The Creed

I believe in God,
the Father Almighty,
Creator of Heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day, He rose again.
He ascended to Heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Holy Catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting. Amen.

Faith is located in the act of conversion, in the shift of gravity from worship of the visible and practicable to trust in the invisible. The phrase "I believe" could here be literally translated by "I hand myself over to", "I assent to."

"Faith comes from what is heard", says St Paul (Rom 10:17). Faith does in fact come from "hearing", not - like philosophy - from "reflection". It is the reception of something that I have not thought out, so that in the last analysis thinking in the context of faith is always a thinking-over of something previously heard and received.

Philosophy is by its nature the work of the solitary individual, who ponders as an individual on truth. It only becomes communicable later when it is put into words. In philosophy, what comes first is the private search for truth, which then, secondarily, seeks out travelling companions. Faith, on the other hand, is first of all a call to community, to unity of mind through the unity of the word. Only secondarily will it then open the way for each individual's private venture in search of truth.

By the inner structure of faith our relationship to God and our fellowship with man cannot be separated from each other; the relationship to God, to the "You" and the "We" are intertwined; they do not stand alongside each other.

 

God wishes to approach man only through man; he seeks out man in no other way but in his fellow humanity. Just as in the field of music we find the creative, the receptive and finally those who are completely unmusical, so it seems to be in religion too. Here too one meets people who are religiously "talented" and others who are "untalented". Here too those capable of religious experience and thus of something like religious creativity through a living awareness of the religious world are few and far between.

Over against the few, for whom the divine thus becomes undisguised certainty, stand the many whose religious gift is limited to receptivity, who are denied the direct experience of the holy, yet are not so deaf to it as to be unable to appreciate an encounter with it through the medium of the man granted such an experience.

God's dialogue with men operates only through men's dialogue with each other. The difference in religious gifts which divides men into "prophets" and hearers forces them into speaking to and for one another.

The programme of the early Augustine, "God and the soul - nothing else", is impracticable and it is also unchristian. In the last analysis there is no religion along the solitary path of the mystic, but only in the community of proclaiming and hearing.

Perhaps the mystery of God is from the start the most compulsive challenge - one that can never be carried to a final conclusion - ever issued to man to take up the dia-logue which, however much it may be obstructed and disturbed, causes the logos to resound, the real word from which all words proceed and which all words are always seeking to express.

 

No real dialogue yet takes place where men are still only talking about something. The conversation between men only comes into its own when they are no longer trying to express something, but to express themselves, when dialogue becomes communication.

When dialogue becomes communication, when man brings himself into the conversation, then God too is involved in some way or other, for he has been the real theme of controversy between men since the beginning of their history. Moreover, only when man brings himself into the conversation does the logos of all being enter, along with the logos of human being, into the words of human speech.

Perhaps the difficulty we find today in speaking about God arises precisely from the very fact that our language is tending to become more and more a mere means of passing on technical information, less and less a means for our common being to make contact in the logos, a process in which consciously or unconsciously contact is also made with the ground of all things.

Christian doctrine does not exist in the form of analysable propositions but in the unity of the symbolum, as the Ancient Church called the baptismal profession of faith. "Symbolum" comes from "symballein" - to fall together, to cast together. The background to the word's etymology is an ancient usage: two corresponding halves of a ring, a staff or a tablet were used as tokens of identity for guests, messengers or partners to a treaty. Possession of the corresponding piece entitled the holder to receive a thing or simply to hospitality. A symbolum is something which points to its complementary other half and thus creates mutual recognition and unity. It is the expression and means of unity.

 

The description of the creed or profession of faith as the symbolum is a profound interpretation of its true nature. As sym-bolum it points to the other person, to the unity of the spirit in the one Word. It unites people in the community of the confessing word. It is not a piece of doctrine standing isolated in and for itself, but the form of our worship of God, the form of our conversion, which is not only a turn to God but also a turn to one another in the common glorification of God. It is only in this context that Christian doctrine assumes its proper place.

