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Light & Life Vol 59 No 4, THE APOSTLES' CREED, PART I http://www.rosary-center.org/ll59n4.

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The Rosary Light & Life - Vol 59, No 4, July-Aug. 2006

THE APOSTLES' CREED, PART I


I BELIEVE IN GOD, CREATOR OF HEAVEN AND EARTH

By Father Reginald Martin, O.P.

I. I BELIEVE

Knowledge and study can take us quite far. At some point, though, our
hard mental work can take us no further, and our judgment must yield to
something we can neither see nor understand.

If we visit a museum, we can analyze brush strokes, composition, colors,


perspective, and any number of technical features in a painting. Each of
these helps explain why the painting looks the way it does, but none of these
qualities (or even all of them together) explains why the painting captures
our imagination, or why we think it a masterpiece.

Similarly, in our spiritual lives, we can look at the created world and
make some valid judgments about a Creator (ST I. 12, 12). But knowing
that a Creator exists is different from knowing what the Creator is like.
That understanding, like the awe we experience in the presence of great art,
comes from outside us. We call this understanding faith, and we receive it as
a grace.

The Letter to the Hebrews tells us (Heb. 11:1) that "faith is the evidence
of things that cannot be seen." This means that we choose to believe what
we do not know, or do not know fully (ST II-II. 2, 1).

II. I BELIEVE IN GOD

Belief does not exist independently of an object. This means we do not


simply believe, we believe in something. Faith is belief in the truths revealed
by God (ST II-II. 6, 1), and St. Thomas tells us faith confers four benefits:
union with God, help in time of temptation, guidance in this life, and an

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introduction to eternal life.

UNION WITH GOD

Faith unites us with God in a number of ways, and we may see a


correspondence between our life of faith and the growth in love we
experience in our families. When we were young we learned to obey because
we discovered that we would be punished if we did not. Later, we discovered
that spankings and "time out" in the corner were less painful than the
realization that we had disappointed our parents by misbehaving.

The same is true in our spiritual lives. At its most basic level, faith
reveals the punishment that befalls those who disobey God. As our life in
faith increases we realize that a worse punishment is separation from Him
that results from our disobedience.

But faith purifies our hearts (Acts, 15:9), and as we mature, our fear of
God yields to love (ST II-II. 7, 2). Marriage, in which a man and a woman
live (and love) so intimately that they become "one flesh" provides a good
analogy for the union of the mature soul and God. Indeed, God Himself uses
the image of marriage to describe His covenant with His people. He tells the
prophet Hosea, "I will espouse you to myself in love" (Hos. 2:20).

A REMEDY AGAINST TEMPTATION

We identify the world, the flesh and the devil as sources of temptation.
Faith enables us to withstand the blandishments of all three. When Jesus
faced Satan after His forty-day fast, the devil offered Our Savior the wealth
of the nations if He would fall down in worship. Jesus scorned the offer by
reminding the devil that we are commanded to worship God, and God alone.
Faith reminds us of this commandment and strengthens us to follow the
example of Christ.

We do not have to look far to discover the allurements of the flesh.


Advertisers use skin to sell everything from soft drinks to laundry
detergent. The virtue of justice reminds us that we owe one another more
than a lascivious glance; faith purifies our motives and enables us to see in
our relations with one another, here and now, a sign of the eternal
happiness we look forward to in heaven.

Likewise, faith teaches us that there is a life after the one we enjoy on
earth, and a better one. The Beatitudes call us to a poverty of spirit by

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which we look beyond the material goods of this world. Faith fulfills this
vision by helping us resist the attraction of prosperity and the fear of
adversity.

A PRESENT GUIDE

Left to our own devices, we could discover how to live well by trial and
error. However, as anyone knows who has acquired a skill on his own,
experience is neither the speediest nor the friendliest of teachers. St.
Thomas tells us that Faith offers a shortcut to growth in virtue. "...the
things to which faith assents... include not only God, but many other
things...as bearing some relation to God" (ST II-II. 1, 1). Thus, we need not
ponder every truth exhaustively before we assent to it. Knowing that
something is revealed by God suffices to elicit our faith.

One of the prophets said, "The just shall live in his faith" (Hab. 2:4), and
St. Thomas illustrates this with a charming example. In his Lenten sermon
the Angelic Doctor preached

This is also shown from the fact that before the coming of Christ none of
the philosophers was able, however great his effort, to know as much
about God or the means necessary for obtaining eternal life, as any old
woman knows by faith since Christ came down upon the earth.

AN INTRODUCTION TO ETERNAL LIFE

St. Thomas tells us that we look forward to two things in heaven: "...the
secret of the Godhead, to see which is to possess happiness; and the mystery
of Christ's Incarnation" (ST II-II, 1, 8).

When Jesus prayed for His disciples after the Last Supper He said, "this
is eternal life: that they may know You... and Jesus Christ whom You have
sent" (Jn. 17:3). Faith reveals the truth about God: that there is but one
God, that there is a Trinity of Persons in this God, and that God works in
diverse ways in the world. These works include the truths of nature, the
sanctification of the human race, and the resurrection of the dead.

