Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Greater Ignorance: Contemplating the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed

"The mysteries of faith are degraded if they are made into an object of affirmation and negation, when in reality they should be an object of contemplation." —Simone Weil

It can still sometimes take me by surprise when it arrives, as it does, in the Divine Liturgy just before the anaphora, even though I’ve heard it in that context for so many years. It changes the tone of the service. Up until that point, we’ve addressed God in terms of repentance, praise, or entreaty. Then, suddenly, we make this declaration that has the uneasy feel of a loyalty statement.

            I recited the creed aloud when I was received into the Church by chrismation as part of that rite, and for a lot of years I said it daily (it was among the morning prayers in the book I used—I wouldn’t have thought to add it to a rule of prayer I came up with on my own).  But though I aimed to say it with conviction, that conviction had less to do with understanding exactly what it meant than it did with my mostly sincere and reasonable desire to adhere to what the Orthodox Church taught me. The fact is, almost every statement in it raised more questions for me than it answered.  The further understanding of its various elements I got through reading and later in seminary did nothing to cure the sense of the ineffable that surrounded it. “Knowing” served only to emphasize the impression of mystery.