Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Foundations

We profess our faith by means of the ancient Apostle’s Creed then pray as our Lord taught his disciples to pray. In the first we recollect and affirm what we believe in the way of the basic tenets of the Christian faith. In the second we continue exercising our faith in what we believe by simply praying as the Lord taught in his prayer primer.

The Creed and the Our Father are the foundation blocks of prayer. By prefacing and preparing ourselves in this way we have, in a sense, created an atmosphere for prayer, set a course that carries us toward not only a destination but a most legitimate and safe one.

This formula, or profession, of faith was not composed by the Apostles themselves. It is referred to as such because it expresses what they taught. The original form of the creed came into use around A.D. 125 as a catechetical tool. The Apostles’ Creed is the embodiment of the basic Christian truths necessary for living a genuinely Christian life. “This Creed is the spiritual seal, our heart’s meditation and an ever-present guardian; it is, unquestionably, the treasure of our soul.”[1]

Having lived between 315 and 386, his catechetical lectures are considered to be some of the most precious remains of Christian antiquity. Regarding the Creed, St. Cyril, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, tells us,

“This synthesis of faith was not made to accord with human opinions, but rather what was of the greatest importance was gathered from all the Scriptures, to present the one teaching of the faith in its entirety. And just as the mustard seed contains a great number of branches in a tiny grain, so too this summary of faith encompassed in a few words the whole knowledge of the true religion contained in the Old and New Testaments.”[2]

The Apostles’ Creed

I believe in God
The Father almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ,
His only Son,
Our Lord;
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
Born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified,
Died,
And was buried.
He descended into hell;
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven,
And is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty;
From thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
The Holy Catholic Church,
The Communion of Saints,
The forgiveness of sins,
The resurrection of the body,
And life everlasting. Amen.

It is important for me to read, understand, and meditate upon these foundations in the context and environment where they were laid. This means accepting the teaching authority of those men given the terrific task of preserving and promulgating the truth, the deposit of faith, given to them.

It’s not difficult to accept their authority once one begins to understand the essential nature of the Sacrament of Holy Orders and Apostolic Succession. This is something that I balked at and ridiculed for many years as a Protestant but, when one comes right down to it, it’s difficult to maintain an adversarial position when one begins honestly trying to know and understand the truth. Personal opinions, personal preferences, and pre-conceived notions all, in this warm, illuminating light, begin falling to the wayside. They have a way of evaporating and dissipating until we honestly find ourselves praying in union and harmony with the Apostles and saints of the ages saying ...

Our Father,
Who art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
On earth
As it is
In heaven.
Give us this day
Our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.[3]


[1] St. Ambrose, Expl. Symb. 1: PL 17, 1193
[2] St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Cathech, illum 5, 12; pg. 33, 521-524
[3] Matthew 6:9-13