The Nicene Creed
I Say it and as I Hear it
Millions of Christians recite a summary of their shared belief every week.
All these recitations are derivations or translations of an original version, commonly known as the Nicene Creed. The Nicene text represents a religious and political compromise forced on about 300 disputatious bishops of the Catholic Church by the Emperor Constantine in 325 CE. This resolution followed (and quelled) ongoing religious conflicts that had become especially violent in 322-3.
When the Emperor convened the First Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church in 325, he chose Nicaea to accommodate attending bishops from Egypt to Asia. Constantine, himself a recent convert, had little patience for doctrinal nuance; his simply and forcefully ordered the bishops to “work it out.”
Given the Creed’s provenance as a compact between warring disputants, the Nicene Creed has been pretty much immune from editorial revision ever since.
Now I am a relatively recent arrival in the realm of creedal Christendom. Having exited the Unitarian spiritual wilderness, I officially entered the liturgically rich Anglican Communion at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, CA, in 2003 CE.
But my supple lawyer’s mind remains busy to this day attempting to update the Creed and reconcile it with my evolving spiritual path. As I recite the Creed together with my fellow parishioners on Sunday, my theological mind runs around every word and phrase like a church mouse scurrying through the inner workings of a tracker church organ.
For this reason, I’ve never quite been able to recite the NC from memory.
AS THE CREED IS TYPICALLY SAID:
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ
the only son of God, eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God, begotten not made, of one Being with the Father; through him all things were made.
For us and our salvation
he came down from heaven was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became truly human.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
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 in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father, who with the father and the Son is worshipped and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.
THE CREED AS I HEAR IT IN MY HEAD:
I believe in one true God, our Heavenly Father, Author of all Being, Mother of all life,
Almighty founder of heaven and earth,
Creator of all that is, seen and unseen.
I believe there is but one true Lord of the Earth:
He is Christ Jesus, the Holy Child of God, the anointed Son of Humankind.
He was begotten from eternity by the Father-Mother of all Being. He is God of flesh from God of Power.
He is Light from Light.
He is True Being of God from God’s True Being. He was begotten for earth not made for heaven.
He is one being with God, through whom all things were made.
For the salvation of all humankind:
Christ Jesus was given to us to us from eternity.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, He was born from a mother’s womb,
Son of Mary, the Holy Mother of our Lord,
Son of all Humankind.
To break open the doors to our liberation and redemption:
He faced injustice without an army.
In innocence, He suffered crucifixion on orders from a tyrant.
As God-in-Man, He suffered humiliation and death;
And He did die, and He was entombed.
Yet on the third day, He did rise up from his grave, and became alive to us forever:
And the prophecies were fulfilled in Him.
So He is ascended beyond the heavens;
And He attends the throne of God’s justice.
In glory, He will return to each of us:
He will judge the living and the dead.
His reign of justice will not end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Mother of Life:
She proceeds out of the Holy One. With the Father of Life and the Christ, She is worshiped and glorified.
She has spoken through the Prophets.
She is of one Being with Christ, and with the Holy One.
We believe in one holy universal Church descendent from the covenant and apostles.
We acknowledge only one baptism for the forgiveness of all inherited sin.
We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the World to come.
A Footnote about the absence of footnotes: There are specific reasons – theological, spiritual-poetic, and philosophical – for all the variations above, some of which may on reflection be evident to the reader, and some will be too obscure for that. At one point I was tempted to produce an annotated version of my “inside-the-head” version, but then thought better of it. I have written a couple of personal “creeds” and related personal reflections that fencepost my spiritual thinking. They can be found at:
http://www.jaygaskill.com/creed21.htm and http://www.jaygaskill.com/Toseetheinvisible.htm and http://www.jaygaskill.com/firstandlast.htm .
Copyright © 2006 by Jay B. Gaskill, Attorney at Law
March 30, 2006, Alameda CA