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Commentary of the Credo
This commentary is composed of large excerpts from a book by Fr. Michel Souchon, a
Jesuit, Croire aujourd'hui Hors-série N° 4 Le Credo & Le Notre Père explained to all.
During Mass, at the end of the "Liturgy of the Word", after listening to the readings from
the Bible, we take the floor to make a "profession of faith" and thus bring our personal response
to the texts we have heard. We use the words of the "Symbol of the Apostles" or the "Symbol of
Nicaea-Constantinople". Old words from the first Christian centuries which themselves have
their source in the New Testament formulas of faith. The temptation is perhaps to repeat them
mechanically without trying to understand them too much. Let us try to repeat them patiently, like
"the master of the house who draws new and old from his treasure" (Matthew 13:52).
Credo : the Apostles' Creed
I believe in God,
the Father almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth,
and 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 into hell;
on the third day he rose again from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty;
from there he will come 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.
1) To the origins of the credo
The confessions of faith used by the Christian churches in their celebrations, the "Symbol of the
Apostles" or the "Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed", date from the second century for the first and
the fourth for the second. But Christians did not wait so long to express the faith that animated
them. These creeds have their origin in the faith formulas of the first Christian communities. Our
creed has a history.
The creed of the first communities
Bible scholars use a technical name, the kerygma (from the Greek word kerugma), for the "solemn
proclamation" of the faith at the beginning of the Christian movement. They find traces of it in the
writings of the New Testament. Let us begin with a well-known passage from Paul's First Letter to
the Corinthians. It is very characteristic of these brief, narrative and at the same time highly doctrinal
formulas of faith. Paul, in chapter 15, recalls his preaching on the resurrection: "First of all, I have
passed on to you what I myself had received: Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures. He
was buried, he rose again on the third day, according to the Scriptures. He appeared to Cephas and
then to the Twelve. Paul then lists other witnesses to the apparitions up to him, "in the very last
place" (15:3-8). "The evocation of the death and resurrection of Jesus, whose two parts are
punctuated by the refrain according to the Scriptures, is the most explicit confession of archaic faith
in the entire New Testament, says the theologian and biblical scholar Michel Quesnel. Exegetes have
seen in it the first Christian creed. »
This text contains the essential elements of the Christian faith: the central event of Christ's death "for
the remission of sins" and of his resurrection "on the third day"; the fulfilment of the Scriptures; the
testimony of the group of apostles and in particular of Peter, the first of them. All these elements will
be taken up in the more developed creeds, from the Apostles' Symbol to the NiceneConstantinopolitan Creed.
Our commentary on the creed follows the logical order from the origin and Creation to the end of
time and eternal life. But let us not forget that this long story finds its ultimate meaning in its heart:
the mystery of Jesus who came in our flesh, dead and resurrected.
2) I believe
The first words of the credo are the English translation of the Latin credo. There are two parts in the
commentary of these words: one on the "I", the first person singular; the other on the verb "to
believe". Let us begin with the verb: we will see that it is only conjugated in the first person singular,
as a personal commitment.
What is to believe?
What is to believe? Essentially, it is trust. Before addressing the question of the meaning and place of
faith in the religious sphere, it is good to note the place of trust in social life. At the basis of life in
society there is a fundamental act of faith in people. Of course, trust must not become credulity and
naivety, but without the favorable presupposition of trust, I pour into paranoia, and life in society
soon turns out to be unbearable.
The relationship of trust goes even deeper. How can one continue to live without faith in life itself,
the life that is good and deserves to be received with gratitude? In the Book of Genesis, in the
account of creation, it says: "God saw everything that he had made. Behold, it was very good" (1:31).
To give, with God, our acquiescence to creation, to welcome it as a gift of God's love, as the
manifestation of his desire for a covenant with humanity, is the starting point of faith in God. In
welcoming life, we can make the first experience of faith in God, the origin of life.
A poor man cries out...