Faith also reveals the truths of Jesus' conception, virginal birth, death,
resurrection, and eventual return as our judge. We will comprehend the
magnitude of these truths in heaven, but faith presents them for our
(admittedly limited) consideration even now.

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Thus, although we cannot hope to know God fully until we know Him in
heaven, faith brings us knowledge of Him even now, and this knowledge is
an opportunity for us to enjoy on earth a small part of the glory we look
forward to enjoying fully after we die.

What is more, the knowledge we have of God by faith, here and now, is
essential to our knowing him in the future. St. Thomas warned, "...no man
can obtain the happiness of heaven, which is the true knowledge of God,
unless he knows Him first by faith."

We may be tempted to imagine that our life in heaven will be an


unending enjoyment of the things that give meaning to our life on earth.
However, we are probably wiser to believe that the blessings of heaven
provide the pattern for the things that delight us here.

III. CREATOR OF HEAVEN AND EARTH

In his sermon on the Creed, St. Thomas says

Suppose a man entering a house were to feel heat on the porch, and on
going further, were to feel the heat increasing, the more he penetrated
within. Doubtless, he would believe there was a fire in the house, even
though he did not see the fire that must be causing all this heat.

St. Thomas invites us to look about the world and apply to our spiritual
lives the examples we draw from nature, including (like the man who
deduced a fire from the heat he felt on approaching a building) our capacity
to look at effects and infer their causes. The earth is filled with wonders, but
the heavens are more beautiful and noble than the earth.

This, he argues, is because they are closer to their Maker. We are not
obliged to share St. Thomas' aesthetic opinions, but simple observation will
argue that the multitudes of ordered systems we can see around us make a
powerful case for the existence of an orderly Creator.

The more we investigate and study something - anything - the more we


stand in awe of its unique complexity. From soap bubbles, which teach a
great deal about the surface tension of water, to nuclear fission, the world is
a textbook that proclaims the infinite wisdom and imagination of God.

Here St. Thomas reminds us of the distinction between making


something and creating it. Human hands control only the form things take

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because humans can make nothing except from matter that already exists.
To acknowledge God as "Creator of heaven and earth" is to acknowledge
that God not only determines the forms things take, but creates the matter
from which they are formed.

BENEFITS OF THIS BELIEF: KNOWLEDGE OF GOD'S MAJESTY

When we studied geometry we learned that the whole is equal to the


sum of its parts and greater than any of them. God is infinitely more than
all of creation put together, but we can nonetheless apply this principle to
our faith. When we profess our faith in God as Creator we acknowledge that
He is greater than anything He has made.

AN INVITATION TO GRATITUDE

The awe we feel as we consider the endless variety in creation comes as


no surprise. However, what might be less obvious, is to consider that awe
ought to lead to gratitude. As we investigate Nature, we realize that we are
part of God's creation. So is everything we use and enjoy in this world. St.
Paul asks, "What do you have that you have not received?" (1 Cor. 4:7) and
this counsels us to offer thanks for whatever we have.

PATIENCE IN ADVERSITY

Odd as this may sound, acknowledging God as Creator also encourages


us to be patient in the face of trial. Whatever comes from God is good, as far
as its nature goes. We may balk at hardship, pain and disease, but human
parents know that they occasionally must discipline their children - even to
the point of causing pain - for their own good. Insofar as a hardship is God's
creature, it serves the same end, although its value may be just as hard for
us to discern as the punishment a child cannot comprehend when he
receives it.

WISE USE OF CREATION

When we acknowledge God as Creator we learn to use properly the gifts


God gives us. This is because God created Nature for two reasons: for His
own glory, and for our profit. We have the use of creation, but we must never
forget that creation is God's. We do ourselves no service, nor do we give God
any tribute, if we misuse His gifts. These gifts include our planet, of course,
but also our minds and bodies. St. Thomas warns, "...whatever you have, be
it knowledge or beauty, you must refer all and use all for the glory of God."

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF HUMAN DIGNITY

None of us was very old when we learned we must treat others the way
we would like them to treat us; Justice demands no less. But as we grow in
grace we learn that the reason underlying the Golden Rule is our belief in
God as Creator. The Book of Genesis teaches us that God made us to look
like Him. "Let us make man to our own image and likeness" (Gen 1:26), He
said.

God said this of no other part of creation, and if we are willing to rejoice
in the gift of seeing God in ourselves, we must learn to see Him in others,
too. St. Thomas warned

We must, therefore, realize that after the angels, man excels all other
creatures, and that in no way must we forfeit our dignity on account of
sin or for the sake of an inordinate desire for corporeal things which are
beneath us....

If we are forbidden to sin by stooping to misuse the good things that


resemble God less than we do, how much more careful must we be in our
relations with one another, who share the same reflection of God that is our
glory?

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