Teach the Faith
My last Commentary revealed that it was my heart’s desire to ‘pass on the Faith’ and the way to do that, I think, is to ‘teach the Faith’. To teach the Faith you need to know the basic beliefs of the Catholic religion and that’s not really hard to discover because we are fortunate to have had them determined and written down for us centuries ago in the beginning years of the Church.
The Apostles, before they parted, gathered together in Jerusalem in the first Council of the Church. There they decided to put down in a brief statement their principal doctrines, so that their teachings might be uniform wherever they preached. This statement of the articles of faith is called “The Apostles’ Creed.” It was formulated in order to fulfill the command of Jesus: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you all days…”. (Matt. 28:19-20)
We know from Scripture that Jesus spent the three years of His active ministry teaching and instructing the apostles and then after His Resurrection He was with them for forty days ‘teaching them all things they needed to know’. And they were even more fortified and especially empowered ten days after His Ascension when the Holy Spirit descended upon them at Pentecost. This empowerment was promised at the Last Supper when Jesus said: “It is expedient for you that I depart. For if I do not go, the Advocate (Holy Spirit) will not come to you; but if I go I will send Him to you.” John 16:7 And again during the forty days after the resurrection: “…but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you shall be witnesses for Me….to the very ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 It gives me, personally, great confidence to pass on and teach the faith when I know how well instructed and empowered the apostles were and that they recorded it in the Apostles’ Creed all those centuries ago.
At this point in my humble effort to try to continue and pass on the teachings of the apostles, I feel it necessary to explain and relay the importance of a creed especially the creed of the apostles.
A creed is a statement or summary of what one believes. The word ‘Creed’ comes from the Latin word credo and means I believe; that is, I accept or hold true something on the word of another.
In the Apostles’ Creed ‘I believe’, means that I firmly assent to everything contained in it. I believe it exactly as if I had seen those truths with my own eyes. I believe it on the authority or word of God and He does not deceive us nor can He be deceived by us.
The Apostles’ Creed has come down to us intact, except for a few clauses added later by the Church in order to counteract various heresies. These additions, however, are not new doctrines but a clarification of what the Creed already contained.
Research revealed to me that the Apostles’ Creed is said, from Ancient Tradition, to be in Parts and in Articles.
Examining it by ‘parts’ it contains three distinct parts which explain the m ystery of the Blessed Trinity, one God in three distinct Divine Persons,–Father, Son and Holy Spirit,–with the particular operations attributed to each Person. The first part treats of God the Father and creation. The second part treats of God the Son and our redemption. And the third part treats of God the Holy Spirit and our sanctification.
Understanding the Blessed Trinity was essential to the apostles’ evangelizing, as well as to ours , because St. Matthew tells us in Chapter 28:18-20, “And Jesus drew near to them saying, ‘All power in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you;……..”
We learn from St. Ambrose who was born in 340 AD that it was already considered, in his time, an ancient tradition to section the Creed into twelve articles, “thus symbolizing the fullness of the apostolic faith by the number of the apostles.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #191) This sectioning makes it easier for teaching as attested to by the English Catholics under persecution from 1558 to 1829. Forbidden to practice or teach their children their beliefs they came up with coded lyrics which they used in a song – “The Twelve Days of Christmas”. The line “On the twelfth day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me, twelve drummers drumming” – the twelve drummers were the code words to represent the twelve precepts of the Faith presented in the Apostles’ Creed.
All the twelve articles are absolutely necessary to faith: not even one article can be omitted.
APOSTLES’ CREED ARTICLES:
1. I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.
2. I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, Our Lord.
3. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.
4. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried.
5. He descended into Hell. * On the third day He rose again.
6. He ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
7. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
8. I believe in the Holy Spirit;
9. The Holy Catholic Church; the communion of saints;
10.The forgiveness of sins;
11. The resurrection of the body;
12. And the life everlasting. Amen.
I have enjoyed writing this and finding various sources in which I could look up the facts I have stated and make sure they are accurate. Hopefully, it will be helpful to some of you and give you confidence to tell others what you, as a Catholic, believe.
Remember that you, in your average life, are the most effective evangelizer and teacher Christ and the Catholic Church has. Never be intimidated thinking you don’t have enough theological knowledge, because I’ve relayed all this information to you, and I’m just an average Catholic who is no more learned than you and probably less able than you to pass it on. So go out with love and teach the faith.
In the Apostles’ Creed Article number 5, the phrase “He descended into hell” sometimes reads: “He descended to the dead.” The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” reads “descended into hell” so that is how we printed it but I think “He descended to the dead” is easier to explain when teaching.
Actually, they mean the same thing and that is: Christ did not descend to the ‘hell’ of the damned but to the ‘hell’ of the just. He descended to a place or state of rest where the just were waiting for Him.
All the good people who had died before the birth of Jesus, and were worthy of heaven, had to wait until the Son of God completed the sacrifice sufficient for the reparation of mankind’s sins for the Gates of Heaven to be opened. They went to heaven at Our Lord’s entrance upon His Ascension. This place of rest ‘hell’ of the just was in Holy Scripture called “Abraham’s bosom”. St. Peter called it a “prison.” We commonly refer to it as Limbo.