Faith is a relationship of trust from person to person. To say: I believe in God is to say that I put my
trust in him. The creed should not, therefore, be understood as a catalog of "truths to be believed,"
but as the call and prayer of the poor person who expresses his trust in the Lord: "A poor man cries
out, the Lord hears" (Psalm 33:7). Trust is one of the great themes of the psalms. "In peace I lie
down and sleep, for you, O Lord, have given me to dwell in trust" (4:9). The psalmist's trust rests on
God's fidelity, solid as a rock: "I have no rest in God alone, my salvation comes from him. He alone
is my rock, my salvation, my stronghold: I am unshakeable" (61:2-3).
The creed is never more true than when it is a cry to God, like that of Peter in the storm: "Lord,
help! We perish! "(Matthew 8:25). Or when it is whispered humbly, as in Peter's confession on the
day many of his disciples decided to leave Jesus: "To whom shall we go? You have the words of
eternal life" (John 6:68).
A personal commitment
The credo is said in the first person. In celebrations, Christians use the first person plural to say the
Lord's Prayer (Our Father), which is common and communal prayer, but they say the creed in the
first person singular (I believe), even when they say it or sing it in community: faith is commitment
of the person. At baptism, the question is put to the one who asks for baptism, and even if several
people are baptized at the same time, each one answers: "I believe".
3) I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
creator of heaven and earth
God is a "common name" that designates the deity or deities in religions. It is used in the singular or
plural, with or without capital letters. It is therefore a very general word. When young people who
are preparing for marriage are asked about the faith that explains their request for a religious
celebration, they sometimes answer: "We believe in God. "We must tell them that the Christian creed
is more precise, that we believe "in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth. What do
these ways of speaking about God mean?
God is Father
The Bible says that he is a father. Already in the Old Testament, God is sometimes called "Father.
Sometimes to say the origin: "Is this a way to treat the Lord, a foolish and unwise people? Is not he
your father, who gave you life?" (Deuteronomy 32:6). More often to express his merciful love: "Have
your tenderness for me been contained? Our Father is you! "(Isaiah 63:15-16).
Yet none of the prayers of Judaism at the time of Jesus addresses God by saying to him: Father,
while Jesus always uses Abba when he prays: an Aramaic word of tender familiarity. The Gospels say
that Jesus has a unique relationship with the Father: "All things have been given to me by my Father.
No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and he to
whom the Son is willing to reveal him" (Matthew 11:27 and Luke 10:22). But the Only-begotten Son
asks us to call God "our Father" (Matthew 6:9) and thus tells us that we are, in him, Jesus, sons of
To believe that God is Father is to live in trust. The son is at home in the house of the Father. You
did not receive the spirit of slaves to fall back into fear," Paul tells the Romans, "you received the
spirit of adopted sons, which makes us cry out, 'Abba! Father" (Rom 8:15). All the "parables of the
father" speak to us of trust: he welcomes the prodigal son; he gives good things to his children?
Repeating the first sentence of the creed helps us not to forget our origin: we receive from God the
gift of life, and from him again the rebirth of forgiveness.
God is almighty
Many Christians are uncomfortable when the Bible or liturgy evokes or invokes God's almighty
power. Perhaps because it leaves little room for human freedom. And because we fail to understand
why God, if he is almighty, tolerates evil and suffering.
In order to understand this word "omnipotence," it is indispensable to shake up the order of the
creed and to see already what we believe about Jesus. Paul, in the Letter to the Philippians, says that
Christ, "who is of divine condition, did not consider it a prey to grasp to be the equal of God. (....)
He stooped down, becoming obedient even to death, to death on a cross. This is why God has raised
him up in sovereignty and has conferred upon him the Name that is above all names...". (2,3-9). The
renunciation of the power of the "divine condition" and the passage through human weakness lead
to the "power of the Resurrection" (Philippians 3:10), to Christ's power to bring humanity with him
into life without end. On the cross, God's humility and weakness are fully revealed, but also,
paradoxically, God's glory and omnipotence.
