It’s Athanasian Creed Sunday, even if it is on a Saturday. What’s the Athanasian Creed, you ask? It is a Christian statement of belief focused on Trinitarian doctrine (the belief in the doctrine of the trinity ~ three Gods as one … or not … or … or … or…) and Christology (the nature of Christ). There are two other creeds on which most of Christianity bases its faith, The Apostles’ Creed, and The Nicene Creed. They are much shorter and more comprehensible than today’s lesson.
The Athanasian Creed is long, long, long. It contains 657 words, give or take a few depending on the language in which it is written. Add 300 persons at a church service who mumble and cry or try to say it quickly to ‘get it over with’ but add a dash of pastor who speaks at a slower pace for those who are easily exasperated and it takes just over four (4) minutes to declare it. Here is an excerpt, which is about one/sixth of what we read (once a year).
…And yet they are not three Eternals, but one Eternal. As there are not three Uncreated nor three Incomprehensibles, but one Uncreated and one Incomprehensible. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Ghost almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties, but one Almighty. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords, but one Lord…
You can see why church members might pick this particular Sunday to ‘forget’ to set their alarm clocks the night before. No doubt there have been complaints by the laity about its length and confusing nature. As a result, churches have chopped it apart and use parts of it for read-and-response segments dotted throughout the liturgy. Much of it has been left unused now but before you accuse your pastor or synod of abandoning church doctrine, just take note that you are welcome to find a version of it and read it at your leisure. It will make more sense to you if you can take your time and read it in bits and pieces. Is it exciting reading? To most people, no. Is it easy to understand? No, but it is still important to understand that God, Jesus and The Holy Ghost are One Being but not One Being at the same time. As I say on occasion,
We aren’t meant to understand everything concerning God; He is a mystery, but that’s what faith is all about, believing by trusting.
Don’t get angry if you don’t fathom all of it (it’s OK). Don’t accuse The Church of purposeful befuddlement (it isn’t). Don’t wag your finger at your pastor thinking he’s trying to bore you to Heaven (he’s not). Just do your best, the same way you do your best to love your neighbor as yourself. Sometimes you fail but you keep on keepin’ on. Right?