|10/25/2012 9:00:00 AM|
YEAR OF FAITH
Explaining the creed, part III: 'I believe in Jesus Christ...'
|This is the third installment in a five-part series on the creed to mark the Church's Year of Faith.|
The Nicene Creed
'...I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father;
through Him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
He came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
For our sake He was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
He suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and His kingdom will have no end....'
BY REV. ANTHONY BARRATTDuring this "Year of Faith," we are reflecting on the creed, the profession of faith we say at every weekend Mass. Last week, we explored the first sentences of the creed, about God the Father; this week, we look at the section of the creed about Jesus Christ.
This is the longest part of the creed because, of course, Jesus is at the very heart of our faith, and because there are many questions and much to say about our Lord.
In fact, the creed was written to address many such questions and controversies about Him: Who is Jesus and how can He be truly God, yet truly human? Who is Jesus for us?
Our creed gets straight to the heart of things by establishing first that Jesus Christ is truly God, using some titles from the Scriptures that are traditionally reserved for God, such as "Lord" or "Son of God."
The creed also employs a number of technical and theological words and images, such as "only begotten." This phrase means that Jesus was not created or made: There was never a time when He did not exist (as St. John also says in the first chapter of his Gospel: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God").
Jesus comes from the Father before all ages. He is "God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten, not made."
The creed then uses what was, at the time, a sort of theological trump card and a very specialized word: consubstantial.
What on earth does this mean? "Consubstantial" is really two words: "con-substantial." "Substantial" is also two words in one: "sub-stantial," literally meaning "what stands beneath," or what something is.
"Con" comes from a word meaning "with" or "one with;" so, when we say "consubstantial," it is a shorthand way of saying that Jesus is one with the Father: He is truly God.
After this, things become easier. We move from thinking about who Jesus is to what Jesus has done for us and why. We begin with two key words, "for us;" then we add, "for our salvation."
The creed reminds us first of what we will soon celebrate at Christmas as we speak of how God so loved us that He sent us His only Son: "He came down from heaven...incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man." Jesus Christ is also truly human.
We then fast-forward to Holy Week and the season of Easter as, again, we say that "for us," Jesus was crucified, suffered death, was buried and rose again on the third day, just as the Scriptures had foretold.
All this really took place and it happened for our salvation: Jesus is indeed our Lord and our Savior. We celebrate this fact every time we say the creed and when we celebrate Mass together. (As the evangelization process underway in the Albany Diocese notes, our God is indeed an "Amazing God!")
Finally, we look to the future, to the second coming of Jesus Christ at the end of time - something we shall soon be thinking about as we begin the season of Advent. Jesus will come again in glory both to judge and to establish the fullness of the Kingdom that will last forever.
In fact, each time we pray the Our Father, we also express this hope ("thy Kingdom come"). It is certainly a hope for the future, but it is also a call for action now as we strive to be cooperators in the building of that Kingdom here and now.
Even if the Kingdom will only be complete in the future, it is already present, here and now. Every time we say the creed, we are reminded of our present and urgent call to build God's Kingdom - especially in the service of our sisters and brothers.
The creed is a very dense and compact summary of our faith in who Jesus Christ is - truly God, yet truly human - and in what He has done for each one of us. Above all, our faith is not just something in the head to be learned or studied; faith is also something to be lived and celebrated.
We can answer Jesus' call to be His disciples, His friends - to follow Him, our Lord and our Saviour - and to bring others this same good news.
(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.)
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