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SIDIC Periodical - 1967/3
Liturgy (Pages 11 - 13)

Other articles from this issue | Version in English | Version in French

A. C. Rijk


Prayer is an essential element in religious life. When the faithful assemble to give voice to their faith they pray together, prayer being communal as well as private.

Prayer, like faith, enters into every detail of life and so can be expressed in many different forms and formulae. This is true for private and public prayer.

As several of the psalms indicate, all countries, all creation and all creatures are called to praise and glorify God, The prayer of the people of God is that this universal praise be realised on earth, that is, that the Kingdom of God may come. In the light of this, it is natural to pray for each other and with each other.

1. The Octave of Prayer for Unity.

A vast number of people take part in the week of prayer from January 18th to 25th. At this time, members of different churches and Christiar communities pray in common.When the Octave originated, the prayer intentions were mainly for conversion in the traditional sense. Soon after, prayers were offered in a broader spirit for the well-being of the other, for the full realisation of God's reign over the other. Today, more conscious of their own sin and one-sidedness, Christians meet together to form one community that prays with Christ.

The custom evolved of assigning an intention to each day of the Octave that would unite the prayers of all. In many countries, after praying for various Christian denominations, a special day was set aside "for the Jewish people". Such an intention, however, poses certain problems. When speaking of the "Octave for unity among Christians", the intention "for the Jewish people" seems misplaced, notwithstanding the important significance Jewish-Christian relations have for Christian unity. In some places this intention has been dropped. In certain countries, such as Germany and the United States, the Council of Christians and Jews sponsors a Brotherhood Week which includes prayers with and for the Jewish people. Clearly, this is still a delicate problem for the Church Unity Octave. It has been suggested that another day be chosen, perhaps at the conclusion of the Christian liturgical year, when eschatology is stressed. For such a day, a special prayer could be composed by a small group of Jews and Christians, perhaps concerning the coming of God's Kingdom. This prayer would be said by the participants, Christians and Jews, either individually or in common.

2. Prayer of the Faithful.

The complexity and difficulty of formulating a prayer for Israel was once again experienced in France when "universal prayers" (Prayers of the Faithful) were being inserted into the eucharistic liturgy. Although requests had been made of the C.N.P.L. (National Center of Pastoral Liturgy) since 1965 to assure an appropriate prayer text, when the Prayer of the Faithful appeared in January 1967, it was evident the suggestions had been disregarded. The sections concerning the Jews display a definitely anti-conciliar mentality, as:

- For the Jewish people, that they may recognise in Jesus Christ the Messiah announced by the Prophets.

- For the Jewish people, that the Blood of Christ may be upon them as a beneficial blessing.
For the sons of Israel, that they may recognise in Jesus Christ the Saviour of the world as designated by John the Baptist.

The C.N.P.L. was approached once more. There is great hope that the second edition will show a marked improvement in the texts.

3. The prayer "for the Jews" on Good Friday,

The solemn prayers on Good Friday include an intercession for the Jews, the introduction of which is as follows:

"Let us pray that our God and Lord will look kindly on the Jews, so that they too may acknowledge the Redeemer of all, Jesus Christ our Lord".

This introduction requires some modification if it is to conformto the spirit of the Council Declaration which deliberately excluded any mention of conversion. In the meantime, the question has been raised with the competent authorities.

4. Prayers in Common.

To be able to pray together, as Jews and as Christians, there is one essential condition: a mutual and real understanding and esteem. Here and there, faltering steps are being taken, Occasionally prophetic initiatives of prayer in common are realised.

a) In the United States, Christians and Jews have assembled on various occasions (Thanksgiving Season, united movement towards ending the Vietnam war, appeal against racial segregation) to-pray together for the major needs of the world and humanity. This has also happened in Buenos Aires in Argentina.

b) On December 10th, 1966, Human Rights Day, a religious "silent service" took place in Westminster Abbey, London, during a reunion of faithful belonging to different religions.

c) It is becoming more common to see faithful of various confessions assembling on special occasions such as mourning or national feasts.

d) Prayers offered by Jews and Christians in common have taken on a new meaning and depth, as during the reunion in Milan, January 29th, 1967, and the one held in Florence, January 30th of the same year in the home of Professor Neppi-Modona.

e) The event which attracted the most attention from the Press was undoubtedly that of February 28th, 1967, in Madrid, where, in St,Rita's Church, Catholics and Jews were grouped together for the first time in paraliturgical prayer prepared specially for the occasion. (cf. Amistad JudeoCristiana, Hilarion Eslava 50, Madrid 15, for the complete text of the service,in several languages.) It was a very impressive gathering which stirred the feelings of all present. The service was strongly criticised, especially by some Jews, as not being representative of existing relations and because it took place in a Catholic church. However, it is difficult to judge from the outside, since situations are coloured by the country and group in which they exist.

5. Apostolate of Prayer.

The Church and the Jews : the Apostolate of Prayer has proposed this prayer intention for the month of November, 1967.

Not content with the documentary material sent by the Apostolate Headquarters in Rome, the national committee in Holland has distributed very useful and positive background material: an introduction to the religious relationship between Jews and Christians, a bird's-eye view of the history of this relationship (the weakest part of the document), a detailed description of present-day contacts, the Jewish population in. the world, the ten points of Seelisberg, the problem of dialogue - its difficulties and progress - as well as others.

Unfortunately, the documentary contains some discrepancies and would need 'a new explanation of the continuity between the Old Testament and the New.
The wording of the intention for the month of November is as follows: "Lord, grant that mutual understanding and esteem between Christians and Jews be furthered through appropriate means".


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