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A Lenten Exercise on the Creed, Part I

March 23, 2014

I would like to invite our readers to join me on a spiritual exercise over the next three weeks.   Posted below is a passage from the Nicene Creed.  I am asking each of you to reflect on it and add scriptural quotations that are closely related in some way to a phrase or passage in the Creed.   I have been toying with this idea for several years, every since I read Luke Timothy Johnson’s The Creed: What Christians Believe and Why it Matters.   Further motivation comes from a lecture course on early Christian history from Reform Theological Seminary.   Not surprisingly, given his conservative Protestant background and audience, the instructor, Professor Donald Fortson, makes a great effort to show the close relationship between the Creeds and scripture.   And as the Fathers of Vatican II put it:

[T]here exists a close connection and communication between sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture. For both of them, flowing from the same divine wellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end. For Sacred Scripture is the word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit, while sacred tradition takes the word of God entrusted by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, and hands it on to their successors in its full purity, so that led by the light of the Spirit of truth, they may in proclaiming it preserve this word of God faithfully, explain it, and make it more widely known. (Dei Verbum 9)

Any good commentary on the Creed (such as Johnson’s) will provide a detailed discussion of the scriptural basis of the Creed.  But I think it is worthwhile to reflect on this individually and collectively, bringing forth from our own experience passages we find meaningful, and share them here.

Below is the first part of the Creed; over the next two weeks I will post the subsequent parts.   Following this I get the ball rolling with a few quotes, and then some basic ground rules for this exercise.

I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.

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.

Whenever I reflect on the beginning of the Creed, the following passages come to mind:

I believe:  “I believe; help my unbelief!”  (Mk 9:24 NRSV)

one God:  Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” (Dt 6:4 NIV)

(added 3/25) light from light:   “Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain by themselves.  There in their presence he was transfigured: his face shone like the sun and his clothes became as dazzling as light.”

(added 3/28)

(As this goes on I may come back and add more, either here or in the commboxes.)

I want to encourage everyone (especially our many readers who do not ordinarily comment on posts) to share the passages that come to mind during the week.  As you contribute and share in this spiritual exercise, please keep the following commonsense rules in mind:

  • Please quote the phrase you are commenting on.
  • Include the book and verse and a notation on the translation you are using.
  • If the verse you quote seems oblique or the connection is not obvious, feel free to explain why you think this particular passage is relevant.
  • Please do not criticize verses other people quote:  this is not a discussion on theology but a moment of reflection.
  • Please do not digress to talk about other issues (such as the translation) or include quotes from sources other than Scripture (such as the Fathers or modern theologians).

If this goes well, I may compile the results into a small devotional book of some kind.  If I do, I promise that if it is illustrated it will not contain pictures of the Dragon Ball Jesus genre!

Update 3/29/2014:  Part II can be found here.

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18 Comments
  1. March 23, 2014 11:00 am

    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.

    This bolded triple affirmation is the point at which the recitation of the Creed begins to deeply engage me, and I hear echoes of the triple affirmation in the beautiful opening of John 1:1-3 (NABre):

    In the beginning was the Word,
    and the Word was with God,
    and the Word was God.
    He was in the beginning with God.
    All things came to be through him,
    and without him nothing came to be.

    which itself harks back to Gen 1:1-3 (Jewish Study Bible)

    When God began to create heaven and earth — the earth being unformed and void,
    with darkness over the surface of the deep
    and a wind from God sweeping over the water —
    God said, “Let there be light!”
    and there was light.

    for here, in the beginning, God created by means of God’s Word.

    • Julia Smucker permalink*
      March 23, 2014 1:19 pm

      An astute and powerful contribution. And I hope I’m not digressing from David’s purpose here by adding that “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God” is invariably the point in the Creed where I fall a beat behind, because I cannot possibly utter these words at a rapid-fire mumble.

      • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink
        March 23, 2014 4:29 pm

        You are, but I forgive you! :-)

    • March 23, 2014 7:52 pm

      Excellent! I like it.

  2. March 23, 2014 8:08 pm

    “I believe in one God,
    the Father almighty,
    maker of heaven and earth,
    of all things visible and invisible.”

    Deuteronomy 5:6-9 RSV Catholic edition) “‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

    7 “‘You shall have no other gods before[a] me.

    8 “‘You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 9 you shall not bow down to them or serve them;

    This part of the Creed reminded me of these two commandments.

  3. Ed Grzesiak permalink
    March 24, 2014 2:50 pm

    Psalm 91 You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, Say to the Lord, “My refuge and fortress, my God in whom I trust

    • Ed Grzesiak permalink
      March 24, 2014 2:52 pm

      Security Under God’s Protection

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink
      March 24, 2014 5:14 pm

      Is there a particular line you would attach this quote to?

