TRINITY as revealed in the Creed by Sr. Elizabeth Johnson
For years I have found myself wondering what Catholics receive from the recitation of the Creed at Mass. Most of my experience is of people rattling through the Creed perfunctorily. Therefore I found it fascinating that in a talk to the two major organizations of women (LCWR) and men (CMSM), Sister Elizabeth Johnson gave a talk titled “The Banquet of Faith” (8/2/2008) This talk was structured around the Creed.
She began with a brief look at the opening words “We believe”. She then reflected on the creed’s three affirmations 1) “We believe in one God”; 2) “We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ”; 3) “We believe in the Holy Spirit”. The talk in written form consists of 8 single space pages. But I doubt very much whether anyone was looking at their watch as she proceeded. I will simply quote some of her reflections.
1)“We believe in one God” creator of heaven and earth of all things visible and
invisible. “In the thirteenth century, the Franciscan theologian Bonaventure observed this sharply: ‘Whoever is not enlightened by the splendor of created things is blind; whoever is not aroused by the sound of their voice is deaf; whoever does not praise God for all these creatures is mute; whoever after so much evidence does not recognize the Maker of all thing, is an idiot.’ This relationship of creation sets up the sacramental principle, whereby God’s gracious presence is communicated through visible things.
I think Elizabeth must have already in 2008 been doing research for the book that came out in March of 2014, Ask the Beasts: Darwin and the God of Love. She spends extensive time and space telling of various contemporary scientific discoveries that bring exciting insights about creation and its Maker. She then states, “When theology dialogues with this scientific story, at least two major insights emerge. First, we see that the Maker of heaven and earth is still in business…. This story of continuous creative action leads to a second crucial realization. Far from being created merely as an instrument to serve human needs, the natural world enjoys its own intrinsic value.
2)“We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ.” …When theology dialogues with the
gospel story of Jesus, at least two major insights emerge. First the following of Jesus raises up a terrific countercultural challenge. …This reading of the ministry of Jesus and its implications is giving rise in theology to a second insight regarding his death. One of the worst theological ideas to take hold about this event is that God needed and even wanted the sacrifice of Jesus’ death in order to forgive human sin. This idea gained legs in the 11th century when the theologian Anselm of Canterbury crafted the so-called satisfaction theory to prove the necessity of the cross….Today, criticisms of this idea that God required the death of Jesus in order to forgive sin are many. Among them: it makes it seem that the main purpose of Jesus’ coming was to die, thus diminishing the importance of his ministry and ignoring the resurrection.”
3)“We believe in the Holy Spirit” …When theology dialogues with this
neglected tradition of the life giving Spirit, many insights emerge. We focus here on two, having to do with anger and grief. Regarding the first, to zero in on our own situation, I will focus on the church.” She illustrates with the example of what happened to moral theologian Charles Curran who was condemned as a Catholic theologian and fired from his faculty position. She states, “Forgiving does not mean condoning harmful action, or ceasing to criticize and resist them. But it does mean tapping into a wellspring of compassion that encompasses the hurt and sucks the venom out, so we can go forward making a positive contribution, without hatred.” (In March 2011 the USCCB Committee on Doctrine condemned her book Quest for the Living God. ) “A second insight from this course of the feast addresses our grief, grief at the loss of beloved persons, of personal energies, of cherished patterns of life. …In the end, the Spirit moves again in a new act of creation that carries persons through their earthly perishing into new life. …hope in eternal life for oneself, others, and the whole cosmos is not some curiosity tacked on as an appendage to faith, but is faith in the one living God brought to its radical conclusion.
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