Perhaps the most troubling thing in the modern Roman missal is the introduction to the Good Friday prayer for the Jews, which reads in the most recent translation, ‘Let us pray also for the Jewish people, to whom the Lord our God spoke first, that he may grant them to advance in love of his name and in faithfulness to his covenant‘ (in sui foederis fidelitate proficere).

To ‘advance’ in something implies that one already has that thing. So the prayer implies that the Jewish people is already living in faithfulness to God’s covenant, but that it could be doing so more. But which covenant is it meant to be living in accordance with? Not the Mosaic covenant, since that doesn’t exist any more as a contract between God and man: it came to an end on the first Good Friday. Nor the Abrahamic covenant, since that is based on the faith in the promised Mediator, which they – alas – do not yet have. The same could be said of the Noahic and Davidic covenants.

The best I can do to save the orthodoxy of the prayer is to say that it should be taken materialiter: although the Jews are not in a covenant relation with God, since there is now only the new and eternal covenant, which has superseded all previous covenants, they are performing some of the outward actions which belong to the various covenants, e.g. circumcision or reading the Torah.

Still, as it stands the prayer is surely intolerably ambiguous. Since Pope Benedict XVI has said that the two forms of the Roman rite should enrich each other, without specifying how, perhaps celebrants of the modern liturgy should feel free to borrow a prayer pro Iudaeis from their elder brothers, the traditionalists…

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