What We Believe

Submitted by dcnsteve44 — Mon, 04/27/2009 - 3:57 PM — Last Updated: Thu, 01/30/2014 - 1:55 PM

What Do Catholics Believe?

From ancient paganism, through all the cultural religions that exist or have ever existed in the world, to Catholic Christianity, the purpose of every religion has been to explore the meaning of life. Why do we exist? Because of three somewhat peculiar circumstances that gave rise to Christianity, we believe that we have the answer: Love!

Those “peculiar circumstances” (“peculiar” according to mortal thinking) provide a foundation on which to build the ability to love in a very unique way. Christians believe that around two thousand years ago a child named Jesus was born to a virgin named Mary (the first of the peculiar circumstances: the virgin birth). Jesus would come to be known as both the Son of Man, that is, reflecting His fully human nature, and the Son of God, reflecting His fully divine nature (the second of the peculiar circumstances: being at once God and Man). Along the way, He would come to be known as “the Christ”, meaning “the anointed One”. After teaching and gathering a number of followers over several years, including twelve who were closest to Him who are known as the Apostles, Jesus was crucified. What happened next is the third peculiar circumstance: after three days in the tomb, Jesus was raised from the dead!

The Catholic Christian experience derives directly from those three peculiar circumstances, and is concisely expressed in a statement we call the Nicene Creed (there are other creeds, all of which state essentially the same thing). Although we pray as a community, the Creed is prayed at Mass in the singular – “I believe” – as an expression of our personal baptismal commitment, whether that commitment was spoken by our parents on our behalf as infants or by us at the time of our adult baptism. It is when our “I” is prayed in conjunction with others at Mass that the “We” is formed. And so, the Creed:

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.

We believe, not in “a” god, as one among many, but in God, a Creator who is a loving Father. God is an infinite, yet personal, Being, having neither beginning nor end. God is Perfect, Infinite Love, and has chosen to share that Love unconditionally with us, His creatures. His love, His very Being, overflows into our being, calling us to share that same unconditional love with one another, and ultimately with Him in return. That we love Him in return is not a demand on God’s part, but a choice that we make. This is important, for love cannot be forced. To provide for us, God created an entire universe, from which we derive our mortal sustenance.

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through Him all things were made.

We believe that Jesus Christ, fully human and fully divine, is coexistent with the Father for all eternity. Together, with the Holy Spirit, the Father and Son are the Holy Trinity: three distinct Persons in one God. This we call a mystery, because although it has been revealed to us, our mortal minds do not have the capacity to grasp it. It is a mystery not to be solved, but to be experienced. Through Jesus Christ, who is the creative Word of God, all things that exist, from the tiniest physical particle to the very fullness of the universe, came into being – including the earth and us.

For us men and for our salvation He came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became Man.

We believe that God chose to become incarnate in the Person of Jesus Christ to re-open the way to Heaven, a way that was closed by our sinfulness. That God would do this for us is the clearest possible demonstration of His infinite love for us. Although He is God, Jesus came not in an elegant, grandiose way befitting the Lord of all, but instead chose to be born of a humble, devout girl, a virgin named Mary.

For our sake He was crucified under Pontius Pilate; He suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures; He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His Kingdom will have no end.

We believe that in order for us to more fully understand His mission on earth, Jesus chose to become a sacrifice, to allow Himself to be crucified. Only by His dying and rising from the dead could we begin to understand that through Jesus Christ we can enter into eternal life, gifted with a glorified body not unlike His body after His resurrection. Through His ascension into Heaven Jesus entrusted to us, His disciples, the responsibility of preaching the Good News of Salvation to all the world, inviting all to share in His everlasting Kingdom.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the Prophets.

We believe that, through the Holy Spirit, we have our life (the word “spirit” comes from the Latin spirare , meaning “to breathe”). The Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Holy Trinity, spoke through the Prophets in ancient times, and continues to speak through us as we continue the mission Jesus prepared for us (and prepares us for). Through the Spirit, given to the Church at Pentecost, Jesus Christ continues to be present to us, guiding us in fulfilling His mission on earth. Through the Spirit, we are called to use the spiritual gifts He gives us for the benefit of the whole community. Through the Spirit, our faith continues to develop, and our relationship with God grows.

I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. I confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins, and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen!

We believe in the unity of a Church that is holy, a Church that is present throughout the world, and has as its mission to preach all that we believe in order to invite others into the salvation that Christ won for us. We believe that, through the Sacrament of Baptism, our sins are forgiven, and that through forgiveness we are given the privilege of rising from the dead to live forever in the world to come, the eternal Kingdom prepared for us from the beginning of time.

Such is the foundation of what we believe. In the two millennia since Jesus Christ commissioned us to preach His Good News, we have built on that foundation using two unique “materials”: Scripture and Tradition. By Scripture we mean the written Word of God as found in the books of the Bible. Scripture provides us first with a vision of God’s gradual revelation of Himself to the world, seen through the eyes of the people of Israel. This revelation we know as the Old Testament. Then, we experience the revelation of God in Jesus Christ through those who personally knew Jesus, and the first century community founded on His teachings. This is the New Testament.

By Tradition , we mean the ongoing, dynamic experience of the Christian community as it grew and spread throughout the world – and continues to grow and spread even today. This is the experience of God continuing to act within and for the community. Tradition and Scripture beautifully complement, but never contradict, one another other.

Between the two, Scripture and Tradition, a wonderful community has evolved, a unique community that cares for its members, a community that worships in common (even with the diversity of cultures that comprise Christianity throughout the world), a community that truly makes Christ present in the world. This community, centered on Jesus Christ, is drawn into the infinite love that characterizes the Holy Trinity, and out of that love is born salvation for all who embrace it.

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