Sunday, June 26, 2011

Credo in Latin

Strangely, it wasn't religious study, or even language study, that finally convinced me to learn the Nicene Creed in Latin.  It was literature.  In my pre-seminary years I was reading many of the great writers, which led me inevitably to Thomas Hardy.  I certainly expect or hope that this literary road that I was travelling would have led me to the same places with or without external influences, but that is partly the pride of the flesh speaking.  What I know for sure is that it was in large part the influence of Fr. Stephen Wiest which brought me to certain books at certain moments.  One day he and I were talking over coffee after Matins, and he brought up Jude the Obscure.  So I decided to read it.  (One of the reasons I usually hesitate to bring up some of these priceless episodes from my past is the embarrassment for the fact that my reading before university was so poor; I ought to have been better acquainted with Hardy's beautiful work in high school.)  Anyway, there is that strange bar room scene where Jude Fawley decides to stand up and recite the Credo.  At one point he loses his place, no doubt from the effect of his drink, but having drunk another shot he suddenly finds the ability to continue through to the end.  I would not recommend practicing the Nicene Creed in quite the same manner.  My profound undergraduate thinking probably went something like this: if Jude can do it, then so can I.  Strange, the motivations we contrive sometimes. 

Besides, I kept hearing stories of how Dr. Scaer requires one to memorize it, so I figured I would get it out of the way early.  (Come to find out that he doesn't really "require" one to memorize it as much as he "teaches" it in probably the best possible way, ie., by rote repetition.  We would say it out loud together, before each class.)   Most of my classmates saw no use for it whatsoever.  How are we ever going to use this in the Church?  How is this relevant to the Ministry?  That is the general attitude, and it is a shame.  Let us say that your life in the Ministry never takes you to a setting in which you could ever see yourself actually using the Latin Nicene Creed liturgically.  It is still a vital part of your own theological training, and will be a vital part of your own spiritual life.  And a vital prayer life makes you a better pastor to God's people, a better preacher of His Word, a better teacher of the Gospel.

Moreover, I reject the claim that this Creed cannot be introduced to the people.  The young especially can and ought to be given the opportunity to see, hear, learn, and experience this wonderful creed and prayer.  And this video might help you to do just that.  The Credo tells us everything we need to know of Christ, our Lord and Savior from sin and death, and it does so with great beauty and eloquence.  Recite it, sing it, love it.

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