Vol. XIX, No. 4
Catechesis on the Creed, the Prayer of the Year of Faith
Pope Francis: “I Believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life”
The Nicene Creed is the prayer for the Year of Faith, as proclaimed by Pope Benedict in Porta Fidei (issued October 11, 2011), in which he described the importance of the Creed, both in our personal faith and for the whole Church:
Profession of faith is an act both personal and communitarian. It is the Church that is the primary subject of faith. In the faith of the Christian community, each individual receives baptism, an effective sign of entry into the people of believers in order to obtain salvation. As we read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “‘I believe’ is the faith of the Church professed personally by each believer, principally during baptism. ‘We believe’ is the faith of the Church confessed by the bishops assembled in council or more generally by the liturgical assembly of believers. ‘I believe’ is also the Church, our mother, responding to God by faith as she teaches us to say both ‘I believe’ and ‘we believe.’” (§ 10)
The Year of Faith began on October 11, 2012, the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, and will conclude on November 24, 2013, the Solemnity of Christ the King.
Pope Benedict began a series of catecheses on the Creed at his Wednesday audience on October 17, stressing that this renewed catechesis is particularly necessary in our time because, he said,
Christians often do not even know the central core of their own Catholic faith — the Creed — which leaves room for a certain syncretism and religious relativism, lacking clarity about the truths to be believed and about the salvific uniqueness of Christianity. The risk of fabricating, as it were, a “do-it-yourself” religion is not so far off today. Instead we must return to God, to the God of Jesus Christ, we must rediscover the Gospel message and make it enter our consciences and our daily life more deeply.
Pope Benedict’s introduction to this series, “The Creed — Healing the Rupture Between Faith and Reason,” appeared in the December 2012 Adoremus Bulletin (adoremus.org/1212Creed.html). He resumed this series on the Creed in his Wednesday audiences January 13 (“I believe in God”), January 30 (“The almighty Father”), and February 7 (“Maker of heaven and Earth”). There was a hiatus in the series during the following weeks, which saw the resignation of Pope Benedict and the inauguration of Pope Francis during Lent.
Pope Francis resumed the series in the Easter Octave, on April 3 and April 10 (“He rose again on the third day”), on April 17 (“He ascended into Heaven,” AB May 2013, p. 12), and April 24 (“He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead”).
In his Wednesday general audience May 8, 2013, Pope Francis focused on the phrase “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life,” noting that the Easter season is the Season of the Holy Spirit, who is the “inexhaustible source of God’s life in us.” He continued his catechesis on the Holy Spirit the following Wednesday, before Pentecost, urging Cath-olics to pray to the Holy Spirit daily. Following are these two addresses on the Holy Spirit (Vatican Radio translation).
May 8, 2013
Dear brothers and sisters, good day!
The season of Easter that we are living with joy, guided by the liturgy of the Church, is par excellence the time of the Holy Spirit, given to us “not by measure” (cf. Jn 3:34) by the crucified and risen Jesus. This time of grace ends with the feast of Pentecost, when the Church relives the outpouring of the Spirit upon Mary and the Apostles gathered in prayer in the Upper Room.
But who is the Holy Spirit? In the Creed we profess with faith: “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life.” The first truth to which we adhere in the Creed is that the Holy Spirit is Kyrios, Lord. This means that He is truly God as are the Father and the Son — on our part the object of the same act of worship and glorification that we direct to the Father and the Son.
The Holy Spirit, in fact, is the third Person of the Blessed Trinity; the Holy Spirit is the great gift of the Risen Christ who opens our minds and our hearts to faith in Jesus as the Son sent by the Father, and who leads us to friendship, to communion with God.
But I would like to focus on the fact that the Holy Spirit is the inexhaustible source of God’s life in us. In all times and in all places man has yearned for a full and beautiful life, a just and good one, a life that is not threatened by death, but that can mature and grow to its fullest.
Man is like a traveler who, crossing the deserts of life, has a thirst for living water, gushing and fresh, capable of quenching his deep desire for light, love, beauty, and peace. We all feel this desire!
And Jesus gives us this living water: it is the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and who Jesus pours into our hearts. Jesus tells us that “I came that they may have life and have it more abundantly” (Jn 10:10).
Jesus promised the Samaritan woman that He would donate an eternally abundant ‘“living water” to all those who recognize Him as the Son sent by the Father to save us (Jn 4:5-26; 3:17). Jesus came to give us this “living water” that is the Holy Spirit, so that our life may be guided by God, may be animated by God, may be nourished by God.
When we say that a Christian is a spiritual man, this is what we mean: a Christian is a person who thinks and acts according to God, according to the Holy Spirit. And do we believe in God? Do we act according to God? Or do we let ourselves be guided by so many other things that are not God?
At this point we can ask ourselves: how can this water quench our deep thirst? We know that water is essential for life; without water we die; it quenches our thirst, it cleanses, it renders the earth fertile. In the Epistle to the Romans we find this sentence: “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom 5:5).
The ‘“living water,” the Holy Spirit, the Gift of the Risen One who comes to dwell in us, cleanses us, enlightens us, renews us, transforms us by rendering us partakers of the very life of God who is Love.
This is why the Apostle Paul says that the Christian’s life is animated by the Spirit and by its fruits, which are “love, joy, peace, generosity, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22 -23).
The Holy Spirit leads us to divine life as “children of the Only Son.” In another passage from the Letter to the Romans, which we have mentioned several times, Saint Paul sums it up in these words: “All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.… And you … who have received the Spirit who renders us adoptive children, and thanks to whom we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’, the Spirit Himself, together with our own spirit, attests that we are children of God. And if we are His children, we are also His heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we take part in His suffering so we can participate in His glory” (Rom 8:14-17).
