V. THE EXCELLENCE OF THE VARIOUS PARTS OF THE ROSARY
(b) The Apostles' Creed.
"For with the heart, we believe unto justice: but, with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation" (Rom. x, 10).
Dear Brethren: At the beginning of the Rosary, the Apostles' Creed is recited. Everything that we must believe, in order to attain to eternal life, is contained in this Creed. It puts in explicit words all that of which the sign of the Cross is the symbol. Tradition tells us that this profession of faith originated with the Apostles, and for this reason it is called the Apostles' Creed. To be sure not all the dogmas of the Catholic Church are declared in the twelve articles of the Creed, but any dogmas not expressly mentioned are included in the ninth article, which says: "I believe in the Holy Catholic Church." In these words the Catholic declares that he believes everything which the holy infallible Catholic Church teaches and requires of us to believe.
The Creed is, therefore, by its origin, as well as its contents, a truly holy and excellent prayer. It we duly appreciate this beautiful prayer we shall say it with more devotion, to the greater glory of God, and our own good.
I. "I believe in God." With these words I express my firm conviction that there is a God, and that everything that God has revealed is infallible truth, because God is truth itself and can neither deceive nor be deceived. With these words I submit my mind, my reason and my will to the infallible authority of God.
"I believe in God the Father." This means that I believe that in God there are three Persons, of whom the first Person is called the Father because He is the origin of all existence; because from all eternity He begot the Son, who is equal to Him in essence but different in Person. Further, He is our Father because He created us His children.
"I believe in God, the Father Almighty." It is befitting that at the beginning of the Creed the omnipotence of God should be emphasized. Our faith contains many mysteries, which no created understanding can comprehend. Because I firmly believe in the omnipotence of God I profess that to God nothing is impossible.
In His omnipotence, God, the Father, created the world, calling it into existence from nothing. Hence we say: "I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth." But God not only created the world, He also preserves and rules it through His omnipotence. As by virtue of His will He created the world, so does God cause it to continue in existence. A building erected by a master hand remains standing even though the master absent himself; yet the world, according to St. Augustine, could not continue to exist for one moment did not God preserve it. This world which God called forth from nothing would, the very moment that God should withdraw His almighty hand, fall back into nothing. "And how could anything endure if thou wouldst not?" Thus we read of God in the Book of Wisdom (ii, 26). Since we are then so utterly dependent upon God that at any moment He could cut the thread of our lives, how greatly should we fear to offend Him?
God not only preserves, but also rules the world; He is solicitous for all things; He orders and governs all things with wisdom and mercy to the end for which He created them. "The eyes of all hope in thee, O Lord: and thou givest them meat in due season. Thou openest thy hand, and fillest with blessing every living creature" (Ps. cxliv, 15-16). Of what little value is a flower which so soon withers? And yet the divine solicitude extends to this humble flower. Indeed, is not the flower of the field clothed more beautifully by the hand of God, than was Solomon in all his glory? What is there about a man of less account than a single hair of his head? And yet each of these hairs is counted, and not one falls from the head without the knowledge and will of God. We see how the care and providence of God extends to all things, even the most insignificant.
God, furthermore, orders and governs all things according to their appointed end. He created the world and all that is in it for His glorification and for the welfare of mankind, and provides in all things that this end may be attained. Nothing can withdraw itself from the rule of God. There is no blind chance, no blind fortune. The prophet Jeremias asks: "Who is he that hath commanded a thing to be done, when the Lord commandeth it not?" (Lam. iii, 37). "Thy providence, O Father, ruleth all things," so we read in the Book of Wisdom. And so God orders and disposes everything in our lives, that we may attain the eternal goal. We have but to commit ourselves to divine Providence and place our trust in God. For this reason we should exclaim with David: "The Lord ruleth me: and I shall want nothing. For though I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I will fear no evils, for thou art with me" (Ps. xxii).
In the first article we profess our faith, therefore, in the omnipotence of God, divine Providence, and all the divine attributes. God has created us and preserves us. But He has done still greater things for us. Is this possible? Yes, for God so loved the world that He sacrificed His only begotten Son for it. And this brings us to the second article, which comprises the truths we must believe of God the Son.
II. When the sin of our first parents had deprived us of the friendship of God as well as of our heirship to Heaven, there came to our rescue the second Person of the Godhead, the only begotten of the Father. The succeeding articles tell us of the love and sacrifice of the Son of God for our race.
