Jewish Life, Thought and Action in Books of the Day

“Judaism, Christianity and Germany” is the title of the five sermons preached in St. Michael’s Church in Munich by Cardinal Faulhaber on the four Sundays of Advent and on New Year’s Eve last year and now published in translation by the English house of Burns Oates & Washbourne, Ltd., publishers to the Holy See.

These sermons are in essence a justification of the Old Testament, and particularly of the Mosaic code, not so much in themselves as of prophecies to be fulfilled with the coming of Christ and in the New Testament. The embarrassing Jewishness of Christ is maintained and justified and in the last of the five sermons Cardinal Faulhaber launches into an attack of the manners and the morals of the pre-Christian Germans to whose code the anti-Christians in the Nazi ranks would seek to lead Germany.

Except for the greater part of the fifth sermon, the bulk of the book contains a mild form of apologia for the Jewish roots of Christianity. Nothing in his sermons, the Cardinal as much as says, shall be construed as a whitewash for the Jews who came after Christ, or as a justification for the Jewish books not in the Old Testament, for these latter were not God-inspired, that inspiration passing over to the writers of the books of the New Testament. Nor, continues the Cardinal, shall modern Jews draw from his support of the Mosaic books aid and comfort. There are only oblique condemnations of the race hate to which the Nazis have indoctrinated Germany, although the Cardinal does assert that salvation continues a matter of faith rather than blood.

CHURCH WAS JAMMED

That such sermons as these should have jammed the church in which they were given and even two neighboring churches which had to be connected by loudspeakers may give the non-German reader a notion of the extent to which un-cordinated Germans could be stirred by the public statement of the least difference of opinion. Only a German reader, perhaps, could assay for us the amount of courage required to speak these sermons. It is not underrating the courage and integrity of Cardinal Faulhaber to say that for the non-German reader these sermons have an interest more social and political than theological.

Cardinal Faulhaber explains his motivation for giving this series of sermons (considered important enough as news to be summarized by American correspondents at cable rates) in the first of his series.

“When racial research, in itself not a religious matter, makes war upon religion and attacks the foundations of Christianity; when antagonism to the Jews of the present day is extended to the sacred books of the Old Testament and Christianity is condemned because it has relations of origin with pre-Christian Judaism; when stones are cast at the Person of our Lord and Saviour; and this in the very year in which we are celebrating the centenary of His work of Redemption, then the bishop cannot remain silent. And therefore I preach these Advent sermons on the Old Testament and its fulfilment in Christianity.”

FAITH ABOVE BLOOD

In discussing the permanent religious, ethical and social values of the Old Testament, Cardinal Faulhaber makes it plain, by implication, that he is no Judo-phobe, and that he is not asking his auditors to accept the Old Testament for itself, but only as a base for the New Testament. “By accepting these books [the Old Testament] Christianity does not become a Jewish religion. These books were not composed by Jews; they are inspired by the Holy Ghost, and therefore they are the word of God…. Antagonism to the Jews of today must not be extended to the books of pre-Christian Judaism.” He makes the point that the Old Testament was so much drawn upon by the makers of German literature that to disown it would be to disown “the intellectual history of our nation.”

It is in this manner that the Cardinal takes his stand for faith, and not race or blood, as the test: “The question is not: Was Christ a Jew or an Aryan? It is: Are we members of Christ by baptism and by faith?… The Old Testament was founded upon ties of blood, the New Testament is founded upon the tie of faith.”

H. S.

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