Jackass for the Hour: Chapter 28 – Perfidious Jews
“My dear Cardinal Froben,” said the Rabbi, “there is a difference between Redemption and, then, its reception in grace unto justification which saves. Human-sacrifice, as a bribery of appeasement of bloodthirsty gods, is from hell, and those who do it deserve hell. Placating gods with one’s ‘generosity’ and ‘submission’ is not religion, but blasphemy, a self-deluding congratulation of oneself. A merely human child, because of Adam’s sin, is not worthy to be a sacrifice of vicarious atonement. Instead, the Messiah, the Suffering Servant – and I speak as a Jew – must be innocent of all consequences of Adam’s sin, then freely take on those consequences, so that, taking our place before the judgment of the Most High, taking upon Himself the justice which awaits us as sons of Adam, and offering our Heavenly Father communion in Charity, in innocence, in goodness, He then has the right in justice, so to speak, to have mercy on us, to ask God the Father that we be forgiven. This Child-Sacrifice – fulfilling all righteousness – makes true religion possible. It reveals what religion is. The would-be sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham pointed to this truth emphatically. Since we are to be children of God, the Suffering Servant must be God, as Genesis 3,15…”
“But is your own work of assent to the Faith not also your justification?” interrupted the Cardinal, trying to win points with both Jews and Protestants.
“Please, do not insult us, your Eminence.”
“I did not intend that anyone should feel insulted. I am sorry,” said the Cardinal.
“But why are you sorry?” asked the Rabbi. “Are you sorry because you think I feel badly about something which you regret only because it makes you feel badly? Do you feel guilty because you had something to do with these feelings? I’m sick of the emotionalism of blinded consciences.” Many in the crowd applauded. They were also tired of this kind of apology-by-way-of-accusation, of belittlement of the supposed over-sensitivity and lack of intelligence of the other.
This reprimand was a new experience for the Cardinal. No one in his office had the bravery to correct him when he attacked them for his own inadequacy, and then insulted them further with the unbounded condescension of blaming them for the ‘bad feelings’ he guessed they had. “I only meant to say,” the Cardinal continued, “that it was after Abraham believed that his belief was credited to him as righteousness by God. This mere declaration of God about Abraham’s work of righteousness was only an affirmation of what Abraham already did on his own. Abraham was justified long before any would-be sacrifice of Isaac, or any Suffering Servant.”
“You are, perhaps, only a victim of circumstance,” said the Rabbi, somewhat sharply, “but the fact of the matter is that Abraham’s capacity to believe was a God-given, supernatural capacity, which enabled him to cooperate with this grace of Faith. I repeat… Abraham’s assent to the Faith is credited to him as righteousness only inasmuch as he cooperated with the grace given to him to do just this. The text makes it clear, at great length, chapter after chapter, that this wasn’t his own ‘faith’, but the Faith which was gratuitously given to him, and by which he then made his assent. Since you Catholics make some helpful distinctions about prevenient and actual grace, please, do not make Abraham an apologist for your heretic Pelagius!”
“I didn’t mean to…” interrupted Cardinal Froben, beginning to apologise once again.
“That’s what some Muslims and Protestants do!” interrupted the Rabbi. He said this with venom, for some Protestants – besides some Catholics – had been responsible for so much of the Shoah. “Protestants cut themselves off from Tradition, from sanctification coming from the Most High, demanding Scripture alone, justifying themselves by clever works. They congratulate themselves that their brains work up some kind of theology, and they call their theological work ‘insight’, ‘faith alone’, identifying the machinations of their minds with the very Word of God, making themselves, in their own minds, even holier than the Jewish prophets. They do not understand that Tradition, Faith – to use the terminology you should be using – is for belief, while Scripture is for our assent, which is made possible by that Faith, by that belief. The Protestants imagined at the time of the ‘Reformation’ that they could kill the Jewish prophets – as many of our own Jews had done – with the new Protestants throwing out seven books of our Greek Scriptures and, then, many more from your New Testament, showing just how fraudulent is their claim of ‘Scripture alone’. These ‘reformers’ pretended to be arbiters of the Faith, which was, for them, no longer a Family Tradition uniting us with God by grace, but merely an ever changing theology requiring the relativism of the individuals who were cut off from the Family of Faith. They imagined that they were praying with their ‘private interpretations’. Now look at them. We all sin… but they have made a determined policy of it, calling good what the Bible condemns. Their doctrine and morality changes by the minute. It is a free-for-all anarchy, which makes the most horrendous violence of Sodom and Gomorrah possible. And if you Catholics would just follow your own doctrine about Revelation being Scripture and Tradition, your Eminence, there would be less sin in the Church and more respect for the fact that ‘salvation is from the Jews.’ There would be much less risk of anti-Semitism, much less risk of another Shoah. Do not think you will be justified by following your own whims of theology, instigating another Reformation, this time from within the Church, just like Erasmus. Don’t forget, Erasmus, having given up on learning Hebrew, would have been pleased to burn the Jewish Scriptures outside of the Psalms.”