God is creator
We can now go back to the origin: God's power that is revealed to all in his creation (Romans
1:20) is inseparable from love.
The Almighty Father is the creator. The first pages of the Bible say that God finds His
happiness in creating, in giving life. His power is not exercised in the order of human greatness, but
in the order of love. Everything in God is generosity and self-giving.
To believe in God the Creator is to recognize that we receive ourselves from another, that an
act of love is at the origin of our life. Through the love of my parents, it is the love of the Creator
that is at work. From the beginning and forever, I am not self-sufficient. This recognition of our
original dependence would be unbearable if we did not live it in gratitude: it is not enough to
recognize it, we must thank God who has been at work in our lives since the beginning. I recognize
that I come from God and I am grateful to him.
The God who gives life to his creation asks us to love life, to choose life with him: "You shall
choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, listening to his
voice and clinging to him" (Deuteronomy 30:19-20). Cardinal Pierre de Berulle said: "God loves the
earth, seeks the earth. I want to be converted not to heaven but to earth, and to seek Jesus Christ
there. "God loves his creation. In Jesus Christ, he chooses to come and live there.
4) and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
With this part of our creed, we arrive at the deepest part of the Christian mystery. This is also
the moment to remember that the mystery is not what is incomprehensible, but what we have never
finished understanding... [...].
Love makes these things
[...] One day when I was talking about this with a friend," says the theologian Romano Guardini, "he
told me: 'Love makes these things. These words may not help our intelligence much, but they speak
to our heart. Love leads to follies. Infinite love leads to the madness of the Incarnation - and to the
madness of the cross. This is what many of the texts used in the liturgy for Christmas say: "This is
what the invincible love of our God does" (Isaiah 9:6); "This is the tenderness of the heart of our
God: through this tenderness the star from above has visited us" (Luke 1:78).
Therefore it was not necessary for the only Son, "full of grace and truth," to come among us
in an exceptional way, with the power of the greatest potentates or the wealth of the most fortunate.
In the stable of Bethlehem, God manifests Himself in an ordinary way, without brilliance, in poverty,
humility, almost silence. Claudel used to say: "You have to speak loudly so that you can be heard.
You have to speak low so that you can be heard. "At Christmas, God speaks low: he speaks to the
God is at home when he comes to us
Incarnation is not without preparation. We must first remember that, just as the artist puts
much of himself into his work, God put much of himself into his creation. He created mankind in
his image, says the old book of Genesis (1:26). When he comes among us, he is not in a strange land.
He comes to his own home when he comes to ours.
It is yet another preparation for the Incarnation: during the long initiation of its holy history,
the Hebrew people discovered the closeness of God. The "All Other" is also the "All Nearby":
"What great nation whose gods are as close as the Lord our God is near to us whenever we invoke
him" (Deuteronomy 4:7).
God, in Jesus Christ, reveals Himself to be near. Jesus is a man like us. He is not an
apparition, not a man's appearance, but a man. First a child, then a little boy who had to learn to
walk, to speak and to read, to sing and to laugh? Who had to learn to pray! One of us. First a
carpenter, then an itinerant preacher, with a few friends. Drawing the wrath of the authorities of his
people and of Rome, and dying condemned ...
In Jesus, God shares our helplessness. I know that what I am saying here can make us jump.
But finally, look at the child in the crib: a child who needs to be carried, fed, thrown. A limited man,
simply because he is a man. The legions of angels do not protect him from the cold on Christmas
night. Nor from death on the cross.
Paths of humanization
Jesus reveals who God is: Emmanuel, which in Hebrew means "God with us". Not the
Almighty who decrees universal peace, but a peacemaker and a passionate advocate for justice, who
invites us to follow him. Jesus, the true man, leads us to follow him in the discovery of what a true
man is, on the paths of humanization...
