My question is how many of us know who Arius was and do we pray the Nicene Creed as an answer to Arius or to express that God is a creator as an artist is a creator?
I will give a brief overview of Arianism. Then I will consider what the Creed might mean to us today.
Early Christian thinkers reflected on the meaning of who Christ was and formulated their understanding in the early councils. Often, this was because someone stated opinions which were not in accord with traditional teaching.
One such person was Arius (c.250-336), a priest from Alexandria who expressed his belief that the Son of God was not eternal but was created by the Father from nothing. Therefore, he denied the true divinity of Christ, believing that Christ's dignity as Son of God was given him by the Father because of his future righteousness. Although his theory was condemned in 320, it continued to spread.
Emperor Constantine, concerned for peace in his empire, called a council at Nicaea in 325 to settle the issue. Under the leadership of Athanasius (c.296-373), this council professed the Church's belief that the Father and the Son were eternal and equal and of the same substance. This didn't completely settle the issue as Constantine wavered.
His successor openly supported Arian belief but after his death in 361, Arianism began to lose influence. The final decision of orthodox belief came with the Council of Constantinople in 381.
It is interesting to note that in this month of January, we celebrate the feasts of Basil the Great (c.330-79) and Gregory Nazianzen (329-89). They, along with Athanasius, all three bishops, saints and doctors of the Church, defended Church teaching on Christ's divinity against the Arians.
When Arianism is a thing of the past, why express our faith through this ancient Creed?
Our Christian brothers and sisters continue to die for their faith in many parts of the world. Here at home, perhaps more than ever, the belief in God or even the existence of Jesus Christ are under attack. Perhaps more than ever, we need to reflect on the meaning of what we are saying and give it our full assent at Mass and by our lives. By professing our faith and meaning it, we are responding to the challenges of our times.
When we say "I believe," we express our response to God who has given us Christ as saviour and fullness of life in Christ. Words are precious as they create relationships and help shape our understanding of ourselves and the world.
However, our faith is not to be declared only in words but also in the way we live our lives. Only then are we truly acknowledging God as Creator, Christ as Redeemer and the Holy Spirit as Sanctifier.
Today, when calamities occur on a large scale throughout the world and movies depict end-of-the-world themes, people lose hope. They may try to escape to an imaginary world in movies and books instead of looking to God who is with us, to the Spirit who dwells in our hearts.
We can allow the Holy Spirit to stir and transform our hearts. The Scriptures are full of God's heart language - love, mercy, forgiveness, peace, joy. We can tune our ears to allow the Holy Spirit to teach us heart language in our daily lives. Then, we can be Christ to the world.
We can create an attitude of caring, instead of neglect for others, the poor, our neighbour. We can listen to others and see a reality bigger than our own, instead of forming judgmental attitudes which block others' path to God. We can acknowledge and rejoice in others' gifts rather than envying them.
Which shall we choose to represent the face of Christ to the world?
We can be the Magi's star that lights the darkness and opens up new paths for others. We can fan the spark of divine life within us into a flame of love and fan that flame in others' lives.
Jesus sent his disciples to witness to God with their lives. "See how they love one another," others said of the early Christians.
We, too, are sent forth to witness to the love and presence of God in our world. Our corner of the world can become a better place because of us. Is our belief strong enough to take up the challenge today?
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