We welcome us to the second segment of our catechesis on ‘The Creed’. The Apostles’ Creed is divided into twelve articles which individually expresses our beliefs, we will look at these articles in this edition.
Article 1: I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. The existence of God is the basis of all religious beliefs. This article affirms that God exists, and that He existed before He made and called man into existence, from all eternity He was Father. He is a Triune God (Three persons in one God known as the Holy Trinity), and it goes further to tell us some attributes of the Father, He is ‘Almighty’, which implies absolute dominion and infinite power. It affirms that His power is unlimited. He is the creator of the universe and all that is in it. God is not in space or time. He is not bound by them as the creatures are. All created things have God as their origin and source (Rom 1:20). This also means that we are not just a product of chance. We were made for a purpose, and this purpose is to know God, to love him and to serve him.
Article 2: And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. This attests that Jesus is the Son of God and that He’s most certainly divine. Jesus has both divine nature and a human nature. The use of the title Christ shows an understanding that Jesus is the Christ, or anointed one. Remember he said in John 10; 30 that ‘I and my Father are One.’ And to Philip in John 14;10, ‘I am in the Father and the Father is in me.’ So the use of Lord with Jesus is meant to profess his divinity. The name Jesus comes from the Hebrew Jeshua, meaning “God saves.” So Catholics believe that Jesus is the saviour.
Article 3: Who was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. This confirms the turning point of history, when God decided to become man. It affirms the human nature of Christ, meaning he had a real, true human flesh which he got from Mary his mother and our mother. This also affirms his divine nature, meaning he had no human father but was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary. He (Jesus Christ) is therefore considered both God and man by Christians—fully divine and fully human, the big word we use to describe that is Hypostatic Union.
Article 4: He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.This affirms the human nature of Jesus Christ. To further buttress that Jesus is human, the creed goes ahead to state that the human nature of Christ could feel pain and actually die and he experienced this on Good Friday. Why the mention of Pontius Pilate you may ask. The mention of Pontius Pilate is to place the Crucifixion of Jesus within a human history. Hence we can check the historical records during the reign of Pontius Pilate that a man called Jesus actually suffered, Crucified and was buried. So the story is no tales by moon light but genuine.
Article 5: He descended into hell. The third day he arose again from the dead. Descent into Hell here describes what happened between the death and resurrection of Jesus. All the righteous souls who had died before Christ and were awaiting redemption. Hell or Hades or Sheol was merely a word that Jews and early Christians used to describe the place of the dead. Jesus went there to liberate the Souls. Ps 16;10 tells us that these souls have been waiting for this moment of redemption. This passage affirms that on the third day he rose, meaning Jesus came back from the dead by his own divine power. He was not just clinically dead for a few minutes; he was really dead, — then he rose from the dead to now possess a glorified and risen body.
Article 6: He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. The Ascension reminds the faithful that after the human and divine natures of Christ were united in the Incarnation, they could never be separated. In other words, after the saving death and Resurrection, Jesus ascended with both natures. Where Jesus went, body and soul, into heaven, there we, His faithful hope to also follow.
Article 7: He will come again to judge the living and the dead. This article affirms the Second Coming of Christ as its judge at the end of the world. Judgment Day, Day of Reckoning, Doomsday—they’re all metaphors for the end of time when what’s known as the General Judgment will occur. Catholics believe that after the death of any human person, immediate private judgment occurs and the person goes directly to heaven, hell, or purgatory (an intermediate place in preparation for heaven). But also, the general judgement will come with the second coming of Jesus.
Article 8: I believe in the Holy Spirit: This part reminds the believer that God exists in three persons — the Holy Trinity — God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The Paraclete, the love between the Father and the Son. The one through whom we cry ABBA Father, the one who endows us with his sevenfold gifs.
Article 9: The holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints: the word catholic means universal. Catholics believe that the Church is more than a mere institution. It’s an essential dimension and aspect of spiritual life. Christ explicitly uses the word church (ekklesia in Greek) in Matthew 16 when he says, “I will build My Church.” Communion of Saints means there is a relationship between the Church (pilgrim) with the Church Triumphant (Saints), and the Church militant (souls in purgatory)
Article 10: The forgiveness of sins: Christ came to save the world from sin. Belief in the forgiveness of sins is essential to Christianity. Christians acknowledge that we are sinners in need of God’s mercy and so as Catholics, we believe sins are forgiven in Baptism and in the Sacrament of Penance.
Article 11: The resurrection of the body- From the Catholic perspective, a human being is a union of body and soul, so death is just the momentary separation of body and soul until the end of the world, the Second Coming of Christ, the General Judgment, and the resurrection of the dead. The justified go, body and soul, into heaven, and the damned go, body and soul, into hell.
Article 12: And in life everlasting. As Christ Our saviour died, so, too, must mere mortals. As he rose, so shall all human beings. Death is the only way to cross from this life into the next. At the very moment of death, private judgment occurs; Christ judges the soul:
* If it’s particularly holy and virtuous, the soul goes directly to heaven.
* If it’s evil and wicked and dies in mortal sin, it’s damned for eternity in hell.
* If a person lived a life not bad enough to warrant hell but not holy enough to go right to heaven, Catholics believe the soul goes to purgatory, which is a middle ground between heaven and earth, a state where departed souls want to go to be cleansed of any attachments to sin before going through the heavenly gate. This is what we profess every Sunday after the homily, and in repeating it we profess faith in all that God has revealed about Himself. This is a belief of the mind and heart to the doctrines expressed in the Creed, and we believe based on the authority of God (1 John 5:9); and also because of the assurance of the competent authority that they are true (Rom. 10:17).
• Rev. Sr. Mary Judith Madueke, EHJ, is the Director of Religious Education, Archdiocese of Lagos.