The Creed that we recite is, above all, an experience of praying. It is not meant to be a ‘proof’ of anything. It is something we disciples must do—simply because we believe in Jesus of Nazareth. It is an act of praise because our hearts are burning with the love of Jesus.
Yes, it is a prayer. And what is prayer?
I love C. S. Lewis’ description:
I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I am helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking or sleeping … it doesn’t change God.
It changes me.
So, in praying the Credo, the first thing we must start with understanding is that something extraordinary and lifechanging happened to the first followers of Jesus; something unique and beautiful. They were not trying to ‘philosophise’ as such. They were praying from this ‘need that flows’ out of the hearts of all lovers of Jesus. It was precisely their transforming, amazing experience of this salvation in Jesus that led early Christian thinkers towards a doctrine of the Trinity.
From the earliest days, Christians were convinced that in Jesus Christ they had experienced God’s saving self-revelation. And if Jesus Christ reveals God—if, looking at Jesus, you find yourself looking at God—then Christ must somehow be said to share in God’s divinity. That is why he is said to be ‘born of the Father’.
Otherwise, we would not really have met God in Christ, and God would remain unknown. The doctrine of the Trinity and such phrases as ‘born of the Father’ were formulated as a way of safeguarding their basic convictions about salvation and revelation.
But in reality, it simply means that God is love. Jesus revealed to his startled hearers that he and God were most deeply one in the way a family is one. And we are invited to participate in this ‘dance’ of love. Perhaps poets like Malcolm Guite say it best:
In the Beginning, not in time or space,
But in the quick before both space and time,
In Life, in Love, in co-inherent Grace,
In three in one and one in three, in rhyme,
In music, in the whole creation story,
In His own image, His imagination,
The Triune Poet makes us for His glory,
And makes us each the other’s inspiration.
He calls us out of darkness, chaos, chance,
To improvise a music of our own,
To sing the chord that calls us to the dance,
Three notes resounding from a single tone,
To sing the End in whom we all begin;
Our God beyond, beside us and within.
First published in Sounding the Seasons: Seventy Sonnets for the Christian Year, Canterbury Press, 2012. Reprinted with permission.
This article is part of a series of reflections entitled ‘I Believe…Help My Unbelief’: Meditations on the Creed by Br Mark O’Connor FMS.
Br Mark O’Connor FMS is the Vicar for Communications in the Diocese of Parramatta.