Marie was teaching her fourth grade religious education class. The topic for the day: Easter Sunday and the resurrection of Christ.
“What did Jesus do on this day?” she asked. There was no response, so she gave her students a hint: “It starts with the letter R.”
Mike blurted out, “Recycle!”
Mike gets an “A” for trying! Of course, as we know, he was far from giving the correct answer! But he is a good example of HOW we think of mystery in our current society. The subject of the day in class was the resurrection, but Mike didn’t understand that the mystery of redemption was being presented by his teacher! Instead, in his answer he referred to something that was practical, observable and part of his everyday life: recycling. Of course, the joke is that the resurrection is viewed by our student as recycling, that is to “return (material) to a previous stage in a cyclic process.” Poor Mike completely misses the point and tries to understand such an event through the lens of his common experience.
As we are considering the Creed, we must guard against trying to explain away the beautiful mysteries that are revealed to us by God from our own perspectives and experiences. In the Western world especially, we always want to have the answers to all the questions. We want to know things that are essentially unknowable. We don’t leave room for the acknowledgement of mystery in our lives. We have scientists trying to study the effects of prayer on the human person, for instance, or the mystery of love, something that is spiritual and which is in and of itself unable to be defined as we would define, for instance, the structure of an atom.
We have already seen the necessity for the Creed in the early Church, the defining of belief in what is pure revelation, pure love, Persons communicating with and loving other persons. These things cannot be quantified as we would measure the effects of eating two cheeseburgers a day on our weight, for instance. We have seen that we profess first that we DO believe, in our heads and in our hearts what God has revealed to us. We then meditated upon the basic belief of our Creed and our religious life: the existence of one God to the exclusion of any worship of what are false gods. Next we must look at the structure of the Nicene Creed and what it tells us about God.
The next four sections tell us about God, His plan for our salvation, the manner of accomplishing that plan and the effects of the redemption through Christ.
The first section we will meditate upon will be the revelation of God the Father, the First Person of the Blessed Trinity, Father and Creator. The next section we will consider refers to God the Son, His divinity, His life on earth and the eternal effects of His sacrifice. The third section we will meditate upon concerns God the Holy Spirit. We will see how the Holy Spirit was instrumental in creation and salvation as well as how He continues to bring the grace of God to us every day and in every age. The fourth and final section presents the means that God has given us for receiving His grace, His mercy and salvation. It is the section on the Church.
As we prepare to meditate on these sacred mysteries, let us turn toward a great teacher, perhaps someone Mike our fourth grader will run into as he begins to read great literature. J. R. R. Tolkien was a devout Catholic as well as a professor at Exeter College at the University of Oxford in England. Here is what he wrote in one of his letters about faith. May we learn from him!
“The only cure for sagging or fainting faith is Communion. Though always Itself, perfect and complete and inviolate, the Blessed Sacrament does not operate completely and once for all in any of us. Like the act of Faith it must be continuous and grow by exercise. Frequency is of the highest effect. Seven times a week is more nourishing than seven times at intervals.”