The Creed of the People, Part Two Print
Knowing Your Faith
Thursday, Feb. 08, 2018 -- 12:00 AM
Knowing Your Faith column

John Joy

Last month we began looking at the Creed of the People of God, in honor of its 50th anniversary. This Creed is based on the Nicene Creed we say at Mass, but it goes into greater detail about what Catholics are required to believe in order to be ‘practicing Catholics’ and (more importantly) in order have that faith without which we cannot be saved. The opening lines of the Creed expressed our faith in God as the creator of all things, visible and invisible.

This month, we’ll continue with the Unity and Trinity of God. In the Nicene Creed, we say, “I believe in one God . . .” and then we go on to mention each of the divine Persons, “the Father almighty . . . one Lord Jesus Christ . . . the Holy Spirit . . .” All this is very compact. The Creed of the People of God expresses the same faith more completely and explicitly.

First, in the Unity of God, saying: We believe that this only God is absolutely one in His infinitely holy essence as also in all His perfections, in His omnipotence, His infinite knowledge, His providence, His will, and His love. He is He who is, as He revealed to Moses; and He is love, as the apostle John teaches us: so that these two names, Being and Love, express ineffably the same divine reality of Him who has wished to make Himself known to us, and who, “dwelling in light inaccessible,” is in Himself above every name, above every thing and above every created intellect.

A name expresses what something is, its essence or deepest identity. When God revealed his name to Moses, saying “I Am Who Am” (Exodus 3:14), he indicated that his very essence is to be. He is existence itself. He is not a being. He is being.

We have our limited being from him; but he is his own infinite being and all his divine attributes. As such, he is absolutely one and infinitely high above all other things, “dwelling in light inaccessible” (1 Tim 6:16). And yet his name is also Love (1 John 4:8, 16), and out of that love he has chosen to reveal himself to us.

Hence, the Creed continues by professing our faith in the Trinity, saying: God alone can give us right and full knowledge of this reality by revealing Himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in whose eternal life we are by grace called to share, here below in the obscurity of faith and after death in eternal light. The mutual bonds which eternally constitute the Three Persons, who are each one and the same divine being, are the blessed inmost life of God thrice holy, infinitely beyond all that we can conceive in human measure. We give thanks, however, to the divine goodness that very many believers can testify with us before men to the unity of God, even though they know not the mystery of the most holy Trinity.

The mystery of the most holy Trinity utterly surpasses human reason, though without contradicting it. The human mind is able to discover that there exists one infinite and eternal God (Rom 1:19–20), but we could never have discovered that Three Persons subsist in the One divine essence. Yet we accept this as a most certain truth on the authority of God himself who revealed it, for we know that God can neither deceive nor be deceived.

This portion of the Creed then concludes with the words: We believe then in the Father who eternally begets the Son; in the Son, the Word of God, who is eternally begotten; in the Holy Spirit, the uncreated Person who proceeds from the Father and the Son as their eternal love. Thus in the Three Divine Persons, coaeternae sibi et coaequales, the life and beatitude of God perfectly one superabound and are consummated in the supreme excellence and glory proper to uncreated being, and always “there should be venerated Unity in the Trinity and Trinity in the Unity. (The final phrase is a reference to the magnificent text of the Athanasian Creed, which is another of the authoritative Creeds of the Church, and well worth reading).

John Joy, STL, is marriage and family coordinator for the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis, Diocese of Madison.