If you are looking for my blog titled, The Contemplative Catholic Convert, you are at the right spot.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Dr. Thomas and the Nicene Creed

The Nicene Creed is one of the earliest statements of authentic Christian faith. And, since we are in the midst of Advent -- the time when Christians reflect on the first coming of Jesus -- I thought to post a few excerpts from my first book, "We Believe: Forty Meditations on the Nicene Creed." The translation of the Creed from Latin to English changed at the beginning of Advent to bring it closer to the original Greek. Eventually I will revise my book to mirror the few changes that were made.

Creed Statement: We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only son of God, eternally begotten from the Father, God from God, Light from light, true God from True God, begotten, not made, consubstantial (one in being, of the same substance) with the Father.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through Him, and without Him nothing came to be. (John 1:1-3)

I remember Dr. Thomas. He was one of my college teachers who helped his class prepare for scheduled exams. He used to walk the aisles between our desks and review the information he expected us to know. As he spoke, he’d sometimes pause, clear his throat or make some other gesture to indicate what he’d just read was important. He never actually said, “This will be on the test,” but everyone knew, when Dr. Thomas gestured, we should pay attention.

Well, almost everyone. There were always a few students with other things on their minds – and they’d get the question wrong.

From the earliest days of the Church, people mixed heresies with the doctrines handed down by the Apostles. For example, in the early 4th century a renegade priest, Arius, rejected Church teaching regarding the deity of Christ. Arius believed Jesus was not co-eternal with the Father and was, therefore, inferior to the Father.

In 325 A.D., Church leaders met in council in Nicea (modern-day Turkey) to deal with the Arian heresy. The Council leaders knew that the wrong answer to the question of Jesus’ deity would inevitably spread through the Church’s understanding of sin, salvation, atonement and forgiveness. Mankind’s eternal destiny was at stake.

To help the Church get the right answer, the Nicene Council responded in what I like to think of as the equivalent of clearing their throats. In this case, however, they clapped their hands and blew a trumpet in a rising crescendo, as if to say, "Hey! Pay attention! This is really important."

So we couldn’t miss the point, the Fathers gave us the correct answer
seven times in one sentence proclaiming Jesus is: The only son of God; eternally begotten from the Father; God from God; Light from light; True God from True God; begotten, not made; consubstantial with the Father.

Yet, despite the seven-fold response, some got it wrong. Some still do.

False teachers have always drawn men and women from Christian faith. That’s why Christ established His Church as the “pillar and foundation of truth.” (1 Timothy 3:15)

When we recite the Nicene Creed, we join our faith with historic Christian doctrine dating back to the Apostles and preserved through apostolic succession. We have the opportunity to nurture that faith born in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, and instructed by the Church.

Who is Jesus? That’s an easy one, if we pay attention to the pillar and support of truth when it tells us who He is.

That's one test question we don’t want to get wrong.

Prayer: Father, thank You for sending the Holy Spirit to Your Church. Help us humbly receive His instruction in things necessary for our good and for our salvation. Please protect our minds from the devil’s deceptions. Amen.

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