After three weeks of introductions, we launch today into the Creed. An explanation of the Creed takes up the first of the Catechism’s 4 sections, and will take us till February to study. The texts of the creeds which we use at Mass take us right back to the early Church — to about the 4th c. — and express the most basic beliefs of our faith. We begin: I believe in one God, the Father Almighty. Even in this one short phrase, we are taken up into the great mystery and glory of everything we believe in: that there is one God, who is Almighty and Eternal, one Mind who is the source of everything that is.
A crucial part of God’s revelation to Israel was the fact that He was the one and only God. We heard in last Sunday’s 1st reading, the heart of the Old Testament: Listen, Israel: the Lord our God is the one Lord. Israel was surrounded by pagan nations that believed in many (false) gods. The great pagan religions of Greece and Rome in Europe had accepted a plethora of gods and goddesses, and their religious myths describe them getting up to all sorts. India’s ancient Hindu religions had also accepted a multiplicity of gods. But Israel was taught something very different. The unique strand in the belief of the Jews was that there was one and only one God. When He revealed Himself to Moses in the wilderness, at the burning bush, Moses asked Him for a name by which to call Him! — and God obliged, saying to Moses that He was to be known as ‘YHWH,’ which means simply, ‘I Am Who Am.’ Is this a name, or is this is refusal to give a name? Well, in a way it is both. But what it does express is that God is source of all existence: that He is the One who gives being. Everything ‘is’ only because He ‘is.’ All the rest of Israel’s faith follows on from this basic ground of belief: that God is One; He is the One Lord.
Christianity, of course, flows directly out of the Jewish faith. All that God revealed to them, was a preparation for Christ; a getting-ready for the Christian faith. So, nothing that God revealed to the Jews can be in contradiction to what we believe as Christians. Above all, of course, this includes that God is one and only one. When we as Christians acknowledge Jesus as the Lord; and the Holy Spirit also as ‘the Lord, the Giver of Life,’ we are not contradicting our faith in the One God. God is One; but that is not all there is to be said: God is one God, but He is also Three Persons, whom we call the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We have not made up these names for the them: they are the names given by Jesus Himself. Before Jesus, we knew God to be One, but did not know Him to be three persons. Jesus, the Son of God, has shown this to us. He refers to God as ‘The Father;’ He makes it clear that He also is God, God the Son; and He also makes it clear that the Holy Spirit, coming from the Father and the Son is God too. Each is God, truly: together they are the one and only God; all that they do is one: there is no dispute or division between them. Even so, there are distinctions: only the Son has taken on flesh and been born as a human being in order to unite God with His human creation.
To speak of God as ‘Father’ was not unknown of in the Old Testament, but it was not the most common way to speak of God. More common was to speak of Him as ‘the Most High,’ the ‘Holy One of Israel’ etc. It is with Jesus’s coming amongst us, speaking to us the very words of God Himself, that we are led to find in the name ‘Father’ a most fitting title for God. Jesus spoke always of God as His Father, and invited us also to pray ‘Our Father’ together with Him. So, as the Catechism says (CCC 240):
Jesus revealed that God is Father in an unheard-of sense: he is Father not only in being Creator; he is eternally Father by his relationship to his only Son who, reciprocally, is Son only in relation to his Father: “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
In Jesus, then, we have been allowed to understand so much more intimately the inner life of God Himself, who is a community of persons, three in one, three persons loving and then reaching out in the creation and salvation of mankind: teaching us how to love as they are love Itself.