Cardinal Froben was trying to gasp, but couldn’t. Father Alexámenos thought that the Prelate was going to have a heart attack right then and there.
“It is God’s grace,” continued the Rabbi, “His actual Revelation, by which He lifts us up to Himself, that will justify us, that will save us, that will bring us to heaven, that will give us some chance, even on this earth, of fulfilling the cry, ‘Never again!’ which so many so glibly shout, but do not understand in the least, putting the Jews in mortal danger. We know – six million times over – that you have no strength to follow up on your good intentions. As soon as you say, ‘We are all nice! We are better than those in the past!’ this is precisely when we die. Please, for our sake, do not depend on yourselves, on your own ‘niceness’, but depend on the grace of God.”
“So… you are saying that Father Alexámenos has not offended you, is that right?” asked Cardinal Froben weakly. He was ashen, shaken. The Rabbi’s speech had been incisive, as if cutting his heart open, for it was against everything that the Cardinal had been working for in the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity.
“That is correct. Father Alexámenos and I are good friends,” replied the Rabbi.
The Cardinal collected his thoughts and then said, “I wonder if you are really correct. Rabbi, you are about to see your friend betray you.” Turning to Father Alexámenos, he said, “I know for a fact that you use the Tridentine Missal, Father.”
“I hope you appreciate the heavily Jewish setting of the Roman Canon as much as I do,” replied Father Alexámenos, an answer which made Rabbi Shelomoh chuckle.
Undeterred, the Cardinal continued: “Tell us all, Father, what do you pray for on behalf of the Jews when you pray for them on Good Friday?”
“I pray that the veil of blindness might be lifted from them,” said Father Alexámenos.
“Could you repeat that, please?” requested the Cardinal.
“Would you like me to use the word from the pre-1962 Missale Romanum, your Eminence?”
“Don’t you dare!” said Cardinal Froben.
“Perfidus!” exclaimed Father Alexámenos, laughing.
Cardinal Froben took a step back, as if he had been hit. He shook his head, looking at the Rabbi, trying to apologise to him on behalf of the inexcusably rude defendant, but was dumbfounded, the more so because the Rabbi did not seem to be offended in the least. The Cardinal, turning again to Father Alexámenos, tried to run to authority, saying, “The New Mass not only does not pray for perfidious Jews, but rather that the Jews will not become Christian, begging God that they will remain faithful to their own covenant, which we can all agree is efficaciously salvific.”
“No, your Eminence. It’s not all that bad,” retorted Father Alexámenos. “You make it sound like the Liturgy is ripping out of the hearts of all Jews the hope that Jeremiah the prophet gave them; God was promising them a New Covenant. But notice that the second half of the prayer speaks of their coming to the fulness of Redemption so that such fidelity will immediately bring them face to Face with the New Covenant in Christ’s Blood. I admit that the Novus Ordo is rather confusing, for the Old Covenant does not have any efficacy now that the New Covenant has arrived. I prefer the clarity of the Missal of Pius V as being more respectful of our Jewish friends. It’s refreshing not to have to put up with semi-Pelagian translations which plagued so many for so long. As to the word perfidus, ‘faithless’, as in ‘faithless Jews’, this is not a statement saying that the Jews have no Faith, but that they do not yet assent to Christ Jesus being the Messiah. Because the phrase perfidious Jews began to be misunderstood, the word perfidus was removed from the Missal. There is, however, nothing wrong with the usage of the word in the context in which it is found. It is much the same as John the Evangelist using the word Jew as synonymous with a non-believer, someone who is perfidious, but only in the sense that they do not yet assent to belief in Jesus as the Messiah.”
