This column appeared in the Catholic Standard & Times on 5 August 2010.
We have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as Savior of the world. God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. — 1 Jn. 4:14
“We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty ....” Even as I type these words, I can see Our Mother of Good Counsel Church, her warm walls lit by the light streaming in through the stained glass windows, and hear the rustling as the congregation rises to its feet. I consider the bishops gathered at Nicea, grappling with expressing in words the inexpressible: God from God, light from light.
The familiar words of the Nicene Creed make me think “Church” like almost nothing else. Church local, Church universal, Church present, Church past. Perhaps because this is where I always say them, in church.
Honestly, when is the last time anyone walked up to you on the street and asked, “Do you believe in Jesus Christ … who was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father?” And what would you answer?
I sometimes wonder if I could proclaim my faith with the courage of the martyrs, facing a hostile crowd, alone, outside the safe confines of my parish church. A few weeks ago, I had the chance to test those waters.
The heat on the packed subway platform was stifling. Trains rattled and rumbled on every track but ours. Sagging against the walls, draped over the benches, we waited in silent, wilting despair. On the very edge of the platform, his back to the tracks, appeared a tall man in a crisp dress shirt and tie, playing a banjo. He introduced himself as a retired minister here to preach the good news: God has sent His Son to save us.
No one appeared to be listening to him; the only good news most of us wanted to hear was the announcement that our train will be next to arrive. I marveled at his ability to preach to this stone-faced and apathetic audience, as cool and collected as if he were in the pulpit of some small New England church.
He finished and wordlessly began to pass out pamphlets. As he handed me one he bent over and asked if I might already believe in Jesus. For a moment, I wondered if I should say anything at all. I was trapped on the platform, and worried about engaging a stranger in that sort of conversation. Yet I couldn’t quite help myself. “I do,” I told him, unconsciously echoing my baptismal promises. He took my hand, said he was glad to have met a sister in Christ, and walked on, tears running down his face.
The train arrived and I got on, the words of the creed echoing in my head. It occurred to me that as unlikely as I was to have the opportunity again to profess my faith in words in the middle of the street, perhaps I was passing up a chance to make it manifest in my daily life.
Does my declaring “I believe in one God” change how I face the laundry, or is it apparent to anyone — even myself — that I hold that “He suffered, died, and was buried” in the aisle of the grocery store? Perhaps I can come to believe it does.
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in being with the Father. — Nicene Creed
Photo is of Mission San Miguel.