By Barry Schoedel
This Creed is the spiritual seal, our heart’s meditation and an ever-present guardian; it is, unquestionably, the treasure of our soul. – St. Ambrose
During this Year of Faith we are invited to revisit the primary articles or symbols of Christian belief, especially the creeds. In Part 1 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church the Apostle’s Creed is used as the primary symbol of faith.
The Catechism is divided up into four distinct but interrelated parts: 1) The Profession of Faith 2) The Celebration of the Christian Mystery 3) Life in Christ 4) Christian Prayer. There is an underlying logic to this organization; Christian faith naturally unfolds into participation in and celebration of the Christian Mystery. Participation in the Christian Mystery invites one to adhere to this mystery with his or her whole person, to live in Christ. In and through Him we are reconciled to the Father and become temples of the Holy Spirit. It naturally follows that Christian Prayer, the final section of the Catechism is focused on how prayer is an intentional participation in this developing union with God. This process is meant to repeat itself, ever deepening. The organization of the Catechism reflects how we actually receive revelation from God. This means that it is meant to mediate the Gospel to us the way that God designed us to receive it.
In the beginning of faith there is a search for God, often yet unknown. But this search never should stop for any of us no matter how far we feel we’ve come. The Catechism explains, “the desire for God is written in the heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for” (§ 27). Indeed, “the dignity of man rests above all on the fact that he is called to communion with God”(1).
In this Year of Faith you may be asking yourself: “how does this really differ from any other year as a Catholic?” In a sense it is not different; our blessed Christian vocation remains. However, the Church, scrutinizing the signs of the times (2), and sharing in the joys, hopes, griefs and anxieties of this age (3) recognizes that in this time, for a New Evangelization to take place, it must begin with a renewal of Christian faith. As the People of God we are being invited to start from the beginning again, that we may be re-evangelized by Christ, the “First and Supreme Evangelizer (4).”
The Apostle’s Creed begins with the proclamation: I believe in God. This is a radical proclamation (particularly in our age) that changes everything and should seize us with profound wonder and awe at our experience of being human. It opens us up to further horizons of faith because the faith is a hierarchy of truths of which this is the foundation. Indeed, the entirety of the Christian faith depends upon this proclamation. Some of us say it often… but does it capture us and involve us in the plans and designs of God?
During this Year of Faith we are invited to re-enter Christian faith from the beginning. Practically speaking this means we must ask ourselves some honest questions: Do I believe in God merely as I believe that 2 + 2 = 4, or do I believe in God in a way that transfigures my experience of being human in the present moment? Is the Apostle’s Creed something I hurriedly recite or do I see it as containing doorways to divine realities that I desire to live in ever more deeply? Do I receive my life as a gift from God in the present moment? Do I recognize the ever-present opportunity for relationship and dialogue with God, a dialogue that brings peace, strength, direction, and light?
The symbols of faith, such as the Apostle’s Creed, are not ultimately the object of faith; rather, they unite us to the object of faith, God and his life in us. During this Year of Faith, we are invited as one people to begin at the beginning again, and to re-enter the Christian faith in a way that changes us for the purposes of the divine love of God, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Only then can we joyously share from this abundance with others. That is evangelization Let’s begin together by proclaiming, “I believe in God” in the deepest recesses of our hearts.
1) Gaudium et Spes, 19:1
2) GS, 4:1.
3) GS, 1:1.
4) Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, 7:1; Benedict XVI, Motu Proprio Ubicumque et Semper, 1.