“You don’t seem to grasp the gravity of the insult inherent in the word perfidus,” said Cardinal Froben. “In order to prove to you that it is an insult, I will give you another case current when the word perfidus was in fashion. Tell me what can be read on the Church facing the Synagogue and the Jewish Ghetto here in Rome. They are verses of hatred, are they not?”
“You mean the citation of Isaiah 65:2-3?” asked Father Alexámenos incredulously.
“Exactly. You can’t tell me that that mention of perfidious is not an insult, unless, of course, you want to be known as a negazionista,” said Cardinal Froben.
The Rabbi leaned forward, intently listening. He read these words daily. It was unavoidable.
A man in the crowd took advantage of the momentary silence and stood up, shouting, “Anyone who’s a Christian today is guilty of the Shoah even if he was born after the Shoah. Anyone who blames the Jews for Christ’s death should die!” His were pain-filled words, often repeated in many universities and institutes in Rome and the Holy Land. After some seconds, he broke down in tears, asking in anguish, “Why did God remain silent? Why did He tolerate this?”
“But God was never silent. He never tolerates anything. He will never be mocked,” said Father Alexámenos. “He eternally speaks the Word, His Son, who, in His human nature, was silent, hanging dead on the Cross, lying dead in the tomb, like a lamb led to the slaughter, opening not His mouth, a Jewish lamb, who knew first hand the horrors of the death camps. His silence was the most eloquent enunciation of “Never Again!” that the world can know. God is just that intolerant of anyone mocking life, desiring to lay down His own Life as the Suffering Servant who, in this way, provides mankind with the grace to stop violence and come to life…”
“If the Cross weighs upon us all…” began the man again, but he could not go on, sobbing as he was, leaving most in the crowd stricken.
Finally, Father Alexámenos replied to Cardinal Froben, saying, “The real negationists, your Eminence, are those who will not learn from the past. They scream, ‘Never again!’ but are unwittingly preparing to repeat the same mistakes. They want to cover over the past.”
“Whom are you accusing?” asked the Cardinal, beginning to fidget.
“Those verses inscribed on the façade of that church,” continued Father Alexámenos, “almost necessarily had to be understood as being ferociously ripped out of context; they carried with them the weight of the memory of Pope Paul IV’s establishment of the Ghetto in 1555 with his decree Cum nimis absurdum, as well as the memory of the forced preaching to the Jews begun a few years later in that very church under Pope Gregory XIII. Those were sad days of the counter-Reformation, when, with patent absurdity, Pope Paul IV – so nervous about the new Protestants continuing to rampage through Europe, sacking souls and properties, churches, monasteries and libraries – wanted desperately to come up with a way to feel good as a Catholic. His methodology was to put others down, thinking that, in this way, he was lifting himself up. Even though he was the Pope of the Inquisition, he could not effectively point the finger at the new Protestants; he was having trouble reforming the abuses of the Catholic hierarchy. The idea came to him that if he could put blame for Christ’s crucifixion on the Jews – especially the Jews in Rome, who were an easy target – then he could congratulate himself before God as being a Pontiff who was doing his job well. The Jews were sacrificed to his own hypocrisy…”
“So, you are putting down Pope Paul IV so as to build yourself up?” asked the Cardinal.
“Do not think that you are better than Pope Paul IV, your Eminence.”
“But we are better today! We’ve made so much progress! We’re the people of Nostra ætate!” exclaimed the Cardinal, proud of Our Age, a document of the Second Vatican Council.
“Anyone thinking he is better than anyone in the past cannot learn from the past, and is on a fast track to bringing the Jews to Auschwitz again,” continued Father Alexámenos. “The genocides of the past century continue into our day, but it is just your kind which says, ‘We are better! We would never do that! We’re nice!’
Cardinal Froben responded without an answer, saying: “I’m aware of recent history.”
“Are you?” asked Father Alexámenos. “Tell me, your Eminence, what is the language used for presenting those verses of Isaiah 65:2-3 inscribed on the church facing the Ghetto to this day?”
“Hebrew,” said the Cardinal with confidence. “After all, the citation is directed at the Jews, very few of whom knew Latin,” though they knew Latin better than he, in yesteryear and in our own day.
“You condemn yourself out of your own mouth,” said Father Alexámenos.
“What?!” said the Cardinal. “Everyone thinks of those words as an insult.”
“Your Eminence, the Hebrew speaks of stubbornness, not faithlessness. Is there any other language used to present those verses?”
