The reflection that I offered last week in this space on the forthcoming English translation of the Roman Missal was met with an enthusiastic response. Thank you to those of you who got in touch with me.
This week I’d like to offer a reflection on the newly translated Creed, also taken from the booklet, And with Your Spirit – Recovering a sense of the sacred in the Roman Missal, available in its entirety at no cost in electronic form at HarvestingTheFruit.com.
We discover right out of the gate that the corrected translation of the Creed reflects the fact that it’s a personal statement, I believe. Yes – the faith that we profess is the faith of the Church, the Body of Christ, expressed in one voice with all of its members, but in the Creed we are making a statement about our own acceptance of that faith.
It is now clear that the Creed is more than just an anonymous acclamation — it is our own — personally, and so we say, I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.
No longer do we speak just of things seen and unseen, but all things visible and invisible; the former words in this case are clearly deficient.
Maybe you’ve never seen Jupiter– you can, you know it’s there, but it is as yet to you unseen. This is not what the Creed truly means to address. When we speak of things invisible, we are acknowledging yet another reality of which God is Creator; the Angels for instance, and the souls of humankind. These things are invisible, yet they are created things, and our God is Lord of them all.
We continue, And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages.
We are herein saying something important about the Trinity; namely, there is a relationship between the “begotteness” of the Son and the fact that God is Father before all ages.
The Son’s begotteness also indicates that both Father and Son are of the same substance, and we articulate this even more clearly as we go on in the Creed to say, “God from God, Light from Light, etc…” culminating in the new translation with the phrase, “consubstantial with the Father.” In other words, Jesus is of the same substance as the Father.
In Latin we say, consubstantialim Patris. Con – meaning “with,” substantialim – meaning “substance.”
When we say that Jesus is consubstantial with the Father, we are saying that He is in some way with the substance of the Father. We are professing that the Father and the Son are the same in glory and the same in divinity. The Son, in other words, is not the lesser Divinity — the Son is God with the Father, not two gods, but one God of one substance — consubstantial.
We continue: For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man…
I’d like to take time out here to offer an aside on the phrase, “for us men and for our salvation,” which reads in Latin, “qui propter nos homines et propter nostrum salutem.”
There is a habit among some priests and others when professing the Creed to skip over the word “men” at this point. Maybe you’ve noticed.
Without intending to belittle anyone in particular all I can say is, are you kidding me?
Look, we’re all thinking adults here. When Neil Armstrong said, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” there was no uproar from the women of NASA crying out, “What about us?!” Every English speaking person over the age of reason knew what Armstrong had said.
“Man,” of course, is not the equivalent of “male.” It is synonymous in this usage with “human being.”
“Per nos hominess…” For those who need a more technical answer, the Latin word homines translates as “man” in the sense of “human being.” The Latin word for “males” is “viri” and it’s not to be found in the Creed and we all know why.
The bottom line is this; the Creed is at once a prayer and a profession of faith; and it’s not intended to be an exhaustive profession of faith at that. In other words, the Creed is not meant to address every single doctrine of the faith; it is a summary, or synthesis, of foundational Christian belief.
We all know what our faith holds as it regards the saving act of Christ. It is the height of silliness to insinuate that some poor fool might get the wrong impression and come away believing that the Church professes a Son who took flesh in order to save only the males of the species, females be damned.
It is likewise silly to insist, as I can attest some do, that the mere fact that some people feel offended by the phrase “for us men” legitimates the claim that it is in fact offensive. Rubbish.
The Creed that we profess should not be treated as though it is nothing more than the recitation of a social club’s bylaws, parsing the words like so many attorneys negotiating a contract.
While I am more than willing to assume that good intentions perhaps gave rise to the ill-advised practice of skipping over “men” in the Creed, I am not willing to pretend that it’s harmless; it is not. In fact, it is very solid evidence of the degree to which we have surrendered our sense of the sacred in Holy Mass in favor of an earthbound orientation that is, practically speaking, devoid of all mystery.
And think about when this foolishness occurs; just as we’re professing our belief in the infinitely glorious mystery of the Incarnation!
