR, O ISRAEL! YHvH OUR GOD IS ONE YHvH;
NAU Mark 12:29 Jesus answered, "The foremost is,
NAU John 10:30 "I and the Father are one."
“That’s really stretching it.”
You think so, Kosta mou? The underlying reality of the liturgy and the temple ceremonies was the worship of God. That’s the same and the manner in which it is done, even the way the priests dress to some extent, bear similarities so far as we know.
“I am sure no self-respecting Jew would say Christianity is just a different perception of the same underlying reality.”
I agree. And no Orthodox Christian would say that Judaism is just a different perception of the same underlying reality as Christianity. I did not understand Theo to be saying that.
“Well, they leave out the Christ, Kolo.”
Indeed they do. Maybe Christ doesn’t leave them out.
“The NT really doesn’t leave that option.”
John 3:8. Like I said, above my pay grade.
On another note, I've read various opinions of Christianity being the “New Israel” but I am not at all convinced nor comfortable with the idea.
I see some here relate to this...for me it brings confusion and a host of complicated issues, and distracts from the centrality of Christ.
Have their been threads on this topic in the past? and I'd be interested in your opinion at some time convenient for you. Thank you again.
Possibly. Messianic Jews are really Protestants dressed up like Jews and their beliefs are equally divergent.