Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J.

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The Creed is something we recite often but seldom reflect on. This is unfortunate because the culture in which we live makes it necessary for us to reflect often on the fundamental truths of the Creed. We live in a culture that is definitely not Christian. Every value once held dear and sacred is vigorously and constantly challenged and often ridiculed. Many of our contemporaries, doubt-ridden by the constant bombardment of materialism, consumerism and atheism are seriously asking themselves, “Is life as Shakespeare suggested, a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing?” We must reflect often on the Creed lest we lose our Christian identity.

There are two well known creeds: the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed. The Apostles’ Creed we recite at Baptism and whenever we renew our Baptismal Promises. It was not written by the apostles but it is a faithful summary of the truths taught from the earliest years of the Church. The Nicene Creed which we recite at Mass began at the Council of Nicea in 325, the First Ecumenical Council. It was formed to refute the heresy of Arian who denied the divinity of Jesus. Therefore it is much more explicit about the person of Jesus.

The two Creeds begin differently. The Apostles’ Creed begins with “I believe…” and the Nicene Creed begins with “We believe…” Both are correct because to believe is to belong. “I believe” represents my personal conviction and commitment, and the “We believe” represents the Christian community. Both end with “Amen,” the personal conviction and communal commitment to these truths. “Yes, we do believe.” This is the faith of the Church. This is our faith. We are proud to profess it.

In one majestic sweep the Creed stretches from before time began through all of eternity. It contains the great mysteries that give us a true picture of reality and satisfies the deepest longing of the human heart. It has been professed by some of the greatest minds in human history and witnessed to by the blood of countless martyrs. It is an act of praise and thanksgiving for all that God has done for us and for our salvation.

In the fourth century St. Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem, in a catechetical instruction, gave this explanation of the Creed. “Not everyone is able to read the Scriptures, some because they have never learned to read, others because their daily activities keep them from such study, still so that their souls will not be lost through ignorance, we have gathered together the whole of the faith in a few concise articles…This summary of the faith was not composed at man’s whim; the most important sections were chosen from the whole of Scripture to constitute and complete a comprehensive statement of the faith. Just as the mustard seed contains in a small grain many branches, so this brief statement of the faith keeps in its heart, as it were, all the religious truths to be found in Old and New Testament alike. That is why my brothers, you must consider and preserve the traditions you are receiving. Inscribe them across your heart.”

The bottom line is that it is either “Creed or Chaos.” The most important questions are: whether or not there is a God, what is the nature of this God, what is the nature of man and what is the nature of the world. All of these fundamental questions are answered very clearly in the Creed. Our God view determines both our man view and our world view. Dogma and ethics are inextricably bound together. If we do not believe in the Fatherhood of God, why should we believe in the Brotherhood of man? Modern technology has not replaced God’s truth. Scientific jargon does not satisfy man’s search for meaning in his life. Psychotherapy is no substitute for confessional absolution and reconciliation. Perhaps never before has there been such a need to get back to the fundamentals of our Creed. May the good Lord help us to engrave it on our minds and in our hearts.

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