Santa and the Christmas Spirit: A Jew sneaks a peak into a Catholic Church

In his Confessions of a Jewish Christmas, Dan Goldberg writes:

SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — It’s 9 a.m. Christmas morning and I am standing in a queue in a rather ornate, grandiose building in Sydney. I am among the many worshipers at the Church of Mary Immaculate. And I am about to receive Communion. Except I’m a Jew, a traditional Jew who only weeks prior had a candelabra flickering in my window for eight nights in celebration of the miracle of Chanukah, when the Greeks tried, but failed, to annihilate the Jews more than 2,000 years ago.

“The queue shortens quickly and I only have a fleeting moment to consider an exit strategy, a nanosecond to cut and run. But before I can even try to rationalize religion, or ponder the fact that Jesus was in fact a Jew, I am standing face to face with the elderly priest, who is holding out a wafer that I’m told represents the body of Jesus Christ.”

“No, I’m not reneging on my religion, severing ties to my ancient heritage or converting to Christianity. I’m reciprocating a favor to an old mate that dates back to 2004 when my twin girls were named in a synagogue in Melbourne. He’s an Irish Catholic from a small town near Dublin who grew up in a school run by Carmelite monks. He and his wife came to our baby-naming ceremony and, because they were seated alongside us, the Gabbai assumed it would be reasonable to ask him to hold the Torah. Before he could utter a syllable in his thick Irish accent, he was up on stage embracing the parchment scroll of the Old Testament. (“A Gabbai (Hebrew: גבאי‎) (or sometimes: Shamash שמש) is a person who assists in the running of a synagogue and ensures that the needs are met, for example the Jewish prayer services run smoothly, or an assistant to a rabbi (particularly the secretary or personal assistant to a Hassidic Rebbe). A gabbai’s obligations might also include maintaining a Jewish cemetery” (Wikipedia).

“So when he asked me on Christmas morning to take him to church, I figured this was my moment of truth — time to see if I would be prepared to do what he had done for me. He’s not religious per se, but religion enveloped his upbringing and people across the globe — especially in Ireland — had been saying prayers for him over the past seven months since he was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Those prayers were answered just three days before Christmas when a neurosurgeon in Sydney removed what he described as a tumor the size of an avocado from the back of his head. His wife and kids were staying at my place. They prayed he’d survive the surgery and be with his family for Christmas. Santa played his part.”

Dan Goldberg’s main message is NOT that Santa ( Spirit) should be glorified and praised but rather a tribute to the glory of the human spirit, in this example, the Irish and Australian spirit.

If both these men were true believers in their respective faiths, their faithfulness and fear of God would have given them pause. But then, if Pope John Paul II can kiss a Koran and celebrate mass with a Buddha  planted atop the “tabernacle,” which the Catholic Church teaches contains the flesh, bones, nerves and sinews, and the rest of the body of Yeshua/Jesus – not of Santa, then the Irish antics in the synagogue and the Jewish antics in the church should NOT be any cause for alarm. Surely Santa (Claus) –  a Catholic Saint, according to legend – and not  Buddha, the atheist, is more deserving of  top spot. It all depends, though,  whether it is theologically more sound to prefer a legendary saint to a real atheist.

Dan Goldberg continues from where we left him above at “…Santa played his part.”

“Now I was being asked to play mine (my part). But I wanted to bow out. I knew intrinsically this was not a place for a Jew, let alone one who can trace his lineage back to an Orthodox rabbi in Europe centuries ago. “Just say ‘body of Christ,’ ” my mate advised me. I shuffled toward the priest. “Body of Christ,” I muttered. In return I received a wafer that wasn’t dissimilar to Passover matzah. I put it in my mouth and managed to avoid the second priest offering sips of wine — the blood of Jesus. “What does the wafer mean?” I asked. “The body of Christ is in you,” my mate answered. My throat tightened. My brain scrambled momentarily, incapable of computing such a sentence.”

In the second paragraph (above), Dan says: “I am standing face to face with the elderly priest, who is holding out a wafer that I’m told represents the body of Jesus Christ.” The Catholic fact of the matter is that the wafer does not merely “represent” the body of Christ; it IS the body of the crucified Christ.

In his teaching on the sacrifice of the Mass, Pope John Paul II writes:

. . . the Church is the instrument of man’s salvation. It both contains and continually (my italics) draws upon the mystery of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice. Through the shedding of His own blood, Jesus Christ constantly (my italics) “enters into God’s sanctuary thus obtaining eternal redemption” (cf. Heb 9:12). (Pope John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope (New York: Knopf, 1995, p. 139). The underlined section is the Pope’s rendition of Hebrews 9:12.).

