The Apostles Creed is a prayer we recite often in our liturgical and personal spiritual lives. It serves as a guide to the essential truths of faith. It's a creed whose axioms we affirm at key sacramental moments: baptism and confirmation, in particular.
Creeds are something we likely repeat without much consideration. The other day standing at my son's baptism, affirming the end of the Creed, I realized I hadn't given much thought to how these words, in particular, impact my life:
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
Like most Catholics, I recite the Creed out of ceremony, and I rarely connect the truths I profess with actual events in my life. But as we were about to welcome my son into the Church, these words struck me as requiring something more of me: they ought to be lived and incarnated in my daily life, becoming a part of the fabric of the how I choose to live life. The words recited in the Creed are true, and because they are true they demand a fundamental link with the Christian virtue of charity.
Pope Benedict XVI made this point in his encyclical Caritas in veritate:
Through this close link with truth, charity can be recognized as an authentic expression of humanity and as an element of fundamental importance in human relations.
If the Creed has real force in my life, it is not only because I can recite and understand its content, but because I invoke it in a lived expression in daily life. Charity, also, requires the content of the Creed to be true, otherwise it is mistaken or something else entirely.
Take "the communion of saints," which pertains to the three-fold character of the Church as militant, suffering, and triumphant. This mystery should manifest itself in myriad expressions, some affirming the quality of my charity through true belief, and others, born from charitable acts, that enhance my perception of the veracity of the Creed. There should be solidarity with my fellow Catholics, even the ones I don't particular like. There should be frequent prayers for the dead, passing a cemetery or recalling the day a loved one died. I should have frequent recourse to the saints through holy icons, prayers, and devotions, especially to the particular patrons of my state in life.
A Christian's foundation in belief, grounded in truth, is a necessary but not sufficient condition for human flourishing. Belief must find an expression that reveals its "fundamental importance in human relations." That is ultimately a synthesis of intellect and will that confirms the grounded anthropology of the Catholic tradition. In a world that has such difficulty answering the question "What is truth?" this is a task easier said than done. But it is especially important to the witness of the lay faithful.
Mattias A. Caro is managing editor of Ethika Politika.