In the Extraordinary Form of Holy Mass, the entire congregation genuflects at the mention of the Incarnation. In the Ordinary Form we are supposed to bow at this moment in recognition of this great mystery of our faith. (Given the present discussion, is it any wonder so many people have no idea that we’re called to do this?)
The eternal Son of God, the One through whom all things were made, loves us so much that He literally came down from heaven to become one like us! This is a mystery so profound that we could spend the rest of our earthly lives contemplating nothing more than this alone, and still we’d never even begin to scratch the surface of its incredible glory.
Imagine how Satan must chuckle when we abandon all awareness of sacred mystery at precisely this moment in the Creed — and why — so we can fret about whether or not we’re being inclusive enough? Kyrie eleison!
Make no mistake about it; the aforementioned practice has been engaged at great expense. It’s time to move on. We have plenty of matters of legitimate concern in the Pilgrim Church; there’s no need to create them where they don’t exist.
Back to our exercise — instead of saying “He was born of the Virgin Mary and became man,” we will say in the new translation, “He was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man.”
Incarnate — to become or to be in the flesh. The old translation wasn’t just insufficient as far as translations go, it was flat out wrong.
Question for you: When did Jesus become man? Before you answer, know that the Latin here reads, et homo factus est / He became man. Homo – human.
So asked another way, when did Jesus become human? When He was born of the Virgin Mary? That’s what we’ve been saying for more than 40 years now, but isn’t this exactly the lie of the pro-abortionists?
Lex orandi, lex credendi. The law of prayer is the law of belief. As we pray, so too do we believe. For more than four decades even the most committed pro-lifers among us have unwittingly been saying that even Jesus became human only at His birth.
Jesus became a real man at the moment of His conception by the Spirit – incarnate of the Virgin Mary; in Her Immaculate womb the eternal Son became man.
We continue, “He was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”
He suffered death…
All of us suffer. All of us will die. Have you ever heard it said that this person or that had a peaceful death? I have, and that particular expression – “a peaceful death” – is not meant to deny whatever suffering may have been present for such an individual, rather it’s meant simply to describe the manner of death.
When we say that Jesus suffered death, we are likewise giving heed to the manner of His death; a violent immolation.
He rose again on the third day… and all of this has taken place in accordance with the Scriptures.
While there is nothing inherently wrong with the phrase in fulfillment of the Scriptures, (in fact, Jesus Himself speaks of how His saving acts “fulfill” the Scriptures) the Latin text says, secundum Scripturus, according to the Scriptures, or in accordance with the Scriptures.
The difference between the two, though subtle, should make sense to us from the standpoint that the Scriptures as yet are not entirely fulfilled. We are a Pilgrim Church on earth. We “wait with joyful hope for the coming of our Savior” at His Second Coming in Glory, which is also foretold in Sacred Scripture. We await the New Heavens and the New Earth that are promised in Revelation. We know that the work of redemption continues in the life of the Church even now, etc…
Therefore, it is more fitting to say of everything that we have professed of Christ up to this point in the Creed that all of this has happened in accordance with the Scriptures since we await the ultimate fulfillment of all that has been prophesied.
There are two more statements in the old translation that begin with “We believe” that are no longer prefaced as such in the new translation; instead these statements simply assume the opening affirmation, I believe…
One such place regards the Holy Spirit that we now confess saying, And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.
This is essentially the same as the old translation, but the threefold addition of the pronoun who affirms the distinct “Personhood” of the Holy Spirit. This is yet another example of how the new translation better articulates our understanding of the Blessed Trinity.
We also say adore as opposed to worship as is the case in the original Latin.
We conclude the Creed by professing, I confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.
Where once we said, we acknowledge one baptism, we now say I confess; again, a personal statement of faith, but in this case one that goes beyond simply acknowledging baptism. To confess in this sense means that we not only acknowledge this doctrine, we also personally endorse and submit to the truth of its teaching.
We now no longer say that we look for the resurrection of the dead; we say that we look forward to it. This is much more in keeping with Romans 8 where St. Paul says that all creation longs for the resurrection and the renewal of all things in Christ. This profession, therefore, more perfectly reflects the theological virtue of hope.
Remember I said that the Creed is at once a prayer and a profession? We conclude the Creed as all prayer, with the Amen that means to say that we confirm and adopt as our very own before God that which has just been professed.