The Pope’s “constantly enters” is in agreement with the Council of Trent’s declaration that the Mass is not merely a “re-enactment”, but a real propitiatory sacrifice, which is repeated at every consecration of the wafer and the wine.2

The first part of John Paul’s statement – “continually draws upon the mystery of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice” – does not conflict with the Bible. However, just because the Church “continually draws upon the…sacrifice” this does not mean that the Jesus Christ is constantly sacrificed.

“Neither by the blood of goats, or of calves, but by his own blood, entered ONCE into the holies, having obtained eternal redemption.”(My emphasis).

Here is the Pope’s rendition: Through the shedding of His own blood, Jesus Christ constantly “enters into God’s sanctuary thus obtaining eternal redemption” (cf. Heb 9:12). See my The Constant Thirst and Constant Sacrifice of Jesus Christ: The Charism of Mother Teresa.

I read the following from a catechumen (someone taking instruction in the Catholic catechism):

“When I realized what the Mass really is, I went daily while I waited for another year to complete the process. I learned that in time I would finally be in full communion but until then, once I realized what the miracle of Transubstantiation is, I knew I couldn’t stay away even if it only meant I got to be in His presence. That presence means something. That presence IS Catholic identity.” (End of the catechumen’s comment). On the same website, I clicked an internal link, which brought me to more on the “real presence.”

For the Roman Catholic, the highest experience of Christ’s “ISNESS” on earth is, as Thomas Aquinas says (see below) eating “not only His flesh, but also His bones, and sinews, and other things.”

I was once a Catholic (converted from Judaism at 19 years old). After 22 years in the Catholic Church I left. One issue was the Mass that all devout Catholics hold so dear. After studying the book of Hebrews, I understood that Jesus died once for all time. There are no priests (who sacrifice) in the NT or in the early Church. The NT speaks of believers being a holy priesthood. The Catholic Church teaches that every Mass is a real sacrifice (that’s why the Catholic Church has priests, because that is what a priest does – he sacrifices). I accepted anything the Catholic Church taught because I believed that the Pope had the “keys” to the Holy Spirit. My main point is that if the Mass is not a real sacrifice, then what is on the altar cannot be – as Aquinas says: “It is not only His flesh, but also His bones, and sinews, and other things.”

Besides the fluffy stuff in his Confessions of a Jewish Christmas, Dan said something interesting: “I got a sneak peak inside a religion (he’s talking about Catholicism) that frankly isn’t so far removed from mine. The prayers and penitence, rites and rituals are virtually the same.”

Roman Catholicism has much in common with the rituals in Leviticus, and nowhere is this more evident that in the priesthood. If an ancient Levitical priest had to miraculously wander into a Catholic Church, he would think – if only for a few moments, at the sight of the flamboyance and the  priest robed in splendour preparing the sacrifice on the altar – that he was among his kin. The ritual may be one reason, among many others, why a Jew (like me) became a Catholic .When you’re in a Catholic church, you feel that you’re in a real church; for, what is “church” without ritual? Much. For one thing, Jesus inhabits his church, which is built out of living, not dead, stones. Surely, Jesus is right when he says that he will come to dwell in those who believe in Him. Period. Faith “in” Him, of course, includes his Lordship.

Dan Goldberg wrote see beginning of this blog):

“The queue shortens quickly and I only have a fleeting moment to consider an exit strategy, a nanosecond to cut and run. But before I can even try to rationalize religion, or ponder the fact that Jesus was in fact a Jew, I am standing face to face with the elderly priest, who is holding out a wafer that I’m told represents the body of Jesus Christ.”  We read in John 6:

53 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

Many Disciples Desert Jesus

60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”

61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.

Plato says that there are at least three degrees of reality: the real, the really really and the really really real. Plato’s context is degrees of knowledge. Allow me to apply his schema to the “real” presence. There are several views on what “real” presence means, ranging from the Roman Catholic view, which is the “really really real” PRESENCE to the Zwinglian view, which is the “really really real ABSENCE”. But hey, as I said above, if Christ sacrificed Himself once for all time, this means that the Mass cannot be a sacrifice; and Jewish priests knew and Catholic priests know, you can’t have a sacrifice without a body. The Bible is clear: there was one Body, and crucially, only one sacrifice of that Body (for all time).

Now I’m waiting to hear that God doesn’t exist in time and so a temporal once ( tempo “time”) for man means something different  to an eternal once for God. But  that is noncesense.

 

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One thought on “Santa and the Christmas Spirit: A Jew sneaks a peak into a Catholic Church

  1. Pingback: Plenary Indulgences and the Plenitude of God’s Sovereignty in Salvation « OneDaringJew

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