Remembering the beauty of our Faith Print
Bishop Morlino's Column
Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013 -- 12:00 AM
This column is the bishop’s communication with the faithful of the Diocese of Madison. Any wider circulation reaches beyond the intention of the bishop.

Dear Friends,

This past Sunday, on the Solemn Feast of Christ the King, we concluded our Year of Faith celebrations.

The occasion was marked by Pope Francis in Rome — as he completed what Pope Benedict had begun, with the inspiration of the Lord.

I marked the occasion at the celebration of my Stational Mass at St. Patrick Church in Madison, and hopefully you all marked the occasion with some particular focus upon the Creed in your own parishes and in your own families.

As I said to the people of the Cathedral Parish, it has been a beautiful Year of Faith. It has been a time for seeing the beauty of Faith, the beauty of our charity, and the beauty of our liturgy. Beauty, as we discussed several times over this year, will be the main instrument that the Lord gives us for the New Evangelization. And here in the diocese, this has been our underlying theme for the Year of Faith: Evangelization through Beauty.

Now, the “Nicene Creed” falls right in the “middle” of the liturgy as it were. The Creed is a response of faith to the Word that we have heard, but it is also the perfect introduction to the mysticism of the liturgy, into which we are about to enter, after the Creed.

After the Creed, we begin our movement toward the invitation of the priest, to lift up our hearts! The lifting of our hearts means that we are being mystically lifted up to heaven, so that we might participate in the one eternal worship, led by the one eternal high priest, Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father.

Creed is our ‘yes’ to faith

The Creed is our “Yes” to the faith that we have heard in the Scriptures, proclaimed so beautifully. The Creed is also the transition to the entrance into the mystical. How does that work? That mystical part?

We’ve been through a rough time with the Creed in the last 50 years. The Creed was often looked upon as too long. Some claimed that, “people can’t understand it.” “Let’s substitute for it another, shorter creed, or let’s renew our baptismal promises instead,” some offered. “Let’s find an end-run around the Creed, because it’s too long and nobody understands it.”

That is unfortunately overly superficial. The whole point of the Creed is to spell out, in words, the mysteries of our faith. The Creed is not meant to be “understood!” The Creed is an instrument of mysticism that the Lord gives to us. How can this be?

We profess to believe that everything we say in the Creed is true, but we do not fully understand what it is that we say. We lack understanding, yet God gives us the mystical gift to proclaim, as true, that which we do not understand. It is a mystical gift of faith! And it is a gift that we desperately need, while here on earth.

Mystical gift of faith

The angels and saints in heaven understand the mysteries expressed in the Creed — they see God and they know Him. We here in the Church militant do not see; we don’t understand; the mysteries of the faith are veiled from us. This is why we are granted this mystical gift of faith. We’re granted the gift to be able to proclaim what is true, even though we don’t understand it.

And when we proclaim what is true, we are stating what the saints and angels in heaven understand. When we proclaim the words of that Creed, we are speaking the language of heaven, here on earth. We’re anticipating the fullness of the Kingdom, where Christ alone is the center of all, where Christ is everything for everyone.

The Creed, when it is appreciated, is a mystical moment. This mystical moment is best experienced when we sing it. So I hope, following the Year of Faith, many participate in singing the Creed more frequently, because since the words are mystical, since the words properly belong to the angels and saints and not to us, they’re better sung, so that we slow down and enter into the mysticism.

The Eastern Church liturgies have a beautiful way of teaching us the mysticism of the Creed. In the Eastern liturgies, when the Creed is sung, the priest takes the chalice veil, and he lifts it up and waves it gently in front of his face as a sign that the breath of the Holy Spirit is coming down upon us and enabling us to proclaim, as true, these mysteries which lie on the other side of the veil, which we cannot see.

The chalice veil, in those moments, represents our veiled understanding, the veil which still exists between life here and eternal life — the veil, behind which Christ entered on the cross, to give us a taste of heaven.

The Creed reminds us of what is “already,” but “not yet.” It reminds us that we have faith in the truth which we have not yet fully experienced. It reminds us that Christ has torn through the veil so that we might share in Eternal Life, but that we are not yet there. The life which Christ promises us remains hidden from our eyes. Those mysteries are on the other side of the veil, the mysteries that are veiled from the community’s eyes, as the priest holds that veil before his eyes. It’s a beautiful symbol.

And equally beautiful is the ritual celebrated when a priest of the Eastern Rite goes home to the Lord, when he dies. The bishop stands at the open casket of the priest while the Creed is being sung, and he again holds the chalice veil before his face as a sign that what is on the other side of the veil is hidden from him. But then he takes that veil, after the Creed is finished, and places it with the other side of the veil down on the priest’s face, a beautiful sign that the priest is now called to see what is on the other side of the veil. The priest proclaimed that reality as true all his life, but now he can understand the way heavenly people speak.

Language of the Church

The Creed is “heaven speak.” It’s the anticipation of the Kingdom where Christ is the King. And, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are given the mystical gift to proclaim as true what we cannot understand. That really is mystical. And so, we should never look for ways to make an end-run around the Creed because it’s too long, and especially not because we don’t understand it.

Some people in recent times have had the idea that the language that we speak at the liturgy should be more like the language that we speak when we’re having a nice pizza somewhere. And since there are things that we never say when we’re eating a pizza (we would never say , “The sausage and the cheese are consubstantial”), the argument goes, we should never say things that way in church.

The fact that we don’t use such language when we’re having a pizza is the precise reason why we use it at church. Because the Mass is not a pizza party, right? We are doing something mystical and beyond our understanding, so even our language should aim toward what is higher.

This should not discourage us, but encourage us. The reality of our not having a full understanding of the Creed is a sign that we are called to so much more — that God wishes to lift us up! So let’s appreciate the mystical beauty of the Creed — the beauty of its mysticism. And let us pray from our hearts as we recite the Creed — especially during the Mass — “Lord, be mindful of me when you come into your kingdom, the kingdom which is anticipated right now as we profess our faith and continue on into the mysticism of the union of heaven and earth.” Let us open our hearts wide to the gift of that mysticism and God forbid that we would ever take it for granted.

Thank you for taking the time to read this! Praised be Jesus Christ!