top of page

"On the third day He rose again...", Creeds, love songs and bombs




Easter and creeds go together. For so many reasons. Not just because the creeds incorporate Easter, but also because they only exist because of Easter. What better way to celebrate Easter than to use the Nicene creed as a love poem from God to us?

 

And certain lines, almost every line,  while familiar through repetition has had the power to overturn and reconfigure both whole civilisations and solitary individuals.

 

“On the third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures”, changed the whole ancient world and challenges the whole modern world. It set the ancient world free from dark capricious gods, who were as tricky and sometimes deadly as they were beneficent. It sets the modern world free from its hubris, deathly utopias and false optimism about the human condition.

 

Annie Dillard, an American writer who converted to Catholicism as an adult,  wrote some powerful lines to wake the somnolent worshipper from their tendency to habitual carelessness.

 

“On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return. ”

 

 

On first returning to Church as a young adult convert with awkwardly digested evangelical instincts, I remember resenting the creeds in the liturgy.. Evangelical culture didn’t understand the theological power of the creeds, often moaning that the Church councils that produced them might have done better to have quoted more ‘words of Jesus from the Gospels.’

 

But in fact the creed is a call to arms in defence of Jesus and in repudiation of those who refuse the faith and experience of the Church that God became man to love, suffer, rise and rescue,  atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and agnostics.

 

The creed is an explosive document. Full of theological ordinance. Every phrase packed with the power to change lives. Almost every line is born of a theological struggle to tell the whole truth about the incarnation.

 

Thomas Aquinas fills out the context of what the creed was created to do. Here are just two of the comments he made:

 

‘Do-lally’ optimists who would prefer to believe that no price has to be paid for the unique gift of free will, constantly muse on total inclusion at the end. The ‘nice’ is more important than the ‘just’ for them

 

Origen was an early universalist, whose theological wishful thinking flew in the face of what Jesus actually taught. He ambitiously claimed  that  “by the power of Christ's Passion even the devils were to be set free." However nice that might be, it is at the cost of justice and freedom of choice which lies at the heart of creation and gives us our deepest dignity.

for us men, and for our salvation” is not a truism, it defends moral choice in the cosmos.

 

The deeply spiritual have trouble with the body being acceptable to God. The Manicheans couldn’t cope with the idea that God who was spirit could fully enter into the messy biology of the human condition. The antidote to them is “and  Jesus was made incarnate by the Holy Spirit.”  As Gregory the theologian pointed out, “that which is not assumed is not healed.”

 

But while the creed retained the power to discomfort and  confront the schismatics of the pf the mis-called Reformation, the moment when I saw it unleashed in its full glory was provided by the Copts  on the streets of Egypt a few years back.

 

There had been a dreadful campaign of bombing in Egypt, by Muslim terrorists. They had placed bombs inside Coptic churches designed to go off and slaughter men, women and children at their prayers. The carnage they left was terrible and impossible to look upon. As with all Islamist terror, it was designed to break the spirit and intimidate as well as kill and maim.

 

Instead of revenge and reprisals. They  gathered in the streets outside the bombed churches and with a passion and determination chanted the Nicene creed at the top of their voices confronting the latter day Arian Muslim heretics with the eternal Word made flesh.

 

“And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father.”

 

There is no bomb than can go off in the human heart greater than the forgiveness  won on the cross. Not even Arian Islam can withstand it without puzzling deeply, when it meets forgiveness instead of revenge.

 

377 views4 comments

Recent Posts

See All

4 comentarios


Well said. They are such a beautiful summary of the faith.

One my way back to the Church I was at an EV Free Church, and I noticed they had edited the Nicene Creed. This was a little part of what pushed me back to the Catholic Church. I could see it was not truthful to deny the unity the Creeds played as well as the truth is shared. I read a lot of history on the Creed (or at least historians best educated guesses). It is clear to me how much our fathers in the faith wanted to stress them as an accurate representation of the Apostles teaching handing down to us what was given from Jesus Himself. …

Me gusta

Roxanne
Roxanne
03 abr

I have grown to savor the Creed for it not only proclaims what I believe, I am reminded of what life would be if I did not!

Me gusta

The creed used to be a long boring prayer in the middle of Mass. Now it is the joyful renewal of my baptismal vows which I look forward to every Sunday.

Me gusta

"Amen" to that, I say. So uplifting on this Holy Saturday morning. Happy Easter to all and thank you.

Me gusta
bottom of page