Creed, Part One: More Than Words
- Monday, July 19, 2004
I grew up Methodist. Every week, after an hour of Sunday school, my parents, brother and I walked up the wide steps and into the large brick church with impressive stained glass windows that dominated the western end of our town's Main Street.
For the next hour I could pretty much count on the way things would go. We would sing a few songs, have a few announcements. We would take up the offering and sing the Doxology. We would recite the Apostle's Creed.
From early on I didn't need to see the words before me. I could recite them with the big folks. Even as a child, I meditated on them, allowed them to be a part of me. But it wasn't until a few years ago, while hearing Rich Mullin's song version, simply titled "Creed," that the words seemed to stir my soul and I felt it take flight.
A few more years passed before I heard - and repeated - the Nicene Creed, equally as powerful in presentation, form, and truth. Then, one day, I decided to dig deeper, to delve further into the implications behind the lines. What do they mean? Better still, what do they mean to me?
What is a Creed?
To me, the word "creed" is like so many in my vocabulary; I know what it means but don't ask me to define it. You may be the same way, too. It's not until some little one in our lives comes along asking, "But what does it mean?" that we find ourselves unable to give answer.
"What is a creed?"
"Well, honey...it's something you say...er...repeat...um...it's kinda like a list of beliefs, you know...what you believe...in."
Okay, so let's start with the basics. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines "creed" thusly:
1: a brief authoritative formula of religious belief
2: a set of fundamental beliefs; also: a guiding principle
The root of the word comes from the Latin credo, which means, "To believe, trust, entrust."
The Oldest Creed
The Apostle's Creed is the oldest creed in our Christian faith. Though traditionally it is said that those men known as "the Apostles" penned the Apostle's Creed on the tenth day after the Lord's ascension, fact is, it was not written by them at all. But the story behind this myth is fascinating anyway. It goes something like this:
As the Twelve Apostles are together, Peter begins a discussion by saying, "I believe in God, the Father Almighty."
Either Andrew or John (there's some debate there, even amidst the fable) continued the article, "And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord." James the Elder chimed in, "Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost..." and so on and so forth.
But truth is, this legend is no older than the 5th or 6th Centuries and can therefore not be factual.
The real truth is that each article and line of The Apostle's Creed has its beginnings in the Apostle's teachings and has two "forms;" the first, the Old Roman Form and the second, the Received Form. The former is the shorter form of the two and dates as far back as the middle of the 2nd Century. The Received Form is the one with which we are most familiar, goes like this:
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. AMEN.
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