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10/18/2012 9:00:00 AM
YEAR OF FAITH
Explaining the creed, part II: God the Father
The Nicene Creed
'I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible....'

This is the second in a five-part series on the creed to mark the Church's Year of Faith. Read the first part at www.evangelist.org.

BY REV. ANTHONY BARRATT


Last week we began our series of reflections on the creed, the profession of faith that we say together as a community of faith every weekend Mass. In our second reflection, we unpack the meaning of the first paragraph of that creed.

We begin with the words, "I believe in one God." There is much to think about - not least because we all carry around various images of God, and we also may have so many questions.

When we say together that we believe in one God, we go right away to the heart of our faith in the Trinity, the central mystery of our faith. We believe that God is indeed one: There are not three gods, but one God in three persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).

When the creed was first devised, many religions had a large number of gods. The early Christians wanted to show their belief in the one, true God. Maybe we also need to do the same today, for there are many "gods" around: money and wealth, power, success or even ourselves!

Sometimes, the title "God" can seem too remote or like an idea, and so our creed then uses another, more homey or familiar word: "Father."

This is an analogous word, but central and fundamental. It is the name that Jesus used of God, His Father, or "abba" (dad), many times in the Gospels. We, too, say this word every time we pray the Our Father. God is indeed our common Father and we are made in His image and likeness; we are His daughters and sons through our baptism. So, in speaking of God, we are also reminded of who we are and that we belong to one family.

We then jump from a familiar title to one that is rather more fearful (in the biblical meaning of this), as we also believe that God is almighty. God is all powerful, totally other, beyond all our imagining. We are reminded of how truly awesome God is.

Although we can struggle with the language at times, many of the revised prayers in the Mass also remind us of this, with words such as "majesty," "gracious" or "Lord."

We then add that God is also the maker of heaven and earth. However the research and the intriguing theories of science can help us to understand our world or the universe, God is indeed the Creator and the one who is the author and sustainer of life.

In fact, an older image of God that is not so common now depicts God as a master craftsman, complete with all His tools. This can inspire us as we look at the beauty of creation or the marvel of life such as a newborn baby. We can see beyond such wonderful things to our God who creates and sustains them.

Before we leave our phrase about God as creator, there is one more reflection that we may add. Our belief in God as creator also reminds us that, in the end, we are therefore stewards of God's creation. We are not "God" and we have been entrusted with much as God's stewards.

This is such an important reminder for us today. Medieval mystic Julian of Norwich summarizes all our thoughts so well when she writes: "A lady looked at a hazelnut and asked, 'What may this be?' And it answered: 'it is all that is made.' In this little thing I realized three things. The first is that God made it, the second is that God loved it and the third that God sustains and keeps it."

We finish our first part of the creed by then saying, "of all things visible and invisible." God is creator not just of what we can see, but of what is beyond human sight and even imagination. God is the creator of spiritual beings such as angels, or of our very soul.

We could go even further: God is, in a way, the creator of what we might call spiritual gifts and qualities such as love, truth, goodness and so on. We can see the effects of these, but they are not objects: They are both visible and invisible! God is indeed the origin and author of all that is good, true and beautiful.

(Father Barratt is pastor of Annunciation parish in Ilion and Our Lady Queen of Apostles in Frankfort. He holds a doctorate in theology and was a professor at St. John's Seminary in England before coming to the U.S. in 2004.)

Related Stories:
• Explaining the creed, part V: the Church, baptism, life, death and resurrection
• Explaining the creed, part IV: 'I believe in the Holy Spirit...'
• Explaining the creed, part III: 'I believe in Jesus Christ...'
• Part I: What is the Creed?





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