The old theologians, the so-called "Fathers of the Church", used to say that God became
man to make us gods, to "divinize" us. Should it not also be said that he became man to "humanize"
5) He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried;
he descended into hell;
on the third day he rose again from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty;
from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
Cross of Christ, Passion of the Father
This is because, inasmuch as "there is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's
loved ones" (John 12:2), the cross is the moment of supreme revelation. The God of Christians is
not an "impassive" God. On the contrary, the passion of Christ manifests the Father's passion for
humanity. He is all generosity, self-giving, passionate love. Far from our spontaneous conceptions of
a God, distant, indifferent to the suffering and misfortunes of mankind, a spectator of Christ's cross
from the top of an inaccessible sky... "Who then is God to surrender himself losing at the hands of
man? A God close to us. And more than ever when we are in suffering and darkness.
The cross brings salvation to the world. This is a point on which the faith of many Christians
hesitates. We do not understand that the Father asks for the death of the Son to save us. Let us
remember that it is the Incarnation that saves us. Jesus did not become incarnate to die on the cross.
He died because he became incarnate, to go to the end of his Incarnation. By becoming incarnate, he
chose to face death, to be in solidarity with humanity until then. But he did not choose his way of
dying: it was we who imposed the cross upon him. The death of Jesus is not a death wanted ("If it is
possible that this chalice will depart from me," he said in the Garden of Olives), but a death
accepted: he thus reveals to us that there are more important things than keeping one's life to
oneself, selfishly, that there are human values and persons who deserve to be sacrificed one's life.
In this death, Jesus gives his life, in both senses of these words. His life is given: it is given
into the hands of men; it is given to humanity which receives the Spirit, the gift of life forever. Such
is the salvation that the cross brings us, inseparable from the resurrection in the totality of the
Paschal Mystery, the great passage from death to life. Jesus did not rise for himself alone, but for all
humanity. Where death culminates, life superabounds. Where murder, hatred and sin culminate,
forgiveness and love abound (Romans 5:30). This is the great turning point in human history: the just
of the just enters our history "full of noise and fury" and does all justice.
Risen for us
For Christ did not rise to a life on this side of death, limited in space and time. He has risen
in Life on the other side of death, beyond death, a life of presence in all places and at all times. "I am
with you always, until the end of time" (Matthew 28:20). He is present here and now. Not to shut us
in, but on the contrary to open us to new dimensions. It is possible for us to live - through baptism,
the Eucharist, reconciliation - in the risen Christ, to participate in his life.
[...] It is not possible to live in Christ without being united to all those he carries within him.
A selfish Christian, a resurrected man closed in on himself, is a contradiction in terms.
From the mysterious Easter experiences made by the disciples, we know above all the consequences:
discouraged men who denied, who hid, came out, full of courage and strength, animated - they will
say - by a Spirit stronger than their minds and a force beyond their strength. They go out, from the
squares of Jerusalem to the agora of Athens and the Roman forum, spreading the rumor: Christ is
risen! We live from this impulse, we who experience in ourselves the "fruits of the Spirit" - the very
ones described in the Resurrection stories: peace, certainty of forgiveness, joy, trust, understanding
of the Scriptures, strength... We are witnesses that this current of life from the depths of the ages is
still at work, that the Spirit animates our Church, the body of the Risen One, that he is alive, in us, to
lead us out of our routines and out of the death of sin.
6) I believe in the Holy Spirit
The word "Trinity" does not appear in the creed. It runs through the history of salvation
which is the progressive revelation of a Triune God. God is Father: he speaks of his love in creation
and in the Covenant. God is Son: he came to reveal to us, through his Incarnation, death and
resurrection, the Father's love for humanity. This Son lives in the Spirit and, in his name, the Father
sends the Spirit at Pentecost.
