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The Message
Evansville, Indiana
October 23, 1987     The Message
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October 23, 1987

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Faith Today Supplement, The Message, Catholic Diocese of Evansville. October 23, i987 ,'; :'"   .... , ;.,    "'' - '    . i .... i  More than words to be uttered By Dolores Leckey NC News Service p cople today yearn to believe in something -- a cause, a vision of life, a person. But social com- mentators note that faith in governments and many in- stitutions seems to have weakened. People's faith in themselves often is shaky too, as psychiatrists and other counselors testify. And questions about life's pur- pose nip at the edges of affluent Western society, where people con- sume and possess in great measure and still feel empty. In the midst of all this, the peo- ple of God gather each Sunday and recite the Nicene Creed, a fourth- century statement of faith. Week after week lawyers, doc- tors, manual laborers, politicians and artists state the facts of Jesus' origins, life, death and resurrection. They declare belief that God's Son entered human history; that sins are forgiven, the dead shall rise and there is a new life awaiting all humankind. The Nicene Creed is a summary of faith, as familiar in the church as the Sign of the Cross.. I asked one Catholic what he feels in saying the creed. A govern- ment worker, he confessed to mix- ed emotions over it. The creed still reminds him of an incident when he was a college student and his dormitory rector called him in for a private consultation. The priest, so he perceived, wanted to probe the breadth of the 17-year-old's faith. Now in his 50s with a lifetime of commitment behind him, the man says he recalls the pressure he felt as a very shy and insecure youth trying to understand what he believes and attempting to put it into words. Yet, as an adult he participates willingly in the creed at Mass and says he actually appreciates occa- sions when members of the church repeat their baptismal promises together, as happens on special occasions. His response caused me to think about how I feel when I pray the creeds. The Apostles' Creed is the most frequent creed in my prayer life. I say the rosary in my car, fighting traffic on Washington's bridges as I make my way to work. One morning I realized that the Apostles' Creed is in the first per- son singular. It is I, Dolores, who daily go over the basics of the deepest part of my life. As I say each phrase, I feel myself more rooted in the story of Jesus of Nazareth, choosing to join my small story to his large one. The Apostles' Creed, is notably devoid of ornamentation and that is its beauty, I think. When I say it reflectively I am at one with the fishermen of the Gospel who threw their lot with Jesus. The Nicene Creed, however, is communal. Its language is plural, stating the beliefs of the entire church and incorporating mystical and philosophical elements into deceptively simple statements. "We believe in one Lord .... (who is) light from light," the creed says. And we believe in the creator of "all that is seen and unseen." It is fitting that such statements of mystery and of the mystical should be in our communal creed. For the creed is not just words to be uttered. As part of the liturgy, it is much like prayer; it calls us to ponder the meaning of its statements for our lives. (Mrs. Leckey is director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for the Laity.) By Father John Castelot NC News Service E very morning and even- ing pious Jews recite a formula known as the Shema. Its name comes from its first word which means "hear," and the full formula is: "Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone!" (Deuteronomy 6:4) This is the central affirmation of Israel's faith, its basic creed. It is a firm acknowledgment that only Yahweh -- the Lord  is God. It is a statement of Judaism's distinc- tive belief in one God. In the course of time it was ex- panded to include the great com- mandment of total love of God and injunctions to bear all this constantly in mind (Deuteronomy 6:5-9). But as a creed, it is the profes- sion of Yahweh's uniqueness that really matters. It crystallized the people's religious experience of God, the sole master of history. . Once formulated, this creed served to distinguish the people from all surrounding peoples. Throughout history it often became a martyr's cry, as persecuted Jews went to death rather than deny the faith of their fathers. Given the nature of creeds, it takes time for them to develop. The cry of martyrs This was true of Christian creeds also. In the beginning, the only creed the followers of Christ knew was the simple but eloquent state- ment: "Jesus Christ is Lord" (Philippians 2:11). For all its simplicity, it speaks volumes. Christians had come to realize that Jesus was much more than an itinerant preacher from Nazareth who had come to a tragic end. He was the Messiah (Christ) and divine (Lord). That early creed was a statement of faith, the expression of a reality which could be made known only by God himself. When Peter, in Matthew's account, acknowledged that Jesus was "Son of the living God," Jesus pointed out: "Flesh and blood (human reasoning) has not revealed this to you but my heavenly Father" (Matthew 16:17). Like the Shema, this basic creed elacapsulated Christian faith and served as a badge of identity. Also like  the Shema, it gradually grew more complex to keep step with Christian experience. New Testament scholars have detected several creeds in the let- ters of Paul. The earliest contains a theology (a statement about God), a christology (a statement about his Son), an eschatology (a state- ment about the end-time), a reference to the resurrection and an allusion to Jesus' saving power: "You turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God and to await his Son from heaven whom he raised from (the) dead, Jesus, who delivers us from the coming wrath" (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10). Another early credal formula is incorporated into the opening of Paul's letter to the Romans. There Paul refers to God's Son, "descended from David according to the flesh, but established as Son of God in power according to a spirit of holiness through resurrec- tion from the dead" (1:3-4). Later, Paul makes use of a somewhat expanded expression of faith in the resurrection in 1 Cor- inthians 15:3-5: "I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins...that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day, that he was seen by Cephas, then by the Twelve." Such formulas helped to put Christian experience into words, to the extent that it can be put in- to words. They also helped in handing on basic Christian truth to succeeding generations. People were able to say: "This is what we, as Christians, believe. This is what makes us unique." (Father Castelot is a professor of Scripture at St. John's Seminary, Plymouth, Mich.) A time for believing By Katharine Bird N( News Service l believe "that" Jesus died and rose again...that Mr. Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa/.41.that Mary is the mother of Jesus. I also believe "in" a God who is my son's ability to juggle a full-time job and part-time Jesus who showed me how to tackle and overcome the worst difficulties. People use the words "I believe" in different ways. As the first set of examples indicates, one way is to express their acceptance of certain basic facts. The belief expressed in tlx sec- ond set of examples moves into another kind of territory. It takes us into the world of trust, of the meaning in what we believe. Rs theologian Father James Bacik put it, the use of "I-believe" language can "satisfy the longings of the human heart." He is pastor of Corpus Christi University Parish in Toledo, Ohio. And for Christians, being alle "to identify our beliefs linkff us with a community" of kindred spirits; it "enables us to know we're not alone, that others share our beliefs and values." People find themselves groping for a language to express their beliefs especially during key moments in life, Father Bacik said. For college-age youths, this hap- pens most often when "their faith is challenged." It happens, fc- in- stance, when they encounter atheists who lead good lives or when trying to decide what com- mitments to make in life. The challenge to express faith also arises when dealing with tragedies. There are large-scale tragedies, for example the explo- sion of the Challenger space shut- tle. There are personal tragedies such as those surrounding the serious illness of a classmate. At such times students "find that their normal ways of dealing vith things don't work," Father Bacik said. At these points people may turn to their faith, to look for a language to express belief, he add- ed. A student grieving over a parent's death may say, "I believe that mother is in heaven." In this context, belief can take on new meaning for him. Another challenging event for people is the birth of a first child. "I see great religious seriousness