The Sarabite: Towards an Aesthetic Christianity

There is a continuous attraction, beginning with God, going to the world, and ending at last with God, an attraction which returns to the same place where it began as though in a kind of circle. -Marsilio Ficino

Sunday, May 20, 2007

A Declaration of Faith

Once in a while, one has to make a public declaration of Faith. It has been pointed out by some voices I respect that I have been sowing confusion around the Internet. Alas, this is a symptom of my all-too-human pride and cynicism. I apologize. So here is what I believe, what I hold as the absolute truth, and what I pray to God that I might have the strength to shed my blood for if called upon:

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible: And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages; God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God; begotten, not made; consubstantial with the Father, by Whom all things were made: Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man. He was crucified also for us, suffered under Pontius Pilate, and was buried: And the third day He arose again, according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven. He sitteth at the right hand of the Father: and He shall come again with glory, to judge the living and the dead: and His kingdom shall have no end: And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, Who, together with the Father and the Son, is adored and glorified: Who spoke by the prophets. And one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. I confess one baptism for the remission of sins. And I expect the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.


O my God, I firmly believe that Thou art one God in three Divine Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; I believe that Thy Divine Son became man, and died for our sins, and that He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths which the Holy Catholic Church teaches, because Thou hast revealed them, who canst neither deceive nor be deceived. Amen.

So that means I believe in purgatory, indulgences, papal infallibility, all the Marian doctrines (especially the Marian doctrines), and any other unpopular, medieval, and "backwards" doctrine you can throw at me.

In reflecting as to why I believe all these things, I present you with these prayers, first in Latin, and in their English translations:

Sacrosanctae et individuae Trinitati, crucifixi Domini nostri Jesu Christi humanitati, beatissimae et gloriosissimae semperque Virginis Mariae fecundae intergitati, et omnium Sanctorum universitati sit sempiterna laus, honor, virtus, gloria et gratiarum actio ab omni creatura, nobisque remissio omnium peccatorum: per infinita saecula saeculorum. Amen.

Everlasting praise, honor, power, and glory be given by all creatures to the most holy and undivided Trinity, to the humanity of our crucified Lord Jesus Christ, to the most fruitful purity of the most blessed and glorious Mary ever Virgin, and to the company of all the saints; and may we obtain the remission of all our sins through all eternity. Amen

-traditional prayer after saying the Divine Office

Suscipe sancta Trinitas, hanc oblationem, quam tibi offerimus ob memoriam passionis, resurrectionis, et ascensionis Jesu Christi Domini nostri: et in honorem beatae Mariae semper Virginis, et beati Joannis Baptistae, et sanctorum Apostolorum Petri et Pauli, et istorum, et omnium Sanctorum: ut illis proficiat ad honorem, nobis autem ad salutem: et illi pro nobis intercedere dignentur in coelis, quorum memoriam agimus in terris. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum.

Accept, most Holy Trinity, this offering which we are making to You in remembrance of the passion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, Our Lord; and in honor of blessed Mary, ever Virgin, Blessed John the Baptist, the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and of (name of the Saints whose relics are in the Altar) and of all the Saints; that it may add to their honor and aid our salvation; and may they deign to intercede in heaven for us who honor their memory here on earth. Through the same Christ our Lord.

-offertory prayer of the Roman rite, 1962 and before

In both of these prayers, you can see what separates Roman Catholicism from the other Western confessions: our God, our Christ, and our Church are much LARGER and all-encompassing phenomena than what they are for Protestantism. God is not belittled or disrespected when we honor the Virgin Mary, the saints, or anyone else. This is so because God's whole point in making anything was to impart His love and glory onto all things. Even though God is perfectly happy without Creation, His aim is to reign in glory, but not to reign alone. Through the mysteries of the Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection of the Word of God, all things are called into His body, and it is for that reason, for the fact that we are all grafted into Christ, that the cosmos is sacred, and that we, either living or dead, are sacred because we form the Church. And that is why many of the things we do look superstitious, primitive, and unreformed. And that is why our world is so much more beautiful and enchanted than the dreary universes of Calvin, Cranmer, or Zwingli.

And for me at least, the Catholic Church, with all of its rabble, its quaint ceremonies, and the near occasions of bargaining with God, looks the most like the time of the ancient Patriarchs, the kingdom of Israel, or the unruly mobs that surrounded Jesus looking for a cure for their ills. As I have said before, I believe in the Roman Catholic Church because it is the most human religion conceivable. And I believe, in spite of my own heeing and hawing about it, that it is the Israel of God.

So there. If I don't express this on any non-Catholic blogs I may go on, it is because I am being diplomatic, and I believe that in the end, the mercy of the Lord endures forever. But I am obliged to live by and give witness to the truth. And the truth lies in the "una, sancta, catholica et apostolica Ecclesia Romana".

(The picture by the way is from the Shrine of the Holy Infant of Atocha in Mexico, where my mother brought me as a very young child.)