Not long ago a friend asked me why Catholics don’t celebrate
the Jewish holy days. Good question.

A response to the question as to why we
don’t celebrate the Jewish holy days would be along these lines: the Paschal
Triduum is the Christian Passover, the true Pasch. Even the Greek and Latin
name for Easter tells us that (as also the derivation of the name for Easter in
Spanish, French, Italian from the same root).

In one sense, Jesus’ teaching was
in continuity with Judaism (Mt 5.17: “Think not that I have come to abolish
the Law”); but he also in Matthew 5 puts himself forward as a higher Lawgiver
than Moses (“you have heard it said, but I tell you…”). I suggest
reading Rabbi Jacob Neusner’s book, A Rabbi Talks with Jesus, which makes this
point very clear. The Pope himself said in Jesus of Nazareth that Neusner’s book is
an excellent example of honest and reasoned argument between a believing Jew
and the Jesus of the gospels.

Jesus clearly did intend to recall Israel to fidelity to the God who spoke to Abraham and to Moses; but just as clearly, Jesus identified true fidelity (true Israelite faith) with faith in himself. At the Last Supper, he made it clear that he was the mediator of a New Covenant, using over the cup the words that Moses used when he sealed the covenant with God in Exodus 24.8.

It is also clear that the gospel of Christ had from the start a more universalistic dimension that rabbinic Judaism: so the particulars of Jewish law were not held to bind Gentile believers (Acts 15). So Christians are not bound to observe the entire Mosaic Law, even though the rites of the Law prefigured those of the New Covenant. So the New Covenant is both continuous with the Old, and also genuinely “new”, in that God has done a new thing in Jesus: the Incarnation. Belief in Jesus’ divinity was not a later corruption: John 10.30 tells us that Jesus shocked his Jewish compatriots by saying, “I and the Father are one” and by forgiving sins in his own name. As C.S. Lewis says, we either have to say that Jesus was a liar or a lunatic or else truly God Incarnate. Fr. Giussani speaks to this same issue in chapter 7 of At the Origin of the Christian Claim. It’s untenable to say Jesus was just a reformist rabbi preaching renewed fidelity to the Law of Moses –that would not have displeased the Jewish authorities in the least. It was Jesus’ Messiahship and claim to divinity that is the stumbling-block for Jews who find that some aspects of Jesus’ teaching resonate deeply with rabbinic Judaism. Pope Benedict says the same thing in many places, including his book, God is Near Us.

Also, you will recognize the tendency to pit gospel against the Law and the Law against the gospel as more a Protestant thing to do than a Catholic one: it was Martin Luther who said that, not the Catholic Church (whose priestly-sacramental structure Luther dismissed as a relapse into a quasi-Judaic legalism).

I suggest also a book called The Pillar of Fire by Karl Stern. He was a German Jewish psychiatrist who became a Catholic in the years before the Second World War. This book was written in the 1950s, I think, and is his spiritual testimony. It’s probably out of print, but I’m sure you could get an inexpensive used copy from

Here also are some links to two associations of Catholics of Jewish origin, who are fully Catholic in faith and yet want to preserve their Jewish cultural heritage within Catholic unity: Hebrew Catholic and Remnant of Israel