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.
It's still a sect/cult no matter how small or sui generis. Their beliefs or practices are not even the same; it's a typical heterodox Protestant community centered around some Jewish practices mixed with a self-styled brand of Christianity.
Well, to begin with, how can you possibly have a heterodox Protestant community? I do agree though, that what we have could be tantamount to an ultra Pentecostal progression, taking elements of Christianity and Judaism, mixing them together and coming up with something unrecognizable to either.
It's heterodox because they believe all sorts of things under the same label. This concept is not alien even to the post-Vatican II Catholic Church. Heterodoxy is manifested among such (nominal) Catholics as Nancy Pelosi, or some of the Wiccan nuns in pantsuits. They sort of make their own doctrine on various dogmatic issues and still claim to be Catholic. This is, of course, incompatible with Catholicism but not with Protestant sects/cults.
Thus, although they are relatively few in number, the diversity of beliefs doesn't lack among Messianic communities. Not all so-called Messianic "Jews" believe that Jesus is God. Not all of them observe the same rituals or dietary restrictions, etc. Like most Protestant communities, the doctrine is "winged" to an individual taste.
But this heterodoxy is not limited to fringe groups only. It can be found in mainline Protestant denominations, I would say in abundance, although most Protestants will tell you they haven never really encountered anyone with far-flung beliefs among various Protestant denominationscertainly not "doctrinally significant." (Mr Rogers comes to mind).
For instance, here you have an Episcopalian site which openly doubts the divinity of Jesus. I find that "doctrinally significant."
“although most Protestants will tell you they haven never really encountered anyone with far-flung beliefs among various Protestant denominationscertainly not “doctrinally significant.” (Mr Rogers comes to mind).”
Horse pucky! I’ve always specified Sola Scriptura type churches, not Protestant. I am well aware that many mainline Protestant churches couldn’t find a Bible using a flashlight & a map, let alone read it or believe it.
And among churches that actually believe Sola Scriptura, the doctrinal disputes are primarily charismatic vs non, infant baptism or not, and predestination vs free will. And my experience with charismatics, including in my family, is that they don’t go with sola scriptura, since their experience is their real guide. And lets face it - it is really hard to argue that scripture AFFIRMS infant baptism!
So that leaves PreD vs FW...
I don't know if you have always been specific enough when posting, though. When I made my comment regarding the unlikelihood of Protestant orthodoxy, I meant that there is no set belief system, doctrines, practices, or anything else in the Protestant pantheon.
That is why I personally regard the LDS as Protestant but not Christian (even though the Church does not specify whether they are Protestant or not - how can it?) because they came out of the Protestant movement, and still maintain a version of Scripture. The Protestant movement came about when people started to write their own doctrines and beliefs that were different from the Church's. The first group of Protestants had most of the things and beliefs that make up Christian. But as succeeding innovations and splinter groups with ever more creative theologies and beliefs came about, one might say that they became increasingly non Christian.
But it is difficult to pin it down. What is a Christian? A believer in Christ? Sure. What Christ? Was Christ God? Did He only appear to have a body? Was He a glorified man who became a god? Is the Holy Spirit God? Must you be baptized for salvation? Is there only one God with three modes of appearance? Is there only one God with three names? Must you confess your sins? To whom? Is there a specific priesthood with bishops and deacons? Must you eat the Body and Blood of Christ? Must you tithe 10%? Must you refrain from musical instruments at your services and go a capella only? Can you be fully and publically homosexual? What is the dividing line? Solas? TULIP? A point in time?
So what do you call Episcopalians in my reference? Non-sola-scriptura? Every time I read something Episcopalian they refer to the Bible. Who exactly is "sola-scriptura" according to your map? Just for future reference, in case I find another example of "doctrinally significant" divergence...
I gues you just have to be "Baptist," whatever that means.
Why do so many seek an illusory convergence?
Who says that God broke a covenant?
If you and someone else have a mutual agreement with expectations from both sides, are you the only one who can break it?
Of course not: the other party can break it by failing to fulfill the expectations of them.
For example, by rejecting Christ.
Where Christ is central, Christianity doesn’t need be the “new” anything!
It is true that the universality of Christianity is at odds with any ongoing claim of special favor for groups embracing religious paths that don’t include Christ.
There are Christians who are just dying to get cozy with the Jews, religiously speaking. I suppose it's a "certificate of authenticity" of sorts if they can show that Christians, too, are just like the Jews.
But I have never met a Jewish person with similar inclinations towards Christians. At best, Jews will see Christians as a bad imitation, as a wacky sect that stole Jewish scriptures and reinterpreted them retrograde style based on their New Testament, after having redefined many of the Jewish terms to suit their new religion.
I find Jewish attitude towards Christians one of painful resignation. Imagine how the Christians would feel is there were only 15 or so million of them, and over 2 billion Mormons!