The second article is: "And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord." What does this mean? It means I believe that He is the Son of God, God of God, true God of true God. It means I believe that He became incarnate for the sake of our salvation. It means I believe in the doctrines that He proclaimed, in the miracles that He performed. It means I believe in His presence in the holy Eucharist; in the effects of the holy Sacraments which He instituted. It means I believe in His holy Church, to which He transmitted His authority. To believe in Jesus Christ means, furthermore, to believe in His Passion and death, by which He redeemed the world; in His glorious resurrection and ascension. He is the Divine Master, and as such the supreme Lawgiver whom all creatures must obey. He is also the Judge of the universe, and as such will come again one day to preside at the general judgment, when He will judge all men according to their belief, according to the manner in which each one has observed or transgressed His commandments, used or neglected the means of salvation. Then will be the end of time; and mankind will go to its reward or to its punishment once and for all. All this is proclaimed in the articles of faith that treat of Jesus Christ. To believe in Jesus Christ means to believe everything that the Gospel teaches and everything which the holy, infallible Church requires us to believe.
The third chief part of the Creed declares what we must believe of the Holy Ghost, the third Person of the Godhead.
III. The Holy Ghost, the third Person of the Godhead, proceeds equally from the Father and the Son, from all eternity, and is of equal essence with the Father and the Son from eternity.
The Holy Ghost, sent by the Father and the Son, came down upon earth and took charge of the Church founded by Christ, in order to apply through it the fruits of redemption to mankind.
Only in the true Church of Christ can be found the fruits of the redemption; only in her is the true priesthood of the Lord. The fruits of the redemption here on earth are truth and grace, and in the hereafter eternal salvation. The divine truth, as proclaimed by Christ, is alone contained in the holy Catholic Church; and through the co-operation of the Holy Ghost it is preserved uncorrupted in this Church. The Church is the pillar and the beacon of the truth. She can not deviate unto the end of the world one tittle from the doctrine received from Christ, because the Holy Ghost guides the teaching Church in all truth, and sees to it that every truth is understood rightly by her and properly interpreted and explained. Hence, to submit ourselves to the Church's definition of the faith means to submit ourselves to the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost operates in the Church, through the priesthood, and thus applies to the faithful the fruits of the redemption, so as to sanctify them and prepare them for eternal happiness. Thus it is the Holy Ghost who sanctifies us, who makes us holy, as our Father in heaven is holy; who leads us to perfection, as our Father in heaven is perfect.
"I believe in the Holy Catholic Church," is the next article of our Creed. The Holy Ghost lives and operates in the Church. This Church is a "Communion of Saints," a communion of faithful, part of whom have already entered eternal life of bliss, and is called the Church Triumphant; another part is being cleansed from the remnants of sin in the place of purification, and is called the Suffering Church; a third part is still struggling on the battlefield of the world for the crown of eternal life, and is called the Church Militant. All are true members of this great community of saints and children of God, allied through the bond of love. This doctrine is very consoling to us. It opens to us, as it were, even during our earthly life, the portals of eternity. We may enter these in spirit, and seek and find help and consolation amongst our glorified brethren, and also carry help and consolation to our suffering brethren. One thing alone bars us from this glorious communion and shuts heaven against us, and that is sin. But in the Church there is provided for repentant sinners the Absolution from Sins, the remission of sin and its penalty. When we finally die in the grace of God our soul shall enjoy eternal life, and our glorified body shall be joined to it on the great day of resurrection.
This, then, is what we are taught to believe in the Apostles' Creed. When we say this Creed with devotion and perfect faith, we honor and glorify first of all the Blessed Trinity. But we refresh also the teaching of the Gospel in our minds, and thus strengthen our faith. It is an excellent means of awakening exalted sentiments of faith within us, and of inspiring us to a courageous profession of our holy religion.
The Creed is possessed of great power against the temptations of the evil one. The Apostle exhorts us "to resist the devil strong in faith" (I Pet. v, 8), and Holy Scripture calls the faith a shield against which the darts of Satan are broken. Thus is the Creed, according to its origin, and its contents, and efficacy, a holy and excellent prayer. In conclusion, let me quote an exhortation from St. Augustine: "Forget not," he says, "to recite the profession of your faith when you rise in the morning, nor when retiring at night; repeat it frequently, for its repetition is salutary for you, that no forgetfulness may arise. Your creed should be your mirror. Examine yourself therein as to whether you firmly believe everything you profess to believe, and rejoice daily in the possession of faith." Well, then, let us bear in mind this beautiful advice. Let us say the Creed daily, in order to strengthen ourselves in the faith but especially let us say it with great devotion as part of the holy Rosary. If here below we are true to the faith we shall one day behold in reality what we now see only with the eyes of faith, and in this vision enjoy eternal glory and bliss without end. Amen.