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October 22, 2007

A Step Backward?

The comments of Anthony J. Cernera and Rabbi Eugene Korn in The Latin Liturgy and the Jews (10/8) are a perceptive and welcome caution against the ever-lurking danger of anti-Semitism in prayer and worship, and a warning that the insights of Nostra Aetate and subsequent magisterial statements must be appropriated by every generation. But they and most commentators on the popes letter Summorum Pontificum do not stress what may be the most deleterious effect of the document. Simply put, the riches of the Old Testament will no longer be opened up to those celebrating or attending regularly the Tridentine Mass. The missal of 1962, like its predecessor, the missal of 1570, contained only 1 percent of the readings from the Old Testament; and these were limited either to snippets from the psalms in the Graduale or in the Holy Week readings.

Yet the Second Vatican Councils Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy states clearly: The treasures of the Bible are to be opened up more lavishly, so that richer fare may be provided for the faithful at the table of Gods word. In this way a more representative portion of the holy scriptures will be read to the people in the course of a prescribed number of years (No. 51). The postconciliar General Instruction of the Roman Missal (Nos. 318-20) implemented this directive by prescribing three readings: one from the Old Testament, followed by a responsorial psalm; one from apostolic writings; and a Gospel readingall arranged in a three-year cycle. For the first time the profound religious insights and stunning language of the Old Tes-tament were part of Catholic worship.

As late as 2001, in the preface to the document of the Biblical Commission titled The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger warned against neglecting the Old Testament both in itself and as an indispensable resource for understanding the New Testament. The restoration of the Tridentine liturgy means that the great narratives of the Exodus, the struggles for the land, the ringing outcries of the prophets against injustice, along with the joyous praise of God and plaintive cries for help in the Psalms will no longer be heard in many Catholic churches. This is surely the deepest affront to the Jewish people, silencing their sacred writings, and a major obstacle to any genuine interreligious dialogue.

John R. Donahue, S.J.

Baltimore, Md.

Remembering a Pioneer

On reading The Latin Liturgy and the Jews (10/8), I was disappointed to see the reference to the Missal of John XXIII without any note that it was Blessed John who insisted that the Jewish people be referred to as the first to hear the word of God, that they continue to grow in the love of his name. While Pope John Paul II made many strides, both forward and back, he seems often to be noted by the less informed members of the Roman Catholic community as the only pope worth remembering. Blessed Johns promulgation of the Missal of 1962 was a first step in the renewal and reform of the liturgy of the church. His contributions throughout his long and blessed life include his tireless efforts on behalf of those who were condemned by the Holocaust, those oppressed by Com-munism and those misunderstood by an unenlightened and fearful church.

(Rev.) John R. Ortman

Romeo, Mich.

In Remembrance of Me

A Dinosaur Ponders the Latin Mass, by Bishop Emil C. Wcela, (10/8) is the best article I have read yet on the subject. His logic, examples and reasoning are superb. There is only one image I would like to add. Can you imagine Jesus at the Last Supper turning his back on the apostles and speaking in a language they did not understand? Rather than distancing himself from them, he knelt down and washed their feet and told us to do likewise. It is astounding that people can think the Latin Mass was the best way, when Jesus himself told us to imitate him.

Denise Anderson

Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich.

Nourishment Needed

I couldnt help thinking, as I read Bishop Wcelas ironic commentary (A Dinosaur Ponders the Latin Mass, 10/8), that even dinosaurs need nourishment and that they have received very little from the church for the last 40 years. I am a relatively youthful dinosaur at 56, but coming back to the church in midlife, I was struck by how impoverished the liturgy was. By comparison to what? To what I was raised in, of course. Is it merely nostalgia that drives me to want to hear the words Surrexit, non est hic on Easter Sunday, rather than He aint here, or Hes gone away or Whatever?

Am I to believe that the miserable vernacular renderings that we now endure are the best the church has to offer a generation better educated than its (largely immigrant) predecessor, a group that somehow found meaning and solace in the Tridentine rite? A liturgy with no mystery is about as unsatisfying as one that is incomprehensible. The intellectual demands of church Latin were hardly insuperable. I thought it sounded like Italian. Maybe my grandparents generation thought so too. Which is why it bothered with Mass to begin with.

Richard J. Salvucci

San Antonio, Tex.

The Responsibilities of War

In The Rights of Detainees (9/24) the author begs the question of whether terrorist attacks are criminal activity or acts of war. The president considers us to be at war with jihadists, and the scope of the conflict is certainly consistent with war. He could have avoided this ambiguity by an actual declaration of war (through Congress), but we have not felt bound by that convention for some time now. Criminals deserve habeas corpus, but enemy soldiers, the jihadists, should be killed in battle or taken prisoner for the length of the conflict. Terror is now a worldwide war, not the actions of mobsters.

Richard Warren

Springfield, Ore.

Trust, Not Clarity

In his essay Godforsakenness (10/1), John F. Kavanaugh, S.J., gives us the essence of the character of Mother Teresa in a few short paragraphs, providing a profound message. Faith is not a crutch that one can lean on, nor a matter of clarity in the direction of our lives. Even as Jesus hung in agony on his cross, he had the one essential support that he needed: trust.

If we seek clarity in our lives, we are doomed to disappointment. But as we discern our need to trust, we will be given the grace to sustain us.

Jack Artale

Doylestown, Pa.

Setting the Record Straight

Regarding your review of Nuns: A History of Convent Life (7/30): to say the nuns talent blossomed in strict cloister is not really true for Sor Juana Inéz de la Cruz in Mexico. The concept of cloister in the Spanish orders of nuns at that time was not the strict observance we today expect. Sor Juana had a running debate with her bishop in the local newspaper, for example. Her literary accomplishments were remarkable for any educated woman of the time, and she did not willingly clothe her talents with cloister constraints until forced to do so. And St. Teresa of ávila reformed the Carmelites, but she spent a fair amount of time out and about, sometimes directed to do so.

The review, and maybe the book, does an injustice to the complexities of their situations.

Frances M. OHare

Weston, Mass.

Pessimistic About Peace

Thanks for Americas several essays on Jerusalem (8/13). All were illuminating. I wish I could find in them more grounds for optimism.

If the very reasonable presentations made by Daniel Levy and Ghaith al-Omari were at the core of discussion, one could hope. However, it is Gerald Meister who speaks from within the Israeli government establishment, and his argument gives little ground for thinking that the Israelis will give up any portion of Jerusalem. His case, almost wholly biblical and religious, is virtually unanswerable in rational terms.

Undoubtedly, there are comparable rigidities on the Palestinian side. Nonetheless, two points can be made. First, the Israelis are the foremost recipients of American foreign aid. We Americans enable their policies and behavior. Second, it is in fact hard to know the nature and extent of intransigence on the Palestinian side, not to say to achieve a genuinely lasting peace, so long as Israeli and American policy is to exclude Hamas and others we do not like from dialogue and negotiation.

Ed McCarthy

Buxton, Me.

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Joe Mcmahon
16 years 4 months ago
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