The Holy Spirit in the Light of Easter
We must speak of the Holy Spirit in the light of Easter: the coming of the Spirit to the Upper
Room (Acts of the Apostles 2:1-4) is an Easter apparition, a manifestation of the risen Jesus.
Without a doubt, Jesus does not appear there by taking on the physical appearances of his pre-Easter
humanity, as in his apparitions to the disciples, the apostles or the holy women. But at Pentecost,
what St. Paul calls "the power of the Resurrection" is manifested. Jesus had said: "I will pray to the
Father. He will give you another defender who will remain with you forever. He is the Spirit of
truth" (John 14:16-17). The gift of the Spirit is a manifestation of the resurrected Jesus who keeps his
The Gospels say that the Spirit accompanies Jesus and guides him on his journey. From the
beginning, he is present in the proclamation to Mary (Luke 1:35). He is there at baptism (Matthew
3:16 and parallels). The Spirit leads Jesus to the desert and assists him in temptations. In the
synagogue of Nazareth, Jesus announces that the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled in him: "The Spirit of
the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor..." (Isaiah
2:16). (Luke 4:16). On the return of the disciples sent on mission, Jesus "exults under the action of
the Holy Spirit" and praises the Father who revealed to the little ones the mystery of his relationship
with his Father (Luke 10:21-22).
Jesus himself speaks of the Holy Spirit. Especially in the "discourse after the Last Supper"
(John 14-17) where he announces the coming of the Spirit into the hearts of the faithful and the
Spirit's assistance to the apostles. He will remind you of my words, Jesus says, he will make you
understand all that you cannot yet grasp. He will lead you to the whole truth. He will be your
"defender" before the court of men...
At the birth of the Church
So the apostles and disciples saw and heard Jesus speaking of his Father as one of the family.
They heard him speak of the Spirit who was leading his life and who would one day lead theirs, when
they had received him from the Father .
They were not only the outward witnesses of Jesus' life of love with his Father in the Spirit, but they
themselves experienced it inwardly. They became sons in the Son: "The proof that you are sons is
that God has sent into our hearts the Spirit of his Son who cries out: Abba, Father! "says Paul to the
Galatians (4:6). They lived in their own lives the resurrection and life in the Spirit. The Spirit was in
them the power of Pentecost beyond their own strength, reminding them of the words of Jesus,
leading them through the events of their lives and along the paths of the world. In them: God is
more intimate to me than I am (intimior intimo meo), says St. Augustine, God in my heart. This is
how the mystery of the Trinity is announced: not by learned concepts, but by an interior experience.
The Spirit is at work in our hearts. He animates the Church. Without him, without his
strength and energy, nothing can be understood of the tremendous expansion of the first Christian
communities. These apostles, very ordinary, rather cowardly and fearful, where do they find this
strength, this courage, these warm and convincing words? […]
7) I believe in the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints
The creed names the Church immediately after the article on the Holy Spirit. What follows
the article on the Spirit develops what we believe about the work of the Spirit in the world: he works
in the hearts of men; he animates the Church. The Church is, as one of the prefaces of the Roman
missal says, "the Temple of the Spirit.
The Church of Pentecost
Many Catholics, if asked the question: "Did Jesus want to found the Church? "they would
undoubtedly answer in the affirmative. They would quote, for example, the words to Peter: "You are
Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. "(Matthew 16:18). In fact, the Church was not born,
ready-made and structured, of the will of Jesus. A group of men and women gathered around him.
Some of them, closer to him, were associated with his life as an itinerant preacher. They
accompanied Jesus and saw his acts and gestures in action. They heard his words, his teaching, his
parables. After his death on the cross, these men - "the twelve," including the first, Peter - were
witnesses to the resurrected Jesus. They experienced the power of the Spirit that drove them along
the roads of the world and reminded them of Jesus' words and actions. Thus the Church was born.
Jesus did not want to found the Church, but he left to his people, on the day after his
Ascension, at the end of his visible presence with them, a threefold heritage that will give the Church
to build itself: - a group (the twelve); - his Word (the living memory of his words and deeds); - the
Holy Spirit .
