Creed of the People of God, Part Three Print
Knowing Your Faith
Thursday, Mar. 15, 2018 -- 12:00 AM
Knowing Your Faith column

John Joy

We’ve been reflecting in this column on the Creed of the People of God, 50 years after its first being proclaimed by Pope Paul VI in 1968.

This modern 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 to have that faith without which we cannot be saved.

The next part of the Creed professes our faith in Jesus Christ, which is at the very heart of all that we believe and do as Christians. By far the longest section of the Nicene Creed is devoted to professing our faith in Jesus Christ” his divinity; his incarnation; and his work of redemption. The Creed of the People of God affirms all of this while also expanding upon it.

• The divinity of Christ. This section begins: “We believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God. He is the Eternal Word, born of the Father before time began, and one in substance with the Father, homoousios to Patri, and through Him all things were made.”

The words “homoousios to Patri” is the original Greek phrase used by the Fathers of the Church to express our faith in the fullness of Christ’s divinity. He is not only of a similar (homoi-) substance (ousia) to the Father; he is of the very same (homo-) substance (ousia) as the Father (to Patri). The difference of one letter, literally one “iota” (the Greek letter “i”), makes all the difference between the true faith of the Church and the heresy of Arianism, which denies the full divinity of Jesus Christ.

• His Incarnation. The Creed then continues: “He was incarnate of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, and was made man: equal therefore to the Father according to His divinity, and inferior to the Father according to His humanity; and Himself one, not by some impossible confusion of His natures, but by the unity of His person.”

If Jesus were only partly man and partly God, he would not bridge the gap between man and God, but would instead be some third thing in between us. But God wanted to unite himself with us, and so he began by uniting his divine nature to our human nature in the one single person of Jesus Christ, who is true God and true man.

As he is from the Father and of one substance with the Father according to his divinity, so he is from his mother of one substance with us according to his humanity. And therefore Christ can say both “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30), speaking according to his divinity, and “The Father is greater than I” (John 14:28), speaking according to his humanity.

• His public ministry. This is a completely new addition not found at all in the Nicene Creed: “He dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. He proclaimed and established the Kingdom of God and made us know in Himself the Father. He gave us His new commandment to love one another as He loved us. He taught us the way of the beatitudes of the Gospel: poverty in spirit, meekness, suffering borne with patience, thirst after justice, mercy, purity of heart, will for peace, persecution suffered for justice sake.”

• His work of redemption. “Under Pontius Pilate He suffered — the Lamb of God bearing on Himself the sins of the world, and He died for us on the cross, saving us by His redeeming blood. He was buried, and, of His own power, rose on the third day, raising us by His resurrection to that sharing in the divine life which is the life of grace.

“He ascended to heaven, and He will come again, this time in glory, to judge the living and the dead: each according to his merits — those who have responded to the love and piety of God going to eternal life, those who have refused them to the end going to the fire that is not extinguished. And His Kingdom will have no end.”

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