Continuing in our study of the Roman Missal and the forthcoming English Translation of the 3rd Edition, let us look briefly at the first part of the Nicene Creed.
This profession of our faith was formulated, as its name implies, at the First Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. Often referred to as the First Ecumenical Council, the Council at Nicaea was an important opportunity for the leadership of the Church to symbolize in words a universal doctrine of the faith at a time when immense heresy was challenging the Christian Faith. Hundreds of Bishops assembled to battle most especially the false belief that Jesus was inferior to God the Father, separate in nature, unequal in Deity. This directly conflicts with Sacred Scripture, for Jesus had said, "I and the Father are one" (Jn 10:30; 14:9-10). Thus the Bishops declared a unity of belief in this creed for all Christians, a personal adherence of man to God. The Creed was later expanded in the Second Ecumenical Council at Constantinople in 381, giving us a form similar to the present.
One of the most important figures of this early time was St. Athanasius, Doctor of the Church. He held that not only the Son of God was consubstantial with the Father, but also with the Holy Spirit, which later influenced doctrine regarding the Holy Trinity. Consubstantial is a word we should familiarize ourselves with, as it has been reinserted into the Creed. From the Greek and Latin etymology, we learn that it means more than “one in Being with the Father,” in greater accuracy it has been described as the same essence with the Father: the same Divine substance, one God three Persons.
One Lord, one Faith, one Church
This being such a complex topic, we can more readily understand it through the eyes of faith. Our faith is one in essence with our creed, and our profession of it defines us as followers of Christ. Faith is a theological virtue given to us by God in which we firmly believe the truths revealed. The Cathechism gives us clear definition and guidance: 176 “Faith is a personal adherence of the whole man to God who reveals himself. It involves an assent of the intellect and will to the self-revelation God has made through his deeds and words.” This personal belief and obedience is pivotal, for although we worship God as a community of believers, a Universal Church, each of us is personally responsible for the salvation of our own soul, as well as the souls of those around us.
As our Lord said on the holy cross, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” Professing the Catholic Faith in unity with my neighbor is a nice thought, but difficult to achieve amongst man in our sinful nature (see Galatians 6:8). For instance, it would be difficult to be in spiritual union with a person down the aisle who believes in abortion or contraception. The belief and thus faith in action, each of us personally, remains the crux of our lives. St. Thomas More stated it well: “I never intend, God being my good Lord, to pin my soul to another man’s back, not even the best man that I know this day living: for I know not where he may hap to carry it.” Certainly we believe in God, but it is a stronger commitment to profess that I believe and will act on it.
At Baptism, our Godparents take personal responsibility ”to present an infant at the baptism, and [then] help the baptized to lead a Christian life in harmony with baptism, and to fulfill faithfully the obligations connected with it" (Canon Law #872). The sponsor also makes the Profession of Faith in the child's name and accepts the responsibility of instructing the child in the faith, along with the parents. As we become adults, it is of utmost necessity that each of us, in our own time, accept the teachings as we grow in our own faith. Our “personal adherence” is strengthened by the Sacraments, most especially in the Gifts of the Holy Spirit at Confirmation, and the source and summit of our Faith, Jesus present in the Most Holy Eucharist.
In conclusion, a reflection on our personal faith does not mean we should be egocentric. Our words and actions should always point to God, for truly the Mass should be centered on God alone, not the “assembly.” Let us keep in mind the Saints and Angels, the Universal Church, antiquity as well as the future faithful who profess the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. During this Holy Season of Easter, let it be our profound joy to proclaim Jesus as Lord.