Every man holds the faith only as a "symbolon", a broken incomplete piece that can only attain unity and completeness when it is laid together with the others. Only in "symballein", the fitting together with them, can the "symballein", the fitting together with God take place. Faith demands unity and calls for the fellow believer; it is by nature related to a Church. A Church is not a secondary organisation of ideas, quite out of accordance with them and hence at best a necessary evil; it belongs necessarily to a faith whose significance lies in the interplay of common confession and worship.

Even the Church itself, as a whole, still only holds the faith as a symbolon, as a broken half, which signifies truth only in its endless reference to something beyond itself, to the quite other. It is only through that infinitely broken nature of the symbol that faith presses forward as man's continual effort to excel himself and reach up to God.

 

Christian faith is not based on the atomised individual but comes from the knowledge that there is no such thing as the mere individual, that on the contrary man is himself only when he is fitted into the whole; into mankind, history, the cosmos, as is right and proper for a being who is "spirit in body."

The purpose of Church and Christianity is to save history as history and to break through or transform the collective grid that forms the site of human existence.

The boundless spirit who bears within himself the totality of Being reaches beyond the 'greatest' so that to him it is small, and he reaches into the smallest because to him nothing is too small.

The overstepping of the greatest and the reaching down into the smallest is the true nature of absolute spirit.

Any attempt to reduce God to the scope of our own comprehension leads to the absurd.

The mere neutral curiosity of the mind which wants to remain uninvolved can never enable one to see - even in dealing with a human being, and much less in dealing with God.

The Christian confession of faith in God as the Three-in-One, signifies the conviction that divinity lies beyond our categories of unity and plurality.

God is Three-in-One. He stands above singular and plural. He bursts both categories.

To him who believes in God as tri-une, the highest unity is not the unity of inflexible monotony. The multi-unity which grows in love is a more radical, truer unity.

The acknowledgement that God is a person in the guise of a triple personality explodes the naive anthropomorphic concept of person.

The meaning of all being is no longer simply given in the world of ideas, it is to be found in the midst of time, in the countenance of one man.

Faith which is not love is not a really Christian faith - it only seems to be such.

 

He who humbled himself to the very point of emptying himself of his own being is for that very reason the ruler of the world.

At bottom the teaching of Jesus is he himself. He as a totality is Son, Word and mission; his activity reaches right down to the ground of being and is one with it.

Man is finally intended for the other, the truly other, for God; he is all the more himself the more he is with the quite other, with God.

The future of man hangs on the cross - the redemption of man is the cross. And he can only come to himself by letting the walls of his existence be broken down, by looking on him who has been pierced (John 19:37) and by following him who as the pierced and opened one has opened the path into the future.

Man, as a being set entirely in a context of relationship, cannot come to himself through himself, although he cannot do it without himself either
Möhler (quoted by Cardinal Ratzinger).

Christ, who from the ecclesiastical point of view was a layman and held no office in Israel's religious organisation, was - so the Epistle to the Hebrews says - the one true priest in the world.

It is just as absurd to deduce the knowledge of God and the knowledge of all other intelligences and non-intelligences from self-knowledge (self-awareness) as to deduce all love from self-love.

Human righteousness can only be attained by abandoning one's own claims and being generous to man and God.

The gesture of the love that gives all - this, and this alone, was the real means by which the world was reconciled; therefore the hour of the cross is the cosmic day of reconciliation, the true and final feast of reconciliation. There is no other kind of worship and no other priest but he who accomplished it: Jesus Christ.

Christ's death, which from a purely historical angle represented a completely profane event - the execution of a man condemned to death as a political offender - was in reality the one and only liturgy of the world, a cosmic liturgy, in which Jesus stepped, not in the limited arena of the liturgical performance, the temple, but publicly, before the eyes of the world, into the real temple, that is, before the face of God himself, in order to offer, not things, the blood of animals or anything like that, but himself (Hebrews 9:11).

