Credo: A Statement on the Apostles' Creed

From a sermon by The Very Rev. Robin L. Holloway, OCC Abbess of Saint Brendan's, given on the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity, 1994

Belief in the Trinity is absolutely fundamental to being a Christian. This is not a universally held idea among those who call themselves Christians, but it is true nonetheless. If you do not believe in the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you may be many things, but you are not a Christian---period. Some may think that the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity is overly fussy, confusing or just an obscure concept that theologians kick around. The truth is, everything that we believe about Christ, the Church, salvation, creation and our part in all of these, is essentially connected to the doctrine of the Trinity. Christianity only makes sense in the context of the Trinity. I am not denying that the concept of a God who is Three Persons, One of whom is a human being, but is still only One God, is confusing. We must remember that Christianity is, at heart, relationship and experience, not scientific data. We can know, with the knowledge of faith, that it is true without being able to prove it in any way. Besides, it is a futile endeavor to attempt to prove any religious truth. Those who need proof will never accept it, those who will accept it don't need it. The Church, over the centuries, has written libraries on the topic of the Trinity, the essence of which is contained in the Creeds: The Apostolic, the Nicene and the Definition of the Divine and Human Natures in the Person of Christ of the Council of Chalcedon, 451 AD. We pray these Creeds in our worship and private devotions, but sometimes our very familiarity with these words keeps us from fully appreciating and comprehending them. It will be useful, therefore, to go through the Apostles' Creed, the ancient Baptismal Creed of the Western Church line by line.

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth...

God is the Father of all that is, has been and will be. Father, not in the sense of being male, but in relationship, a relationship of loving care, of constant Presence, of willing the very best for his children and working toward that end. A creed used in the Methodist Church puts it this way, "...whose will is ever directed to his children's good." God created all things out of nothing, by his Word alone, and continues to hold all things in existence, even those sentient beings who reject his Person and his will. He is faithful to his own nature which is Love.

And in Jesus Christ, his 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.

Jesus is the God-Human, the Human-God, his Divine Nature begotten by his Heavenly Father, his human nature born of his Mother Mary the Theotokos-the God Bearer. Jesus is the only being who fully participates in Divinity and humanity. He is our Way to the Father. He is our Brother as well as our Lord. He is our High Priest as well as the Eternal Sacrifice for our sins. Jesus is the ultimate paradox.

He descended into hell.

The weight of all the sins of all human beings of all time settled on the spirit and body of Christ as he hung on the Cross. The burden carried him to hell, the place of no hope where he brought hope and deliverance. The salvation of Christ is available to everyone, no one is excluded, not even the dead. Jesus has experienced, in his own person the despair of separation from God that we all feel as a result of our sin, and in experiencing it has released us from its power. We are free of sin, free of death, if we have faith in his Sacrifice

On the third day he arose from the dead.

The Resurrection is our proof that we are free, because Jesus has shown us the way we are to follow. Because he did it, we can receive it. It is to honor the Resurrection that the Church celebrates the Eucharist on Sunday, the first day of the week, the first day of the new creation.

He ascended into heaven where he sits at the right hand of the Father.

Jesus carried our common Human Nature into the Godhead as he bodily rose to heaven. Our whole beings, bodies, minds, hearts and spirits are not incompatible with God. God is wholly Other, but not alien to us. He desires our human companionship, and to be human means to have a body. We are promised that we will have glorified bodies in the fullness of the Kingdom. What this means we are not completely sure, but we can have faith that it is true, and that we will like it, because God only desires our good.

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.

Our hope in Christ is not just for the present time. We have hope in a future that is in God's hands. His Kingdom will come in its fullness, and all creation will be reconciled with the Creator. We will face Christ as our judge, but he is also our Intercessor, our friend in the Heavenly Court, so to speak. Our judgment will be absolutely fair, and just. It will be what is best for us.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.

This last statement of the Creed may seem to be a random collection of things that wouldn't fit in anywhere else. It is not. It is the Holy Spirit who makes the other things possible. The Church, the Communion of Saints, exists because the Spirit of God empowers us to reach beyond our human limitations into the realm of eternity. Our sins are forgiven in the Church because Jesus breathed the Spirit onto the Apostles giving them the authority to bind and loose. The power is God's, the Church is the vehicle. Our faith in our own resurrection and eternal life with the Trinity in the Kingdom is kept alive and vital by the continuing Presence of the Spirit in the Church. One creed put it, "the Divine Presence in our lives, whereby we are kept in perpetual remembrance of the truth of Christ."

The Creed ends with Amen. So be it. Pay close attention to what you say when you pray this Creed, or the Nicene Creed, and when you get to the Amen, say it with enthusiasm and thanksgiving!