Sunday, March 26, 2017

Guéranger: the Church reminds us of the apostasy of the Jewish nation - Part I

One of the uncomfortable facts we immediately run into when delving into traditional pre-1960 commentary on biblical texts is the bluntness with which it treats the Church's supersession of the Jewish nation as the 'new Israel.' While this is particularly uncomfortable for Protestants from those evangelical backgrounds accustomed to referring to contemporary Jews and the citizens of the modern state of Israel as 'God's chosen people," the same is true of Catholics influenced by such sentiments via the neoconservative and originally Jewish wing of the contemporary American politics or sensitized to accusations of anti-Semitism.

Nevertheless the fact remains that supersessionism (not anti-Semitism) is a firmly embedded, normative part of Catholic tradition; and in what follows I wish to offer some examples that surface in Volume 5 of Guéranger's The Liturgical Year,devoted to the liturgical season of Lent. [Note: I have changed the spelling of 'Chanaan' and 'Messias' to the more familiar 'Canaan' and 'Messiah'.]

For Friday of the second week of Lent, the first reading is from Genesis 37 on Joseph's elder brothers were all offended by his dream of their sheaves bowing to his, and his dream of their stars bowing to his moon. Guéranger writes:
Today the Church reminds us of the apostasy of the Jewish nation, and the consequent vocation of the Gentiles. This instruction was intended for the catechumens; let us, also, profit by it. The history here related from the old Testament is a figure of what we read in today's Gospel. Joseph is exceedingly beloved by his father Jacob, not only because he is the child of his favorite spouse Rachel, but also because of his innocence. Prophetic dreams have announced the future glory of this child: but he has brothers; and these brothers, urged on by jealousy, are determined to destroy him. Their wicked purpose is not carried out to the full; but it succeeds at least this far, that Joseph will never more see his native country. He is sold to some merchants. Shortly afterwards, he is cast into prison; but he is soon set free, and is made the ruler, not of the land of Canaan that had exiled him, but of a pagan country, Egypt. He saves these poor Gentiles from starvation, during a most terrible famine, nay, he gives them abundance of food, and they are happy under his government. His very brothers, who persecuted him, are obliged to come down into Egypt, and ask food and pardon from their victim. We easily recognize in this wonderful history our divine Redeemer, Jesus, Son of God and Son of Mary. He was the victim of His own people's jealousy, who refused to acknowledge in Him the Messiah foretold by the prophets, although their prophecies were so evidently fulfilled in Him. Like Joseph, Jesus is the object of a deadly conspiracy; like Joseph, He is sold. He traverses the shadow of death, but only to rise again, full of glory and power. But it is no longer on Israel that He lavishes the proofs of His predilection; He turns to the Gentiles, and with them He henceforth dwells. It is to the Gentiles that the remnant of Israel will come seeking Him, when, pressed by hunger after the truth, they are willing to acknowledge as the true Messiah, this Jesus of Nazareth, their King, whom they crucified.

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