Iyov, who seems to have been known to me before as an anonymous commenter on various blogs, has exploded on to the blogging scene in his own right and with a new pseudonym: he has written 45 posts in less than a month since he started his blog. Some of his posts are long and technical, but he has some interesting insights on the Christian scene from a perspective very different from mine. He is clearly a knowledgeable academic, but his real name and identity remain secret.
In one of four long posts yesterday Iyov asks whether the reintroduction of the Tridentine Mass is good for the Jews. The issue here is with the prayer in the Good Friday liturgy “for the conversion of the Jews.” I must say I fail to see what the problem is with this. But perhaps this depends on exactly what is meant by “conversion”.
For a start, this must be much less objectionable than the kinds of curses on Christians which are found in some Jewish prayers.
Adherents of every religion believes that its teaching is correct, and that other religions offer at most part of the truth mixed with some error. I hope it is the desire of all that others will find more of the truth. Certainly many Jews desire Christians to understand better the truth of Judaism, and they probably also pray for it. So it is hypocritical of them to complain about Christians praying that Jews will come to understand the truth as they themselves understand it – specifically that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah and the Son of God.
But is that what prayer for the conversion of the Jews means? Is the problem rather that this prayer is in fact understood as a prayer that the Jews will also become Catholics in religious practice and culture? If so, I suspect that there is a misunderstanding here. The Roman Catholic Church has always accepted liturgical diversity among the oriental churches in communion with it, such as the Maronite church in Lebanon and the Holy Land. Similarly it should, and in principle will, accept that Jews who accept Christian doctrine can have their own church structures and their own practices – which might look rather like those of “Messianic Jews”, Jews who accept Christian teaching in a Jewish cultural setting. This should be, and indeed is, much less offensive to Jews than the idea of expecting them to become good western style Catholics.
The problem is, can this kind of diversity be reconciled with the catholicity of the church? Metacatholic Doug is quite reasonably concerned about this, and so has reservations about the whole concept of Messianic Jews. The solution that I see is that we must find the catholicity of the church not in terms of common culture or religious practices, but in a common faith and a common mission.
So we must hope and pray not that Jews, whether secular ethnic Jews or adherents of Judaism, will come to share our Christian culture and worship practices, but that, without being forced to abandon their Jewishness, they will accept our faith in Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God, and will join us Gentile Christians in our mission to proclaim this to the world. This is what most if not all Messianic Jews are keen to do. In so far as they do not cut themselves off from the faith and the mission of the church, we should welcome them as our fellow believers. And we should hope and pray that more and more Jews will join their number.