In the Bible, the cross does not appear as part of a mechanism of injured right; on the contrary, in the Bible, the cross is quite the reverse: it is the expression of the radical nature of the love which gives itself completely, of the process in which one is what one does, and does what one is; it is the expression of a life that is completely being for others.

It is not man who goes to God with a compensatory gift, but God who comes to man, in order to give to him. He restores disturbed right on the initiative of his own power to love, by making unjust man just again, the dead living again, through his own creative mercy.

God's righteousness is grace; it is active righteousness, which sets crooked man right, that is, bends him straight, makes him right.

In the New Testament the cross appears primarily as a movement from above to below. It does not stand there as the work of expiation which mankind offers to the wrathful God, but as the expression of that foolish love of God's which gives itself away to the point of humiliation in order thus to save man; it is his approach to us, not the other way around.

Mary appears as the temple on to which descends the cloud in which Christ walks into the midst of history.

We are not allowed neutrality when faced with the question of God. We can only say yes or no, and this with all the consequences extending down to the smallest detail of life.

Man's stretching out towards God, the quest for the creative ground of all things, is something very different from precritical or uncritical thinking. On the contrary: rejecting the question of God, renouncing this supreme human openness, is an act of shutting in on oneself; it is to forget the inner call of our being.

Those who make themselves lords of truth and end by leaving truth on one side when it does not allow itself to be dominated ultimately place power above truth. Their criterion becomes power, ability. But precisely in this way they lose themselves: the throne on which they place themselves is a false throne; what they think is ascending the throne is in reality their fall.

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." The "pure" heart is the one that is open and humble. The impure heart according to this is the opposite, the presumptuous heart that is shut in on itself, that is completely filled up with itself and incapable of finding room for the majesty of truth that demands reverence and ultimately worship.

The light of Jesus is reflected in the saints and shines out again from them.

"Saints," however, are not just those canonised by name. There are always hidden saints who in their fellowship with Jesus receive a ray of his brightness, actual and real experience of God. Perhaps in order to make this more exact we should pick up a remarkable saying used by the Old Testament in connection with the story of Moses: if they cannot see God full in the face they do nevertheless see God, they at least see God's back (Exodus 33:23). And just as Moses' face shone after this encounter with God, so the light of Jesus shines from the life of men and women of this kind.

Theology becomes an empty intellectual game and loses its scientific character without the realism of the saints, without their contact with the reality it is all about.

Believers who let themselves be formed and led by the faith of the Church should in all their weaknesses and difficulties be windows for the light of the living God; and if they truly believe, this is what they are.

The believer should be a countervailing force against the powers that suppress the truth, against this wall of prejudice that blocks our view of God.

The conversion of the ancient world to Christianity was not the result of any planned activity on the part of the Church but the fruit of the proof of the faith as it became visible in the lives of Christians and of the community of the Church. The actual invitation from experience to experience - humanly speaking, the missionary strength of the early Church was nothing else.

Christians today should be reference points of faith as people who know about God, should in their lives demonstrate faith as truth, and should thus become signposts for others.

The act of faith is a sharing in the vision of Jesus, propping oneself up on Jesus. John, who leant on Jesus' breast, is a symbol for what faith means.

Faith by its inmost essential nature involves other people: it is a breaking out of the isolation of my own ego that is its own illness. . I find myself united not only with Jesus but with everybody who has followed the same path.

Truth as mere perception, as mere idea, remains bereft of force; it only becomes man's truth as a way which makes a claim on him, which he can and must tread.

Christian belief is not an idea but life; it is not mind existing for itself but incarnation, mind in the body of history and its "We". It is not the mysticism of the self-identification of the mind with God, but obedience and service: the outstripping of oneself, liberation of the self precisely through its being taken into service by something not made or thought out by myself, the liberation of being taken into service for the whole.