The Guéranger Blog

Welcome to the Gueranger Blog! You have stumbled across the notebook I use to record my thoughts as I read through Dom Prosper Gueranger's 15-volume set, The Liturgical Year. I do not have any special expertise in liturgy, but I have some general knowledge of Catholic theology and an enthusiasm for Gueranger's magnum opus. Think of it as the Liturgical Year fan site!

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Dom Gueranger and the Jews

Canisius | 13 March, 2006 21:13

In V,200-1 there emerges again the main theme that bothers me in Gueranger: his view that the Jews, as a nation, are cursed. Following Vatican II, the current Catechism is at pains to correct this view (CCC 597-8), arguing that not all Jews were responsible for Jesus' death, even at the time.

To give him credit, Dom Gueranger was not stupid, and had reasons for what he said. I can think of three lines of evidence to which he might appeal. First, Luke 19:41-44 does seem to mean that the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD was a result of the nation's rejection of Jesus:

As he drew near, he saw the city and wept over it, saying, "If this day you only knew what makes for peace - but now it is hidden from your eyes. For the days are coming upon you when your enemies will raise a palisade against you; they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides. They will smash you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another within you because you did not recognize the time of your visitation."

We see in the Old Testament that the unrighteous actions of a ruler can bring down God's wrath on the whole people, while the righteous actions of a ruler can avert that wrath. To say that the whole nation of Israel suffered because of the leaders who killed Jesus is not a surprising thing, and it does not have to mean that every Jew was personally responsible or individually cursed because of Jesus' death. However, I would point out that this points only to the destruction of the holy city at the time, not to a curse which will hang over all subsequent generations.

A second line evidence Gueranger might use is the language of the New Testament to the effect that "the Jews" rejected Jesus. This is obviously a manner of speaking: we find this kind of statement coming from Jesus and from Paul, so they clearly do not mean that every Jew is responsible, or even that most Jews are responsible. Instead, they seem to mean that the Jews in power, those who controlled the government and represented the nation, rejected Jesus. One might point to the crowd who cries out, "Crucify him!"; it must be conceded that this crowd is meant to symbolize Jesus' rejection by the majority of Jews at the time, but it does not follow that all their subsequent descendents are cursed. A stronger case arises in the book of Acts, where we see the drama gradually unfold in which most Jews do in fact reject the early Church. In response, one might point out that (a) no punishment is assigned for this fact other than that the gospel will not be preached exclusively to them, and (b) it still does not follow from this that the Jewish nation as a whole is cursed for millenia on end.

From the biblical evidence I think one has to conclude that Israel as a whole rejected Jesus at the time, and Israel as a whole suffered in 70 AD (individual fates being a different matter). What does not seem to follow from the biblical evidence is that Jews of Dom Gueranger's time were under any kind of curse.

Here is where Dom Gueranger might appeal to the third line of evidence: "The children of Israel are dispersed over the whole earth, a reproach to the nations. A curse hangs over this people; like Cain, it is a wanderer and a fugitive; and God watches over it, that it become not extinct. The rationalist is at a loss to explain this problem: whereas the Christian sees in it the punishment of the greatest of crimes." This description of the situation is laden with interpretation. Rather than saying that the Jews are dispersed over the whole earth, one might equally well say that by God's blessing they are miraculously preserved from the absorption and oblivion that has overtaken every other ancient nation. As one Jewish author put it, "Where are the Hittites?" This seems to be more a blessing than a curse. And is it true to say that they are a reproach to the nations? Certainly "Jew" has been used as a term of opprobrium (I don't know how widely), but that is a self-fulfilling argument: of course it will be a term of opprobrium as long as we insist that they are cursed. "Christian" has been used as a term of opprobrium at many points in history and in many lands, for that matter.


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