“Latin… the language of the Vatican bureaucracy at the time,” said the Cardinal, cautiously.
“According to your logic,” Father Alexámenos added, “those verses are aimed at the Catholic Church, and, indeed, they are for the benefit of all those to whom our Lord has given the gift of Faith. It’s not the Hebrew, but only the Latin which speaks of your perfidiousness, your Eminence, as in populus incredulus. You cannot accept this because you think you’re so nice without the Lord’s rebuke, but we are all the Israel of Faith. You insult our Jewish friends.”
“I am not on trial!” said the Cardinal.
“Certainly, forcing anything down anyone’s throat is imprudent – and many will say that they became Catholic just to get out of being harassed – and the citation may well have been used arrogantly, as if only Jews were sinners and not all the rest of us as well,” said Father Alexámenos, “but if anyone is ever going to say anything worthwhile to our Jewish friends, those verses – in the way that they are cited in both Hebrew and Latin on that church – are the best way to start. Those verses say that we are all sinners, that there is one Redeemer of all. That church should be the centre for Jewish-Christian relations, a place of Penance and Conversion from sin. What a blessing it is that the renovation of the façade didn’t destroy the inscriptions.”
The Rabbi leaned back in his chair, content with Father Alexámenos’ answer. Cardinal Froben did not see this, and simply continued his attack: “You don’t seem to understand the full gist of what I am saying, Father. I’m nice to everyone, saying that God loves without demands, without distinction. God is love! That is something even you cannot contradict.”
“God certainly is Charity,” replied Father Alexámenos thoughtfully, “but it does no favour to anyone to forget that the many are saved, not all, that mercy and justice are one in God, who will not be mocked, whether by Jew or Gentile. Don’t fool yourself, your Eminence.”
“Apparently, you don’t know that pro multis is not to be understood as for the many, but for all, regardless of what the new pedantic liturgical translations have. Christ gave Himself for all, not just this or that one. That’s what Paul’s letter to Timothy says, and that is what Isaiah says! You know Hebrew. Read it for yourself,” challenged the Cardinal.
But Cardinal Froben was speaking from the ignorance of giving credence to manipulative scholars, and Father Alexámenos let him know this, however respectfully: “Your Eminence, the key word with Saint Paul is desire, as in, God desires that all men be saved, proving this by Christ giving Himself as a ransom for all, but that does not mean that all will be justified. Christ said that His Blood is poured out for the many, pro multis, who will be justified. In Isaiah, this distinction of the redemption of all and, then, the justification provided for the many, לרבים, is repeated again and again. I repeat: it does no one any favour to forget the justice of God, your Eminence; in doing so, you obscure His mercy. We cannot obtain His mercy if we do not recognise His justice. Woe to the man who obstructs with niceness the Jew’s Way to mercy.”
“What I am saying,” said the Cardinal with increasing frustration, “is that you are incapable of saying even one nice thing about the Jews.”
“If I started, I am afraid I could not stop speaking the truth about the Jews,” said Father Alexámenos.
“Just give me one example,” the Cardinal insisted, thinking that he could not do it.
“As Saint Paul says,” replied Father Alexámenos, repeating what he had said on the plane, “it is they who are Israelites, to whom belongs the Sonship, the Glory, the Covenants, the Law, the Worship, the Promises, the Patriarchs and, according to the flesh, the very Christ of God…”
“Narrow it all down to one thing,” insisted the Cardinal again, trying to save face.
“I could say something about their hospitality, if you like,” ventured Father Alexámenos.
“We know about your good Jewish warden at San Lorenzo; that’s anecdotal,” said the Prelate.
“I speak of hospitality in the Faith,” said Father Alexámenos, “their Eucharistic hospitality.”
“I never quite follow you, but that should be interesting,” said the Cardinal. “Please, go on.”
“When one reads the Hebrew Scriptures,” said Father Alexámenos, “it is like being invited into the Family of Faith, into the Household of Faith. An enormous Banquet is being prepared. All the servants and cooks and family members are busy preparing the banquet, speaking of it in fine detail. The aromas of the fatted calf roasting on the fire, and of all the spices and perfumes fill the air with delight. There is music and singing and dancing. The atmosphere of friendship that can only be had with those who profoundly share the same Faith, and who are all working toward the same end, is overwhelmingly good. The more that is spoken about the Truth and Charity that this banquet is, the more that one becomes hungry. One longs for this banquet to begin, especially when one sees this Truth and Charity confirmed by mercy, even the sacrificing of oneself unto death for one’s friends as the great Jewish prophets have done for us. As one gathers to sit down at the banquet, all dressed in wedding garments for this, the wedding of God with those whom He calls, one realises that truly, in this very eager longing, the banquet has already begun in grace. There are many, many saints before Christ came.”