This is the precious gift that the Holy Spirit brings into our hearts: the very life of God, the life of true children, a relationship of familiarity, freedom, and trust in the love and mercy of God, which as an effect has also a new vision of others, near and far, seen always as brothers and sisters in Jesus to be respected and loved.
The Holy Spirit teaches us to look with the eyes of Christ, to live life as Christ lived, to understand life as Christ did. That’s why the living water that is the Holy Spirit quenches the thirst in our lives, because it tells us that we are loved by God as His children, that we can love God as His children, and that by His grace we can live as children of God, as did Jesus.
And us? Do we listen to the Holy Spirit who tells us: “God loves you”? Do we really love God and others as Jesus did?
May 15, 2013
Dear brothers and sisters, good day!
Today I want to focus on the action that the Holy Spirit accomplishes in guiding the Church and each one of us to the Truth. Jesus says to His disciples: the Holy Spirit, “He will guide you to all truth” (Jn 16:13), He Himself being “the Spirit of truth” (cf. Jn 14:17; 15:26; 16:13).
We live in an age rather skeptical of truth. Benedict XVI has spoken many times of relativism, that is, the tendency to believe that nothing is definitive, and think that the truth is given by consent or by what we want. The question arises: does “the” truth really exist? What is “the” truth? Can we know it? Can we find it?
Here I am reminded of the question of the Roman procurator Pontius Pilate when Jesus reveals the profound meaning of His mission: “What is truth?” (Jn 18:37,38). Pilate does not understand that “the” Truth is in front of him, he cannot see in Jesus the face of the truth, which is the face of God. Yet Jesus is just that: the Truth, which, in the fullness of time, “became flesh” (Jn 1:1-14), came among us so that we may know it. You cannot grab the truth as if it were an object, you encounter it. It is not a possession, it is an encounter with a Person.
But who helps us recognize that Jesus is the Word of truth, the only begotten Son of God the Father? Saint Paul teaches that “no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the holy Spirit” (I Cor 12:3). It is the Holy Spirit, the gift of the Risen Christ, that helps us recognize the Truth. Jesus calls Him the Paraclete, meaning “the one who comes to our aid,” who is by our side to support us in this journey of knowledge, and at the Last Supper, Jesus assures His disciples that the Holy Spirit will teach them all things, reminding them of His words (cf. Jn 14:26).
What then is the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the life of the Church to guide us to the truth? First of all, to remind and imprint on the hearts of believers the words that Jesus said, and precisely through these words, God’s law — as the prophets of the Old Testament had announced — is inscribed in our hearts and becomes within us a principle of evaluation in our choices and of guidance in our daily actions; it becomes a principle of life. Ezekiel’s great prophecy is realized: “I will sprinkle clean water over you to make you clean; from all your impurities and from all your idols I will cleanse you. I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you … I will put my spirit within you so that you walk in my statutes, observe my ordinances, and keep them” (36:25-27). Indeed, our actions are born from deep within: it is the heart that needs to be converted to God, and the Holy Spirit transforms it if we open ourselves to Him.
The Holy Spirit, then, as Jesus promises, guides us “into all truth” (Jn 16:13). He leads us not only to an encounter with Jesus, the fullness of Truth, but guides us into the Truth; that is, He helps us enter into a deeper communion with Jesus Himself, gifting us knowledge of the things of God.
We cannot achieve this on our own strength. If God does not enlighten us interiorly, our being Christians will be superficial. The Tradition of the Church affirms that the Spirit of Truth acts in our hearts, provoking that “sense of faith” (sensus fidei), through which, as the Second Vatican Council affirms, the People of God, under the guidance of the Magisterium, adheres unwaveringly to “the faith given once and for all to the saints” (Jude 1:3), penetrates it more deeply with right thinking, and applies it more fully in its life (cf. Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 12).
Let us ask ourselves: are we open to the Holy Spirit? Do I pray to Him to enlighten me, to make me more sensitive to the things of God? And this is a prayer we need to pray every day — every day: Holy Spirit may my heart be open to the Word of God, may my heart be open to good, may my heart be open to the beauty of God, every day.
But I would like to ask a question of all of you: How many of you pray every day to the Holy Spirit? A few of you I bet! Well, a few, a few, a few. But we realize this wish of Jesus: pray every day for the Holy Spirit to open our hearts to Jesus.
We think of Mary who “kept all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Lk 2:19-51). The reception of the words and the truths of faith so that they become life, is realized and grows under the action of the Holy Spirit. In this sense, we must learn from Mary, reliving her “yes,” her total availability to receive the Son of God in her life, and who from that moment was transformed. Through the Holy Spirit, the Father and the Son come to dwell in us: do we live in God and of God? Is our life really animated by God? How many things do I put before God?
Dear brothers and sisters, we need to let ourselves be imbued with the light of the Holy Spirit, so that He introduces us into the Truth of God, who is the only Lord of our lives.
In this Year of Faith let us ask ourselves if we have actually taken a few steps to get to know Christ and the truths of faith more, by reading and meditating on the Scriptures; studying the Catechism; steadily approaching the Sacraments.
But at the same time let us ask ourselves what steps we are taking so that the faith directs our whole existence. Do not be a “part-time” Christian, at certain moments, in certain circumstances, in certain choices. Be Christian at all times! The truth of Christ, that the Holy Spirit teaches us and gives us, always and forever involves our daily lives. Let us invoke Him more often, to guide us on the path of Christ’s disciples.
© Libreria Editrice Vaticana