Homily from the 32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year A
With virtually all the changes in this new translation there’s a short answer and a longer answer. The short answer is that it’s a correct translation of the original Latin. In Latin, the Creed begins with the word “Credo” which literally means “I believe” not “We believe.” Secondly, “I believe” is what the rest of the world has already been saying. We’re just joining them.
Now, the longer answer to the changes deal with the spiritual meaning of the words. I asked our 7th and 8th graders on Friday why they thought “I believe” might be a better translation. Some said, “I can’t speak for someone else, I can only speak for myself.” Others said, “Maybe everyone doesn’t believe what we say in the creed.” Still others said, “It makes me take personal responsibility to say what I believe.” These were all excellent answers and they were correct.
To say “I believe” takes guts, conviction and it requires more responsibility.
Here’s an example of what I mean: if I were to ask all of you to say with one voice “Monsignor, we love you.” You could do it easily. In fact, let’s do that now: “Monsignor, we love you.” However, if I were to ask one of you to stand in the midst of all of us and say “Monsignor, I love you” that requires more strength.
When you hear a group of people say to you, “We love you” sure, that is something special. But when we hear one person say, “I love you” that’s personal, that’s intense, that’s intimate.
When we profess our faith we are professing something very personal, very intense and very intimate.
Another reason is we are the one Body of Christ. And the Body of Christ speaks with one voice. So in this case, to say “I believe” as one person is actually a greater sign of our unity than saying “We believe” as a collection of individuals.
"Visible and Invisible"
Standing here in the sanctuary, you can see me right? Yes, of course. But if I were to go back into the sacristy would you be able to see me? No, of course not. But I wouldn't be invisible would I? No, I would just be unseen to you at the present moment.
However, the new translation of the Creed is saying that God is the maker not just of that which is seen and unseen, but also that which is invisible.
God has created many things that are invisible to our eyes: how many people are in this Church? 1,000? How many angels? 1,000! “Visible and invisible” includes everything that God created.
"Born of the Father"
To say that Jesus is “born of the Father” does not refer to a birth like ours which marks the beginning of our life. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit exist for all eternity without beginning or end.
Rather, to be “born of the Father” means that the Son is sent to us by the Father. Kind of like how sunrays are sent to us by the sun. The sun sends its rays to descend upon us, yet the rays have existed as long as the sun has existed. Likewise, the Father sends His Son to descend upon us. “Born” in this case is a way of saying Jesus is sent on mission by the Father to us.
Yes, this is a dense word. And the explanation might seem a little dense too. However, we don’t want to just dump new words on you without trying to explain their meaning.
We used to say: “one in being with the Father." The Latin word for "one in being with" is "consubstantialem." The Creed comes from the Creeds of the Council of Nicea and Constantinople, two 4th century councils that were called to address heresies about Jesus. At that time, theologians were speculating about the nature of Jesus. Some said he wasn’t God. They said he was only like God.
We know that Jesus is both fully divine and fully human. But we only know this today because the Church clarified such questions and said that God the Father and Jesus the Son were of the same substance. Or as its said in Latin “consubstantialem.” Jesus and God the Father share the same substance or the same nature.
So why isn’t “one in being with the Father” a good enough way to express this? Well, it’s still too vague.
For example, since God has created all that exists and sustains all that exists, everything in some sense can be said to be one in being with God, or like God.
Jesus’ sameness that he shares with the Father isn’t like that. Jesus’ sameness with the Father is that they truly share the same substance or nature. Jesus possesses fully the Godliness of the Father.
Perhaps you’re saying to yourself, “Why are we using words in the liturgy we literally do not use anywhere else? These words seem strange, almost foreign.”
Well, we already use words in the liturgy we don’t use anywhere else. Let me give you an example: “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name.”
Here we use three words: "art," "hallowed," and "thy" that we don’t use anywhere else. But we wouldn’t dream of changing the words of the Our Father. Why? Because those words are special, sacred, and specific to the liturgy because they speak about special, sacred, and specific things.
“Incarnate of the Virgin Mary”
Again, here’s an example of a word that may sound foreign to us but is very specific and significant. We use to say “born of the Virgin Mary” But Jesus wasn’t just born of the Virgin Mary
He existed for all eternity as the Eternal Word of God But at a particular time in history, the Eternal Word took flesh The Gospel of John states, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” That’s the incarnation. Becoming flesh. This word indicates not just another ordinary birth but the enfleshment of God Himself.
Bowing during the Creed
Finally, it’s during these words, “and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man” that we all bow. Why do we bow? When a king would enter a room, his subjects would bow to him. We don’t bow to earthly kings, but to the King of Kings, Jesus Christ. These words are about Jesus’ “entering the room” if you will, his entering the world. Plus, Jesus lowered Himself to take the form of a slave and being nailed to a Cross. We merely bow to Him in response to His having bowed to us when he became man.
Read New Roman Missal Part 3 - The Liturgy of the Eucharist.