Searching Her Own Mystery

The “problem” of Jewish-Christian relations does not arise as a result of merely practical and pastoral concerns deriving from the Church’s relationship to particular Jewish communities. Instead, it arises as a result of the Church’s own essential nature. This means that the “problem” affects the Church as a whole, in all of its parts and manifestations—“ even in areas where no Jewish communities exist” and where no immediate pastoral issues present themselves. The issue is of such great importance that addressing it properly offers the hope of healing the Church’s own internal divisions. . .

If the Jewish people and the Jewish way of life are in any sense “intrinsic” to the very identity of the Church, as Pope John Paul II claimed in interpreting Nostra Aetate 4, then the Church’s theological vision of herself—in other words, her ecclesiology—must account for this reality. Moreover, this accounting cannot be a mere appendix to a pre-existing and self-contained ecclesiological system, but must entail a reconfiguring of the central pillars of the structure.

And if the inner spiritual bond joining the Church to the Jewish people is to be found in “the person of Jesus Christ, a Jew, crucified and glorified,” then the identity of the one the Church worships and proclaims is likewise formed in part by his enduring relationship to his flesh and blood family. Consequently, the Church’s theological vision of the person and work of Jesus—in other words, her Christology—must highlight and explore the significance of Jesus’ Jewishness.

This means that the Church’s theology of the Jewish people cannot exist as a discrete and compartmentalized topic, insulated from the wider framework of Catholic doctrine. The affirmations of Nostra Aetate 4 reverberate throughout the entire system of Catholic theology—Christology, ecclesiology, sacramental teaching, and all that remains.

Kinzer, Mark, and Christoph Von Schönborn. Searching Her Own Mystery: Nostra Aetate, the Jewish People, and the Identity of the Church.

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