“But you spoke of Eucharistic hospitality,” the Cardinal objected. “Didn’t you mean to say that you want Jews to receive Holy Communion?”
“The Hebrew Scriptures and the Faith given to them,” your Eminence, “had them look for-ward with longing to the Passover Banquet we call the Last Supper. The Paschal Lamb, who took the place of Isaac in Child-Sacrifice is a Jew, the Messiah, the Saviour, Christ Jesus. The Jews could not be more hospitable than to offer Him to the whole world with His Incarnation and with the Jewish Apostles. We come to the banquet which they have diligently prepared with Charity and Truth, giving their own lives to do so. I long for them to kneel down with us before the Blessed Sacrament, the veil having been lifted, seeing with Faith. Until then, I am in anguish.”
“So, you believe that Jews would be better off as Christians?” asked Cardinal Froben.
“You forget, your Eminence,” he answered, “that the surprise for you in the New Testament is that the Faith is offered to the Gentiles, even while it is taken for granted that salvation is from the Jews. Everyone would be better off having a profound friendship with the Jewish God-man, Christ Jesus, who loves us all so very much. How could I not rejoice in their knowing Christ?”
“As I said,” added the Rabbi before the Cardinal could make any answer, “I respect what Father Alexámenos has to say about Faith and justification, about Faith and Scripture, about Child-Sacrifice and who the Messiah must be as the Suffering Servant, and about the Key of Knowledge being mercy. I couldn’t agree more with what he says about Sodom and Gomorrah. I lament that some of our own seminaries have gone the wrong way. Moreover, I am most pleased that he wants the veil to be lifted from my eyes, from our eyes, to know the fulness of Faith. It means that Father Alexámenos loves the Jews as much as he loves himself. He does not exclude us. An invitation means respect. We can always refuse, but that is to be our option, not yours. I despise those who would hide from us the highest expression of love that they know. Instead of wanting us to know the fulness of Truth in Charity, they want us in Auschwitz again, your Eminence.”
“You are very severe, Rabbi…” interjected the Cardinal, involuntarily taking a step backward.
“With due respect, your Eminence,” concluded the Rabbi, “you must stop dividing Tradition and Scripture. Otherwise, you will effectively sacrifice our prophets, and us. You reject the Faith so as to be left with a Book, into which you must read your own private, individual, non-family-of-faith interpretations, giving you full permission to kill off the image of God in others. Like the fallen creature with the forked tongue, you firstly look to the children of Abraham even if just to drive a knife into the heart of the reality all the more. You must repent before we die. The more you think without the purification of Faith, the more we die, as one of your philosophers once inferred with his ‘I think, therefore, I am;’ ‘Cogito, ergo sum.’ Go ahead and seek understanding with the aid of reason, your Eminence, but firstly believe. Otherwise, with your non-family-of-faith, private interpretation, you will put us to death. We died in Auschwitz. I agree with Father Alexámenos that when Tradition is replaced with self, you will be an exemplar of violent inversion.”
“Thank you, Rabbi…” said the Cardinal, returning to his seat. “I am learning.” Although he said this, he did not know what to think. He determined to arrange for an appropriate special prosecutor for the next session, someone more adept than he in having Father Alexámenos admit to his ‘crimes’ in Haïti.
✵ ✵ ✵
“Don’t celebrate until you can hit him every time,” Ermenagildo commanded flatly. He was the leader of a Roman based terrorist cell. “We have one chance only. Practise costs us nothing.”
The Italian teenager, Ernesto, a recent convert to Islam, replied, “I know our couriers from Plum Island were eliminated, and I know I’m the next in line to die. I’ll get it right. I’m the best.”
The enthusiastic teenager jumped a hurdle, wildly ran up the side of small hill as if he were being chased, and threw another tennis ball at an open window halfway up an apartment building, some dozens of metres away. It was a perfect throw. He did it again, and yet again.
Up next: Chapter 29 – We praise the darkness
© International 2005-2018 – George David Byers