Christians must not forget anything of this heritage. To keep only the group and its leader to
explain the origin of the Church is to make it a human organization, to forget that it is "under the
Gospel", that it must constantly reform itself to be faithful to Christ, listening to the Spirit who calls
it every day to new births. Conversely, to forget the group is to break the thread of the tradition that
came from the apostles and deliver Christian communities to indiscriminate inspiration. The same
applies to the other elements of our triple heritage.
One, holy, catholic and apostolic
The symbol of the Apostles says of the Church that she is holy and catholic. The NiceneConstantinopolitan creed adds two qualitative elements: she is one and apostolic.
The Church is apostolic. She intends to faithfully keep the faith that came from the Apostles.
The concern to maintain, through the centuries, the "apostolic succession" by the continuous
transmission of the office of bishops, successors of the apostles, is both a sign and a means of this
fidelity. A fidelity that does not lead to immobility: the Church must be faithful to the tradition of
invention that comes to her from the apostles. Since the apostles must have found in the words of
Christ, in meditation of the Scriptures and under the action of the Spirit, the ways of the Church to
bring the Christian message to men, we must be inventive in the service of the Gospel.
The Church is holy. Of course, Christians know that they are a people of sinners! But we also
believe that God, who "is the only saint," wants us, through the Church's sacraments, to share in her
holiness. Christ loved the Church," Paul told the Ephesians. He gave himself up for her. He wanted
to make her holy by purifying her with the bath of water that a word accompanies. For he wanted to
present her to himself shining, without spot or wrinkle or blemish, but holy and blameless" (5:27).
This holiness given to the Church asks Christians to live up to what they are.
The Church is one: it is a fact and it is a task. A fact: already all Christians are united in the
body of Christ. They have "one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all" (Ephesians
4:5). But it is also a task, inasmuch as divisions have crept into the one Church. For a long time these
divisions have been experienced in a very conflictual way. They have even been at the origin of
persecutions and wars of religion. However, for a little more than 100 years, ecumenical dialogues
and prayers for unity have multiplied. Important advances have been made in understanding and
friendship between churches. No Christian is exempt from the concern for unity.
The Church is Catholic. One of the unfortunate consequences of the disunity of Christians has been
the use by a single denomination of one of the characteristics of the Church belonging to all: "the
Catholic Church," "the Orthodox Church," "evangelical" Protestantism, while all the Churches claim
to be Orthodox (keeping "right doctrine"), Catholic (universal), Evangelical (faithful to the Gospel).
This reminder allows us to understand what it means to say: "I believe in the Holy Catholic Church.
Not "I have faith in the Catholic Church to the exclusion of others," but I have faith in the
"catholicity" of the Church. She is universal: she speaks to all men, to the whole universe; she holds
from her Lord all that is necessary for the salvation of all; no one is excluded from this salvation; she
refuses "heresies," that is, according to the etymology, the "particular opinions" of those who do not
keep the whole deposit of faith.
The communion of saints
To understand this expression, we must return to the vocabulary of the early Christians. For
them, the "saints" were all the baptized, sanctified by their baptism and communicating in the
Eucharist. United in the body of Christ, all Christians are in solidarity in goodness and love. They
share the gifts of all. What we have received has not been given for us alone, but for many. And we
can share the gifts received by many others. The Christian is responsible for many people known or
unknown to him. If his friendship and charity are warm, many will come to warm themselves by this
fire and light this light.
Finally, let us remember that the "communion of saints" is first of all union and communion
in Christ who makes us saints. We do not enter the Assembly of Saints by our merits, but by the
grace of our baptism. Solidarity, shared love and generosity are natural ways of living "in Christ.
8) I believe in the forgiveness of sins....
