No. 34 Jesus Christ: True God, True Man: The Creed of St. Athanasius
As Catholics, most of us believe that there are Three Persons in One God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We adore and reverence the Holy Trinity, as the Godhead, and believe that Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, is the Son of God, always divine, but who existed as man only with the Incarnation. Our faith is thus solidly Trinitarian, and yet firmly monotheistic. Such is the legacy bequeathed us by Christ Jesus, who identified himself with the Father. “The Father and I are one.”(John 10:30), and “Who sees me sees the Father.” (John14:10). Wonderful, incomparable truths, foreshadowed in the Old Testament and revealed in the New. Taught by the Church founded by Jesus Christ since its inception. However, these fundamental doctrines of our Catholic faith have come down to us through the centuries thanks to the grace of God, the promise of Jesus, the power of the Holy Spirit and the heroic efforts, prayer, perseverance and suffering of his faithful followers. What Christ has transmitted to us through his faithful has proved costly.
Today many Christians continue to be assailed by challenges to their faith. Many doubt or deny fundamental Catholic doctrines. Particularly so, when religious dogma are continually spurned or ridiculed by those who have been persuaded that the doctrines we hold sacred are man-made and pliant. Throughout the history of the Church heresies have arisen, and persist to this day in diverse disguises. By the grace of God, the Catholic Church has been there to correct and re-direct those who stray from Catholic truth.
The Arian Heresy
A major heresy that swept through Christendom in the fourth century during the time of the Emperor Constantine was that of the priest, Arius of Alexandria. He taught that the Son of God did not always exist, but was created by&emdash;and is therefore distinct from and inferior to&emdash;God the Father. This idea was a misinterpretation of the passage in the Gospel of John, “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I” (John14:28). Saint Jerome wrote of the period, “The whole world groaned and was amazed to find itself Arian”. This teaching was condemned by the First Council of Nicaea (AD 325), which gave us the Nicene Creed which we recollect at Mass to this day.
Saint Athanasius who lived during this time, stood virtually alone against the onslaught the Arian heresy ravaging the Church of his day &endash; begetting the phrase, “Athanasius contra mundum”, that is, “Athanasius against the world”. From the teaching of St.Athanasius there developed what we know today as the Athanasian Creed.
The Athanasian Creed (excerpts)
The catholic faith is this:
We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity
Neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance.
For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit.
But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.
Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit.
The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated.
The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal. And yet they are not three eternals but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated nor three incomprehensible, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible.
So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty. And yet they are not three almighties, but one almighty.
So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord. And yet they are not three Lords but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord. So are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say; There are three Gods or three Lords. The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made nor created, but begotten. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits. And in this Trinity none is afore or after another; none is greater or less than another. But the whole three persons are coeternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.
He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the TrinityŠ
For the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man; God of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and man of the substance of His mother, born in the world. Perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood. Who, although He is God and man, yet He is not two, but one Christ… so God and man is one Christ; Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead; He ascended into heaven, He sits on the right hand of the Father, God, Almighty; From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies; and shall give account of their own works…..
Prayer: We worship you, our Lord and our God. We thank you for revealing the wonder and mystery of your being to us, sinners. Grant that we may love you, serve you and do your will in all things. Have mercy, Lord.