I Believe in God

"The Exhortation to the Apostles" (detail) by James Tissot

“The Exhortation to the Apostles” (detail) by James Tissot


CREDO

When we say “I believe” as we recite the Apostle’s Creed we are making a statement about our Faith. The theological virtue of Faith is supernatural and infused by gift of the Holy Spirit. St. Thomas Aquinas points out that Faith is not only the first thing we need, but that we cannot be proper Catholics without it.1 St. Paul instructs in Hebrews 11:1 that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” St. Thomas, writing on the Three Greatest Prayers relays that Faith imparts four specific benefits. First of all, “Faith unites the soul to God.” Our very first Sacrament of Baptism is accompanied by the question “do you believe in God?” Without faith, there can be no baptism, without baptism there can be no union with God. Second, Faith introduces us to eternal life, “for eternal life is nothing else than to know God.” Third, Faith is our guide in this life “since in order to lead a good life a man needs to know what is necessary to live rightly,” and we are informed by our Faith how we ought to live. Fourth, Faith helps us to overcome temptations. In Hebrews 11:33, we read that the Saints, “by faith have conquered kingdoms.” We are tempted by the devil, the world and by the flesh and it is by Faith that we are given the strength to triumph.

St. Augustine calls the Apostle’s Creed the “the Rule of Faith, which is called the Symbol” or the Creed.2 By reciting the Creed we are uniting our minds, hearts and souls with the most profound and basic truths which embody the essence and existence of Holy Mother Church. The first words of the Apostle’s Creed are “I believe in One God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth.”  These comprise the foundation of Faith upon which every other word of the Creed depends. St. Augustine further explains that all the words of the Creed “are in the Divine Scriptures scattered up and down: but thence gathered and reduced into one, that the memory of slow persons might not be distressed; that every person may be able to say, able to hold, what he believes.”3 For as St. Paul says in Roman’s 10:10, “with the heart man believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Without a deep understanding of what we are proclaiming by these first foundational holy words, all else is untethered from the ground in ultimate Truth. Let us examine our profession of Faith, particularly belief in almighty God the Creator of all things.

In paragraph 198 of the Catechism, we are reminded that God is the “beginning and end of everything,” He is the Alpha and the Omega and “the Father is the first divine person of the Most Holy Trinity.” This statement of believing in God is the most essential because the “whole creed speaks of God, and when it speaks of man and of the world, it does so in relations to God.” Every other article of faith in the Creed hinges on this most important of first principles that we believe in the Creator. Our first order of business is to recognize God and that he is the beginning and end of our existence.

After recognizing God’s existence we must acknowledge his power. We proclaim in our Creed that God is the “Father Almighty.” In paragraph 268 of the Catechism we learn that of all God’s divine qualities, His omnipotence is the only one named in the Apostle’s Creed. The Catechism goes on to say that “to confess this power has great bearing on our lives. We believe that his might is universal, for God who created everything also rules everything and can do everything. God’s power is loving, for he is our Father, and mysterious, for only faith can discern it.” St. Thomas Aquinas explains that God governs all things, He governs nature, and He governs all human actions.4  God is almighty and as we proclaim His omnipotence it sheds light on the truth that by His power he made everything in the Heavens and on earth.

We proclaim in our Creed that God is the “maker of heaven and earth” and the Nicene Creed adds that He is the maker of “all that is visible and invisible.” In paragraph 325 of the Catechism it is explained that “the Scriptural expression ‘heaven and earth’ means all that exists, creation in its entirety.” It also designates the “bond, deep within creation, that both unites heaven and earth and distinguishes the one from the other.” The “earth” describes the visible world of men while “the heavens” describe God’s invisible country where the angels and creatures of imperceptible light live with Him. In John 1:3-5 we learn that “all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men.”

In paragraph 327 of the Catechism it affirms that God “from the beginning of time made at once out of nothing both orders of creatures, the spiritual and the corporeal, that is, the angelic and the earthly, and then the human creature, who as it were shares in both orders, being composed of spirit and body.” That God created the world “ex nihilo” calls us to the truth that we ought to acquiesce to Divine Providence, dictated by Divine Reason because God, the maker of Heaven and earth by His power promulgates the Divine Law that is the source and governor of all other laws. The Catechism in paragraph 354 sums it up nicely by explaining that “respect for laws inscribed in creation and the relations which derive from the nature of things is a principle of wisdom and a foundation for morality.”

Our blessed Apostle’s Creed is the symbol of our Faith which unites our minds hearts, and souls to ultimate reality. The very first words of belief in the Almighty God, Creator of the heavens and the earth, are the very ground to which all other articles of the Faith are tethered. The world today is skeptical of Faith because we have reduced our ways of knowing to material means. Most would say that Faith is foolish, but St. Thomas would say otherwise for four reasons. First, if we recognize that our intelligence is imperfect, then we will realize that we must believe in sources other than ourselves and thus it is wise to turn, amongst other things, to Faith. Second, we must recognize that our knowledge is limited. We don’t have the ability or expertise to know all things, so we must turn to higher sources if our understanding is to transcend the limits of our human knowledge. Third, life in this world would be impossible if we were to rely solely on what we were able to see with our senses. Surely we must admit that there a limits to what a single human can know and therefore we must rely on outward sources and certain articles of Faith. And finally, we can see by God’s miracles the truth of the things taught by the Faith. Faith is not unreasonable, it transcends reason to higher realms, realms to which we are granted access by the Almighty God, creator of Heaven and earth. By the Apostles Creed, the very symbol of our Faith, let us say what we mean and mean what we say and never forget that “blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

Footnotes

  1. Thomas Aquinas, The Three Greatest Prayers, (Manchester, NH, 1990) page 3.
  2. St, Augustine, A Sermon to Catechumens on the Creed, Paragraph 1.
  3. St, Augustine, A Sermon to Catechumens on the Creed, Paragraph 1.
  4. Thomas Aquinas, Expositio in Symbolum Apostolorum, Paragraph 10.

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