"a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing"
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Whenever, and wherever Sunday Mass is celebrated the gathered community recites in unison a form of the Creed. Either the ancient "Apostles' Creed" or what is called the "Nicene Creed." Both forms express the foundational beliefs of the Christian faith. Below is the "Apostles' Creed," which has been recited by Christians since the early centuries of the existence of the church.
I believe in God, the Father almighty,creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord,who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,born of the Virgin Mary,suffered under Pontius Pilate,was crucified, died, and was buried;he descended to the dead.On the third day he rose again;he ascended into heaven,he is seated at the right hand of the Father,and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,the holy catholic church,the communion of saints,the forgiveness of sins,the resurrection of the body,and the life everlasting.
"The Apostles' Creed is so called because it is rightly considered to be a faithful summary of the apostles' faith. It is the ancient baptismal symbol of the Church of Rome. Its great authority arises from this fact: it is 'the Creed of the Roman Church, the See of Peter, the first of the apostles, to which he brought the common faith."
- from the Catechism of the Catholic Church; 194.
THE POWER OF WORDS
The Creed has always served as the unifying consensus of foundational Christian belief. Yet, it is not uncommon these days, to find many Catholic Christians who recite these words with no assent to their truth or meaning. To many they are just empty words with less weight than the pledge of allegiance or the exchanging of vows in a marriage ceremony.
It is a strange characteristic of our society that vows and promises have become rather meaningless. The concept of a verbal covenant is now seen as something archaic - and in many cases verbal agreements are not seen as legally binding or even legitimate.
As a self-proclaimed "reluctant" Catholic - I can find a lot of things that are taught in the Church that I might not like to believe. However over time I have found that truth is often contrary to my liking, and although I might choose not to believe, or choose to ignore the truth that I resist - I cannot deny the right of the Church to claim authority in the matter. Thus I concede to their authority and do not "kick against the goads," (Acts 26:14). As the "hospital of the soul," I might not like the diagnosis and prescribed treatment that the Church gives - but there is ancient wisdom that prevails, and under the ultimate authority of God - I might be wise to at least give them the benefit of the doubt!!
SCIENCE AND FAITH
I have myself asked and heard many antagonistic questions (masked as a "scientific" approach) leveled against the church's foundational beliefs; among them:
- How can you believe in a literal resurrection? It's impossible!
Usually the justification for claiming that the physical resurrection after death is impossible is supported by the understanding that it has never been recorded as happening before or again, apart from the Gospel accounts of the risen Christ.
This makes me wonder how many times something has to happen in order for it to be considered as true?
If something happened only once before witnesses who diligently recorded and loudly proclaimed its truth - at the risk of losing their lives - is it not as true as anything else that we repeatedly observe or have ever recorded in history?
When the Church proclaims: "I believe" - it does so not as a denial of scientific facts - but as an affirming of a greater reality and purpose behind scientific facts. Prior to factual evidence is the perception of mystery - a question that demands or drives us to find answers. Is this not the source of scientific investigation - the attempt at solving the mysteries of life?
Science, as the Catholic Church affirms, provides the "How." The Church, through its proclaimed faith, offers a "Why."
FAITH AND SCIENCE
Science seeks to repeat an occurrence in order to verify its validity. But there are aspects of reality, certain observed phenomena, that behave differently based on the viewpoint of the observer. Science readily admits to employ faith in affirming the truth of this observation. Before evidence is found - every scientist must assert a belief in the possibility of finding that evidence.
The writer of the New Testament letter to the Hebrews says:
"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." - Hebrews 11:1
It has been my experience that in order for me to observe the truth of a matter - I must be open to the possibility of truth beyond my current understanding.
The Creed, to me, is the affirmation of the possibility of truth beyond my current understanding. It is a statement of things that I actually cannot verify with my own senses or logic - it is revealed truth.
The only thing that I can do with the Creed is to believe it or deny it. I cannot see any middle ground. If I deny it I do so at the risk of closing my mind to mystery. If I believe it, I have affirmed my faith in things beyond myself. I cannot conceive of this as being a bad thing.
I believe I believe - Lord help my unbelief.