Much has been said about the responsibility of the Christian to live solidarity, justice and
mercy, to live up to what has been given to him, to be a member of the "assembly of saints. Reading
this, some may have found the burden unbearable. Where is the "meek and humble-hearted" Christ
who invites all "those who labor under the burden to come to him" (Matthew 11:28-29)! This is the
time to hear the "Good News": we believe in the mercy of God who forgives.
The Gospel, "Sentence of Acquittal".
The "Good News", the Gospel, is first of all the proclamation of forgiveness, the "sentence
of acquittal". Throughout his encounters, Jesus forgives. From the beginning of Jesus' public life, it is
a question of healing and forgiveness. In Capernaum, a paralytic is brought to him. He had to be
brought through the roof because of the large crowd. Jesus announced to him: "My child, your sins
are forgiven," before saying: "Arise" (Mark 2:5). Rise: one of the words to speak of the resurrection!
Jesus raises up, heals, forgives, resurrects. He restores health and gives salvation. He forgives sins.
Let us recall again, among so many other announcements of forgiveness, the scene of the
adulterous woman. She has been brought to Jesus so that he too, conforming to the "Law of Moses",
would condemn her to stoning. The rest is well known: "Let him among you who is without sin cast
the first stone," Jesus said to the accusers. And when all have departed: "Neither do I condemn you.
Go, and from now on sin no more" (John 8:1-11).
Finally, when he himself is a victim on the cross, Jesus prays: "Father, forgive them, for they
know not what they do" (Luke 23:33). And once again he announces forgiveness to the "good thief"
Forgiveness also holds a great place in Jesus' teaching. Let us at least mention the parable of
the prodigal son in which forgiveness is presented as a resurrection, a return to life: "My son was
dead and has come back to life" (Luke 15:11-32).
The Sacraments of Forgiveness
It is therefore normal that the risen Jesus entrusted his disciples with the mission of
announcing forgiveness and pronouncing the "sentence of acquittal" in his name. How should the
apostles exercise this ministry? Go," says Jesus, "and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in
the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19).
The symbol of the apostles says, "I believe in the remission of sins. We can hear this phrase
in the light of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan creed: I believe "in one baptism for the remission of
sins. The Church's sacraments take up Christ's gestures. Baptism for the remission of sins is the
sacrament of forgiveness.
For a long time, he was the only one. One could not imagine celebrating it several times: the
Christian is baptized "once for all", just as Christ died "once for all" (Romans 6:10). But how could
we not practice mercy towards the baptized who, after having committed a serious and public fault,
wished to regain their place in the Church? The question arose, in particular, for those who had
renounced their faith during persecutions. Slowly and in forms that have varied over the centuries,
the sacrament of reconciliation and forgiveness was put in place: a "second baptism", "laborious"
this one, say the theologians of the first centuries, "no longer in water, but in tears".
Other sacraments celebrate God's mercy and his work of forgiveness in Jesus Christ. The
Eucharist is, under the signs of bread and wine, the memorial of Christ's sacrifice, body given up and
blood shed for the salvation of "the many. The Sacrament of the Sick is also a celebration of
The Christian recognizes that he is a sinner. When he presents himself before the God of
mercy, his prayer is that of the publican in the parable: "Have mercy on me, a sinner" (Luke 18:13).
But his trust is total: the parable tells him that he is forgiven. And the whole Gospel confirms the
"sentence of acquittal.
9) I believe in the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting,
To talk about eternal life, it is therefore best to talk about the experiences of our everyday
life. Haven't we all experienced warm encounters, shared friendships, feast days, discoveries of
beauty, love, happiness? In "this everyday existence", moments that we wish would last forever?
An old story told in the Hasidic communities can enlighten us. A man, having arrived in paradise,
"remains insensitive to his delights". Here he is complaining and grumbling: "Well, it was worth
making such a fuss about paradise! ». He hadn't learned what the fire of ecstasy is, says the story. He
was sent back to earth to learn from a master what the fire of ecstasy is.
