Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Why These Formulas?

There’s scandal lurking in paragraph 185 of the Catechism (CCC), the first paragraph in Section 2, “The Profession of the Christian Faith.” Scandal in its etymological sense of stumbling block to faith. The first sentence reads:

“Whoever says ‘I believe’ says ‘I pledge myself to what we believe.’”

Immediately something in me is incensed: Why believe what everyone else believes? Doesn’t a man, a full American man, think for himself? The creed asks me to be a follower, not a leader!

Well, yes.

But why is this any different than the Constitution of the United States? How do I know what it means to be an American without the Constitution?

In fact, I find myself applying this same analogy when anyone is scandalized by the Church for other reasons: You believe in democracy, don’t you? Would you emigrate because of one corrupt presidential administration? Because one senator was on the take?

In that case, we would all have skipped the joint during the Watergate hearings. 

In this section of the CCC on The Creeds, we hear from two Doctors of the Church from the fourth century, a time when the Church was busy building the formulas that we still recite every Sunday, or anytime we pick up a rosary, which actually I have to do in fifteen minutes at morning Mass, so I’ll keep this short.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem (pictured) says, ‘This synthesis of faith [or creed] was not made to accord with human opinions, but rather what was of the greatest importance was gathered from all the Scriptures, to present the one teaching of the faith in its entirety.”

Ah, so, there’s following and then there’s following. I can “accord” myself with “human opinions,” or with something higher. But I am always “in accord” with something.

St. Ambrose puts a capper on the section this way: “This Creed is the spiritual seal, our heart’s meditation and an ever-present guardian; it is, unquestionably, the treasure of our soul.”

My guardian? The treasure of my soul? Well, when you put it like that, no scandal, not for me anyway. 

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