  4. David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink
    March 25, 2014 5:55 am

    light from light:  “Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There in their presence he was transfigured: his face shone like the sun and his clothes became as dazzling as light.”

  5. Ronald King permalink
    March 26, 2014 9:45 am

    “maker of heaven and earth,
    of all things visible and invisible…Light from Light”
    This takes me to Genesis 1: 3-4 “Let there be light…God then separated the light from the darkness…” It is the different frequencies of light which have caught my attention for the last 8 years beginning with a morning run while praying the Rosary. First the absence of light, or darkness, influences me to think of the absence of being able to see while at the same time feeling isolated and alone. We seek security through relationships and shared beliefs or a Creed. Is this Creed representative of the luminous Light of God which encompasses all light and darkness? The different frequencies of light represent to me the different levels of relationships we have with ourselves, others and God. The closer we are to the luminous light of God the brighter the light and the higher the frequency of light with its different colors. Our vision improves with more light and we begin to develop the ability to see more of the effects of living in darkness. In John 9: 1-41 the blind man is told by Jesus, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.” Then he says to the Pharisees in verse 41, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.”
    What does this mean? For me the meaning relates to the vision we develop according to the light we cling to which determines our reality. Anything less than the luminous light of God is incomplete and our vision is flawed. My opinion is that I/we must give up all beliefs which limit our vision of the light of God and thus entering the dark night of the soul.

  6. David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink
    March 28, 2014 6:08 am

    Lord Jesus Christ: “neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rm 8:39)

  7. Stuart permalink
    March 29, 2014 11:16 am

    I’m lost here–what creed is this? The only thing that matters to our faith is our stand on abortion, gay marriage, and contraception–those aren’t mentioned anywhere!!! This creed looks like something someone at the National Catholic Reporter came up with to lead us astray from the fundamentals of our faith! :)

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink
      March 29, 2014 11:46 am

      Ahem: stay on topic please! :-)

  8. Dante Aligheri permalink
    March 29, 2014 1:37 pm

    “I believe in one God
    The Father Almighty
    Maker of Heaven and Earth”

    “I form the light and create the darkness, I make peace and create evil [calamity]. I, the Lord, do all these things.” (Isaiah 47:5 DR)

    “From heaven He made thee to hear His voice, that He might teach thee. And on earth He shewed His exceeding great fire, and thou didst hear His words out of the fire…Know therefore this day and think in thy heart that the Lord – He is God in heaven and on earth beneath, and there is no other.” (Deut. 4:11-39 DR)

    “Who is the Father of the rain? Or Who begot the drops of dew? Out of Whose womb came the ice; and the frost from heaven Who hath gendered it?” (Job 38:28-29 DR)

    “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.”

    “By the word of the Lord the heavens were established; and all the power of them by the spirit of his mouth…For he spoke and they were made: he commanded and they were created.” (Psalm 32:6-9)

  9. Mark VA permalink
    March 30, 2014 2:22 pm

    I’m commenting on the following quote from the Credo:

    “I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
    the Only Begotten Son of God,
    born of the Father before all ages.”

    The associated bible verse is from John 8:58, Douay-Rheims translation:

    “Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say to you, before Abraham was made, I am. “

    I see the relevance of this connection in the following way:

    The fragment “…before all ages” implies to me the eternity of the Holy Trinity, that is, Holy Trinity’s existence as not being bound by space-time. With respect to time, “eternity” does not suggest to me any property of time, such as relative direction (forward or backward), or relative duration (long or short), but something else, something that I can only vaguely intuit. To borrow a concept, eternity seems more like a physic’s scalar, rather than a vector. Or something other than “true”, “false”, or “maybe” – something “in-between” these three.

    The fragment “…, before Abraham was made, I am” echoes the above. Abraham, as a human being (a composite of body and eternal soul) existed within the axis of time, that is, had a beginning (was made), and an end (when his eternal soul separated from his physical body). Christ, however, is not bound by time, thus He can use the eternal “I am” both within time (i.e. during the Incarnation), and outside of time.

    This also helps me understand better why each Mass is not a new sacrifice, but the one and the same sacrifice repeated thru time, but in an un-bloody way. This sacrifice entered time in multiple points, at Golgotha, and in all the time points appointed to it by God. Each time we assist at Mass, we pass thru one of these points.

    I wish I knew a better way to express all this more clearly, but so far, this is the best I can do.

Trackbacks

  1. The Nicene-Constantinople Creed, part 1: Translation, Theology, and more | BLT
  2. A Lenten Exercise on the Creed, Part II | Vox Nova
  3. A Lenten Exercise on the Creed, Part III | Vox Nova

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