You mentioned earlier that you don’t understand how any Jew can become Orthodox. What would you say to a Jew who did seek to join the Church?
The only reason for anyone to go to an Orthodox Church is Jesus, and this is the same for a Jew as for anyone else.
In my book, The Jesus We Missed, I try to make very clear just how Jewish Jesus is. Another great book is that of the former Rabbi Zolli of Rome, Before the Dawn. His book is incredible. He was the rabbi in Rome all during the Nazi occupation and was working with the Vatican to save Jews. After the war, he became Catholic and took the name Eugenio to honor Pius XII.
How would you respond to the idea of a Jewish rite or a Jewish community within the Orthodox Church?
If there is a sufficiently large population of Jewish converts, I think that would be great. I have no doubt that my own archdiocese would be open to that. As a side note – several years ago a group of Amish in NW Penn expressed interest in coming over to the Orthodox Church, and we were open to that as well – in fact, I was sent out to interview them. It turned out to be a hopeless undertaking, unfortunately.
Given the Semitic routes of the Liturgy of St. James, it should be easy to restore a more Hebraic rite without any break with Orthodox worship.
Unfortunately, the Jewish converts in the Church are not really organized as a community.
If we were to write Liturgy in Hebrew tomorrow that was completely recognizable and continuous with Jewish Temple worship, not a Jew in my town would recognize it as such. Though I personally would enjoy that as an exercise.
And then there’s the tendency for Jewish converts to “disappear” through intermarriage.
Right. Intermarriage is supposed to even out the Jew and the Greek, but the practical result of this is that the Jew disappears. But I don’t know that that’s how it is always going to be. I do suspect that the Great Tribulation we will eventually face will blur all distinctions among Christians, and possibly even between Christian and Jew – though no one but God can know this. The Antichrist will somehow make all this very simple for us, I suspect.
The Orthodox Church has always been worried about Judaizing. Do you think observance of Jewish practice by Jewish Christians is Judaizing?
It depends on the extent of the practice. Once the synod of Javneh replaced the Sanhedrin, Christians and Jews have gone out of their way to distinguish among themselves. I would not be in favor of undoing some of these distinctions.
One example is changing the weekly fast days to Wednesday and Friday, instead of Monday and Thursday. If someone proposed that we go back to fasting on Monday and Thursday, I would disagree with that. Wednesday and Friday have a theological significance –Wednesday is the day on which Jesus was betrayed, and Friday the day on which the Bridegroom is taken away from us. But then again, I don’t know why anyone would want to go back to that, especially since the Jews themselves no longer keep these fasts. Another example: in the Didache, the Our Father is substituted for the 18 Benedictions used in Jewish prayer (at the same time as the Jews amended the Benedictions to include an explicit curse against the Christians). This was another distinguishing mark that separates the Christian from the Jew. To resurrect such Jewish practices, which were explicitly excluded in the early period, would be a bad idea.
On the otherhand, calling your priest rabbi is not a problem – we know from St. John of Damascus that Christians in the Middle East did that into the 8th century.
But if one were to resurrect the Paschal meal – to celebrate the Passover as Jews do – that would be a problem indeed. The problem is the sacrificial lamb, which is an important part of the ritual. We call the consecrated bread the Lamb – it’s a substitute for the original lamb. The Christian Jews seem to have done away with the Passover lamb early on.
But many Christians do celebrate the Passover.
I used to do that as Episcopalian, as did my whole parish back when it was Protestant. They were winging it, and I made them stop because they were making it up – they wanted to feel like Jews, but there was neither ethnic nor theological basis for what they were doing. I didn’t make them stop keeping Sukkoth in the fall – the weather took care of that.
On the other hand, they never celebrated Hanukkah before I got there, but now we mark it liturgically, and I always preach on Maccabees.
I think it’s a beautiful feast. Besides, it was never incorporated into the Christian calendar. Almost all the other Jewish feasts were. Rosh Ha-Shana became the Crown of the Year – the start of our liturgical calendar, on September 1st. Yom Kippur became the Feast of the Cross on Sep. 14th, Pascha and Pentecost were preserved. In the West, even Sukkoth was preserved – Danielou talks about that in The Bible and Liturgy. But Hanukkah didn’t make it in.
I keep close tabs on the Jewish calendar. Our Touchstone calendar includes that.
Is there a way to celebrate Passover that is proper for a Christian?
I think we are doing it right with Pascha.
What about the date?
The Council of Nicea in 325 gave a date for Pascha and explicitly excluded adherence to the Jewish calendar. At that time, the Middle Eastern churches still followed the Jewish calendar, and celebrated Pascha on any day of the week that the 14th of Nissan fell on; the Western church insisted that it be on a Sunday. Contemporary Orthodox have reintroduced the idea that we cannot celebrate Pascha until the Jews have celebrated Passover. That’s simply silly; we must either follow the Council or change its decision.
I am tempted to ask also about the day of the Sabbath…
It is clear in the first chapter of Revelation, as well as in 1 Corinthians, that the Sabbath is Sunday. Christians seem to have shifted the Sabbath observance to Sunday as early as the 1st century. But they still observing Sabbath as the day of rest. Incidentally, most members of my parish rest on both Saturday and Sunday in honor of both observances (note: the same, apparently, is done traditionally in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church).