Let's continue this story. The Gospel says, for example, "Make friends who will welcome you
into the eternal abodes. A man who does not know what friendship is could be disappointed when
he arrives in the house of eternal friendship. We must send him back to earth: let him make friends!
And so more beatitudes: it is here and now that we must discover the taste of them, experience the
happiness that comes from mercy, forgiveness, the service of justice and peace....
Risen with Christ
Saint Paul affirms that the Christian, through his baptism, participates in the resurrection of
Jesus, even if this too "does not yet appear": "You were buried with Christ in baptism, and have risen
with him, because you believed in the power of God who raised him from the dead" (Colossians
2:12). We can already lead "new life" and thus share endless life with Christ.
Despite this clear statement in Scripture, the words of the creed: "I believe in the resurrection
of the flesh" are surprising. The human experience of the degradation of bodies in the earth
contradicts the conviction expressed by these words. It is that the word flesh (in Basar Hebrew) must
be given the meaning it has in the Bible. It refers to the whole human being, so the word can be used
as a substitute for a personal pronoun. When a Hebrew says "my flesh," he may mean "I": "My flesh
desires you," says the psalmist. The expression "resurrection of the flesh" means, therefore, that for
the Christian faith it is the whole man who participates in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Not a kind
of evanescent double, not a "happy shadow", as in Gluck's opera, but the person with what makes
him or her human: the ability to create and communicate, the joy of living and the happiness of
loving and being loved.
How does the Bible speak of the "body" of the resurrection? Paul explicitly asks the question in the
First Letter to the Corinthians: "How do the dead rise? With what body do they return? (15,35). In
response, Paul, like Jesus in the Gospel according to John (12:24), uses the comparison of the grains
of wheat sown in the ground: "What you sow comes to life only if you die," he says (15:37). The
body put in the ground is transformed. A radical transformation that mysteriously began with our
baptism: "We have already received the first gifts of the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead," says
a preface to our Masses, "and we live in the hope that the Paschal Mystery will be fulfilled in us. »
The last word of the creed, amen, is one of the few words that have been passed in Hebrew
in the New Testament and in Christian liturgies. What does it mean? From its root, which says
solidity, firmness, that which stands firm, that which can be trusted, are composed of many words
such as faith, trust, fidelity, security, that which is lasting.
Jesus uses the word amen and repeats it to speak a solemnly affirmed truth: "Amen, amen, I
say to you. Used at the end of a prayer, the word says trust in God's faithfulness who does not
remain deaf to the supplication of the faithful. After a solemn proclamation, the word confirms: This
Thus the entire Christian creed is placed between the "I believe" at the beginning and the
"amen" ("it is true, I believe") which is the last word. Between the personal commitment of the
beginning and the ratification of the end. And the two words that frame the proclamation of the
Christian faith say, "each one in his own language," that our adherence to the faith rests on trust in
God's faithfulness. Or, to put it better, that our faith is nothing other than this very trust.
We said, at the beginning of this brief commentary, that our creed has a history. We must
recall, at the end, that our creed is a history: that of God's Covenant with men, that of the
progressive revelation of God in the history of Israel, that of the Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ,
that of the experience of the Church living by the Spirit of Pentecost... To say amen at the end of the
creed is to inscribe ourselves personally in holy history, the history of God's Covenant with men. It
means that we share the faith of all those who, throughout history, "have believed in love.
Yes, "we have recognized the love that God has for us and we have believed in it" (1 John
4:16). All parts of the creed say and repeat this faith and trust. We believe that God is a merciful and
loving Father. We believe that His creation is a work of love. We believe that he reveals himself to us
in Jesus Christ as a close and loving God. We believe that the cross fully reveals God's love for
humanity. We believe that the Spirit, the bond of love between the Father and the Son, animates the
Church and works in the hearts of men. We believe that, out of love, the Lord wants us to share in
his endless life. Amen.
Automatic translation from the French by deepl.