Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Personal Statement of Faith

My earliest memory of the church experience was attending daily mass. As a small child I was brought to the church by my father, a devout Catholic. I was fortunate to experience the richness of a religion steeped in tradition which included mass in a foreign language; Kyrie eleison, pater noster, agnus dei… And while one might assume we spoke in a memorizing process that called for the routine or repetition, without full attention or comprehension, as children we were being trained for adulthood into the church. Lord have mercy, Our father, Lamb of God. I learned my colors – greens, and purples and reds and whites and the significance of these colors that were visible in the vestments worn by the Priests. Until I was six, I thought that lent was a season and that the calendar year began the first Sunday of Advent. It wasn’t until Kindergarten that I learned of secularism and was happy to return to Catholic school where I would remain sheltered from the world at least for a few formative years.

More than half of my chronological life on earth is through, as I know it, and I have come to realize that memories can be recalled when something triggers the imagination and as a result a door that has been closed for quite some time opens wide for a brief moment. Such is the case with my recollection of the Lord’s passion. I held on to my dad’s hand, as was often the case when we walked into St. Juliana Catholic Church in Niles, Illinois this particular Ash Wednesday some fifty years ago. I was appalled by what I saw. The church was nearly dark, absent of color. The altar was stripped of all of things that normally adorned that sacred space. Every image, every icon was draped with dark cloth. Jesus was covered in a purple shroud and seemed to be alive with pain. And it was on that day that I learned that I was entering the place of passio Christi, the passion of the Christ. Very simply, the Latin origins had taught me clearly that the days that followed Ash Wednesday, with the incense and the solemnity, ashes marking the forehead, the giving up of special things, and fasting, and going without meat on Fridays, and masses without music and no alleluias, these were only a taste of the suffering and pain that my Lord, Jesus Christ was to bear for me. He would suffer, die and come again. For me!
In recent weeks I have been drawn to the discussions on writer, director, producer Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ”. This violent, graphic, portrayal that details the torture and death of Jesus is a wake up call for Catholics who have turned a deaf ear to our Christ. This timely movie is a gift to Christians who have yet to experience of joy that can only come from the depths of suffering. For those of other religions or the nonbelievers, perhaps this film will be a witness to the faith of millions of Christians around the world.

As a Catholic I take the call to the church each season of lent seriously, dead serious. It is my wake up call that I am grateful for each year to experience the pain, the loss and the promise that is given to me by my Lord the Christ. I do not need to see this film. But I will because as a sinner, I will seize the opportunity to be shaken again to make a stand for my Lord who died for the sins of all.

Many will argue the brutality of the film and others will warn of the dangers of the resurgence of a hate for Christ’s ancestors, the Jews. Motivation and intent can only be known to God, never to man. Do not listen to others, look for yourself. Perhaps those of you who are “seeing” this way of the cross for the first time, the message will be clear, as the way of the Christ, there is no hate. Remember His last words,” for them Father for they know not what they do.” He asked for forgiveness from those who would harm him for all of us.

A statement of my faith, the Nicene Creed, that is simple and beautiful and after many years of repeating this Sunday in Sunday out, I find even more joy and appreciation in this gift that comes in the words from so many before me.

I believe in one God, (look at the primary Biblical witness to the doctrine of the Unity of God, the Shema, from the first Hebrew word of Deuteronomy 6.4: Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one
the Father Almighty, (The First Word of the Hebrew language, AV, abba, father)
maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible; Genesis, the beginning the doctrine of creation
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, Isaiah 7.14 is profoundly integrated with the great name of Almighty God, I AM THAT I AM
the only begotten Son of God, begotten of his Father before all worlds, The Second Book, Exodus, contains the first reference to God’s Son. (Exodus 4.22). This same pattern manifests in the Psalms, where the great prophecy “Thou art my son” letter of the name of God the Son, Ben. And just as the analysis of the letters Aleph Beyt teaches that God the Father is the Head of the Household of Faith, so the analysis of the letters Beyt Nun reveals the nature of God the Son: Simply stated, the Son is the Posterity of the House. He inherits his father’s house, all that his Father rules over, as it is written in Hebrew
God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made;
As shown above, the names of the first two members of the Holy Trinity follow the order of the Hebrew alphabet – Father (Av), Son (Ben). When these two words are merged into one – so they share a common Beyt (House or dwelling place) – the resulting unity our Faith – the Unity of God the Father and God the Son in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the power of the Holy Ghost through the Virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; he suffered and was buried; and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; and he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end. And I believe in the holy spirit, Lord , and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spake by the Prophets. And I believe in one holy and apostolic Church; I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.

 
AMEN.
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