Thursday, October 8, 2015

Martyr or Idolater?

It is Liturgy Day on the blog – Thursdays we go through the Mass, bit by bit, with an eye to see how the rites of the liturgy are to inform and form our lives. Last week we were talking about the Gospel rite. I will invoke blogger’s privilege at this point (i.e. ‘it’s my blog and I’ll write what I want to’) to skip over the homily and go right to the Creed.

The homily, after all, only has one purpose, and that is to make precisely the connections I’m trying to make in this blog series: to connect the readings we have heard with the mystery of the Eucharist and the mystery of how we are to live our lives. There is no other purpose to homiletics than that, and I have nothing much to say (at least not at this time) on the matter.

The Creed, though! After we have heard the Word of God in all its richness through the various readings, and hopefully been enlightened somewhat about that richness through good preaching, it is time for us to do something about it. And the first thing the Church asks us to do about it is to profess our faith in it.

‘I believe…’ and off we go, reciting dutifully the heart of reality, the heart of God and of the cosmos and of the human person. God the Creator, the Son who is God from God, Jesus conceived of the Spirit and born of the Virgin, suffering, dying, rising, ascending, and coming in glory to judge the living and the dead, the Spirit who is Lord and Lifegiver, the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, baptism for the forgiveness of sins, the communion of saints and life everlasting.

This, for a Christian, is what life is about. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. All of reality—our loves, our likes, our work, our rest, our interests, our casual involvements and our life commitments—all of this either is taken up into the articles of the Creed in some sense, or it is idolatry that casts us into unreality and ultimately hell.

Yeah, strong language, but… well, yeah. As Origen wrote in the 2nd century, a Christian is either a martyr or an idolater. Either our faith and our worship of God is the central fact of our life, that around which all other facts in our life revolve, which implies that we are willing to die for it, or we do not truly worship God as we say we do.

That the Church asks us, in our first response to the Liturgy of the Word, to profess our faith in it, is a radical thing indeed. We pass quickly over it and may or may not think too deeply about the familiar words that we rattle off each Sunday. But really—these are the core beliefs and the core guiding principles of our lives.

A careful meditation on the Creed provides enough material for examination of conscience to fill a book (hey, now that’s an idea…). I believe in God the Father. Do I, now? Do I believe that the foundational reality, that upon which all else (even God the Son and God the Holy Spirit!) is not some faceless energy or some vague presence, but a Father? That is, Love? That the whole of reality has a personal cast, the whole of our movement through the world is movement from the Father to the Father, a movement which God the Father continually accompanies to provide and protect as any good father does?

Do I live that way? Do I act as if that’s true? What would my life look like if I believed that as I say I do? What would be different? What is present in my life now that is discordant with that first article of the Creed? And so on and so forth—the Creed is not some list of abstract propositions we tick off each week. Or if it is, then we have some serious praying to do, some serious conversion of heart to undergo. The Creed—our holy Catholic faith—is life and light, food and drink, an adventure to be lived, a passion to undergo, a luminous joy to gladden our hearts and a summons to action and heroism.

So… let us pray for the grace of response today, to actually take what we read in the Scriptures and what we profess in the liturgy seriously, and apply it to every moment of our day, today. That is living the Mass, and that is living the Gospel.

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