Another Prayer for the Jews

Much has been written in recent weeks concerning the revised prayer for the conversion of the Jews that Pope Benedict XVI wrote for the Good Friday service. The revised prayer, of course, is for the extraordinary form of the Latin liturgy, but a similarly worded prayer has been in effect in the ordinary, so-called ”Novus Ordo” form of the Good Friday service for decades.

The Church’s liturgy includes what is known as the “Liturgy of the Hours” or “Divine Office,” which since Vatican II has been recommended–albeit with only limited success so far–to laity in addition to priests and religious.

Today’s evening prayer, or “vespers,” prayed by the Church throughout the world in the Liturgy of the Hours, contains this prayer:

“Lead the Jewish people to the fullness of redemption. Enlighten with your glory those who do not yet believe in Christ.” The response to this intercession is “By the merits of your Son’s death, hear us, Lord.”

For those “praying with the Church”–in either Latin or the vernacular–prayer for the conversion of Jews and indeed for all those who do not yet believe in Christ is an integral part of our worship this day.

 ”Christ became obedient for us, even to death, dying on a cross” (Phil. 2:8).   

4 responses

  1. There is good news and ‘bad’ news here. (‘Bad’ in quotation marks, because all I really mean is that the news Mr. Suprenant reports about these Good Friday prayers is not really as good as he thinks it is. Whereas the good news really IS good – so no quotation marks!)) What is the ‘bad’ news? First, these Good Friday Vespers prayers are used by hardly anyone, since Vespers is said that day only by those who don’t attend the solemn Good Friday liturgy (as nearly all priests, religious and devout laity do). Secondly, these Vespers prayers are just a shortened version of those used in the solemn liturgy for that day, and what Mr. Suprenant quotes here as one prayer really consists of two distinct prayers, with the response he quotes to be made twice – separately after each one. The first, containing the prayer for the Jews, does not clearly pray for their conversion to Christ any more than the ambiguous one used in the solemn liturgy does.The next sentence, praying for “those who do not yet believe in Christ”, is intended as a separate prayer, as is clear in the Latin “editio typica”, wherein it is placed on a separate line, with a separate response to made. It corresponds to the distinct intercession for non-Christians found in the solemn liturgy, which also follows immediately the ambiguous one for the Jews. In short, these Vespers prayers are intended by the Church to be no different in substance from those used in the main (Novus Ordo) Good Friday liturgy.
    Now the GOOD news!The kind of unambiguous Divine Office prayers for the conversion of the Jews to Christ which Mr. Suprenant mistakenly thought he found in those for Vespers on Good Friday are IN FACT found on at least seven OTHER occasions each year in the post-conciliar Divine Office. The most recent was at Vespers for Easter Sunday, the most solemn Feast in the entire yearly calendar! I will try to submit the details shortly in another comment in this same space.
    Fr. Brian Harrison, O.S.
    St. Louis, MO

  2. This is the second part of my posting in response to your piece entitled “Another Prayer for the Jews”. It documents the “good news” I mentioned briefly at the end of the first part.
    In the present media controversy about the Holy Father’s new Good Friday prayer (that the Jews may come to believe in Jesus as the Christ), what needs to be made widely known is that Mr. Suprenant’s posting here only scratches the surface. For there are at least seven other annual occasions in the post-conciliar Divine Office when the Church really DOES pray for that intention. The most recent was on Easter Sunday, just a few days ago! So the Pope himself and all other faithful Catholic clergy and religious (and of course many devout ay Catholics) using the new rite prayed for that intention. Since that means well over a million Catholics (as distinct from the few hundred priests who would have recited the new Good Friday intercession for the Jews in the old rite)it seems strange that only the latter has been making the news reports.
    Here are the relevant prayers from the new Divine Office:
    On the last day of every year (December 31 at Lauds or “Morning Prayer”), the Church prays: “O Christ, God and man, you fulfil the prophecies as David’s Lord as well as his son: we beseech you that Israel may recognize you as Messiah (te rogamus, ut Israel te Messiam agnoscat)”.
    Second only to the Mass in importance for Catholic worship is Vespers (“Evening Prayer”), and throughout the whole 7-week Easter season the Novus Ordo has an evening prayer for the conversion of the Jews almost every week. Sometimes this is only implied, as for instance, at Vespers on the vigil of the final (7th) Sunday of the season, wherein the Church addresses the following prayer to Jesus: “May all the peoples praise you as King and God, and may Israel become your possession (et Israel fiat possessio tua)”. (That is, may the sons and daughters of Israel come under Christ’s dominion as members of his Church.) And for Vespers on Wednesday of the second and fourth weeks of Easter we find this prayer: “[O God], who chose your Son’s first disciples from among the Jewish people, reveal to the children of Israel the reciprocal promise (repromissio) made to their fathers.” (This is a reference to the promise announced to their fellow-Jews by Peter and the other apostles at Pentecost, that they would receive the Holy Spirit and salvation in return for believing in Jesus as the Messiah and accepting baptism.)
    Very explicit, on the other hand, is the Vespers prayer for Easter Sunday – the most important of all the annual Catholic feasts. It addresses Jesus in these words: “May Israel recognize in you her longed-for Christ (Israel in te Christum spei suae agnoscat), and may the whole earth be filled with the knowledge of your glory.” This prayer is then repeated on the evenings of the third and fifth Sundays of the Easter season.
    In short, Pope Benedict’s recently promulgated Good Friday prayer simply repeats the same perennial Catholic doctrine that the new (“Novus Ordo”) liturgy has already been making explicit for nearly four decades! It seems to me that our Jewish brethren and many others have been misled by those liberal Catholics who have been assuring everyone for decades that Vatican Council II marked the end of all official Catholic desires or efforts for the conversion of Jews to Christianity. On the contrary, the new liturgy actually prays for their conversion much more frequently than the old, pre-Vatican-II rites! (That is, seven times a year now, as compared to only once a year, on Good Friday, in the old rite! For the old Roman Breviary did not have any intercessions at all for Lauds or Vespers.)

  3. I disagree. You say: “In short, Pope Benedict’s recently promulgated Good Friday prayer simply repeats the same perennial Catholic doctrine that the new (”Novus Ordo”) ***liturgy*** has already been making explicit for nearly four decades!”

    You gave us a prayer from Vespers that is OK, it calls on the Jews to recognize Christ as the Messiah. A call to conversion would have been better, but this is a good prayer and we can be proud of it. But this certainly is not in the Liturgy.

    In another article, you give this example of a prayer for the Jews in the liturgy: “Let us pray also for those who do not believe in Christ, so that, illumined by the light of the Holy Spirit, they too may be able to enter the way of salvation.” Note that we only pray for them to be illumined by the Holy Spirit. There is no call for conversion, or having Faith that Jesus is our Saviour and God. And this is the best quote you could find. Now you can argue it is ***implied***, but you can’t say that the Novus Ordo explicitly prays for the Jews to convert and believe in Jesus Christ in the Liturgy. It’s not there.
    Yours in Christ,
    James DePrisco

  4. Dear James,

    The liturgy of the hours, or divine office, is part of the sacred liturgy. See e.g., Sacrosanctum Concilium as well as Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 1174-78. We can quibble about how explicit the prayers are or should be when it comes to the conversion of those who do not yet believe in Christ, but the prayers I cited, and even more those advanced by Fr. Harrison, show that the Church has not abandoned her missionary mandate to pray and work for the conversion of all mankind.

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