Because if the Christ is …

Because if the Christ is an archetype of the Self, when we pray to Christ we are still only talking to ourselves! But if the Self is an archetype of the Christ, when we pray to Christ, we are connected with the Word of God, which set the whole universe up!

As you know, we are in a period of ‘sanctioned experiment’. Part of this experiment is to try to help the members of the congregation to take up their parts in the Eucharist more fully. This also involves helping them to move closer together (that is part of the reason we have taken out some pews), and to be a little less shy in singing and participating. This is also why we have the Taizé song at the beginning too.

The problem then arises, that if this is an important thing to do, it means taking more time from the beginning of the service. In order to keep the Eucharist to a reasonable length, we have to find ways of saving time elsewhere. There are five places where this might be possible. (1) Shorter sermons (I’m aware of this and working on it, within the bounds of the other need to offer you some ‘meat’ on Sundays and not just as I have often heard it said ‘Just say a ‘few words on the Gospel, Father’). (2) We are working on shortening the intercessions (again with the proviso that there is enough time for us really to be God’s priestly people, praying for the World here). (3) We are using shorter forms of the Great Prayer of thanksgiving where possible (4) I have suggested singing four verses of each hymn only and (5) Shorter versions of the creed.

The suggestion about four verses of the hymn did not meet with general approval when it was suggested, and has not been adopted. But I have had some comments about the change to the creed. So let me say at the outset that II have no particular case to make about one form of the creed or other. I am happy to use any ‘authorised form’ as it appears in the ‘Common Worship’ Book, as I ‘signed up’ to do at my institution.

But the thing that I would like to reflect on is the attachment to the Nicene creed. I mention this because for many other parts of the Eucharist we have alternatives, especially the great prayer of Thanksgiving, or the intercessions, or the invitation to confession (and confession itself) which are accepted as part of how we ‘ring the changes’ within the given framework of the Eucharist.

Within my mind I picture these options as an array of possibilities at any given moment. It may seem strange at first, but the choice of words for the creed is another part of this set of options.

The other thing that surprises me about some responses to the creed is that normally, I have heard the opposite!! In over 30 years of being a priest, the most common response to the Nicene Creed that I have heard is ‘Why do we have to have that thing. I don’t understand at all why they have this ‘God from God, light from light stuff! What does it mean to say ‘Begotten not made?’ Some people blithely say ‘I believe in One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church’, and then go off to another congregation when this one does something they don’t like. So much for catholicity (inclusiveness)!’

So there are some things to say about the Nicene creed. First, if we are going to use it, then this must be accompanied b y the understanding that this longer form will make the Eucharist go longer.

Second, it is not legitimate to want to go back to the Nicene creed simply because it is a liturgical security blanket: ‘It is what we are used to’. In a period of ‘sanctioned experiment’ or adventure, we agree to leave behind our security for a moment, in order to have an adventure. What is more, the creed ought to function more than another part of the ‘what we are used to apparatus’.
It is also important to say that the Nicene creed is kept in regular use on a Sunday as part of our possible range of texts. Here is why. The Salvation Army and the Quakers for their own reasons do not have sacraments. When questioned, the Salvation Army representatives say ‘Well the whole of life is a sacrament’ I reply, ‘This is like saying ‘it should be everyone’s job all the time’. Unless it is somebody’s job, some of the time, it ends up being nobody’s job any of the time. The same is true for sacraments. Unless some one somewhere is keeping specific sacraments, then the idea of what a sacrament is will be lost. So it will not be possible to say ‘the whole of life is a sacrament’. It’s like asking the fish to describe water. What’s water, says the fish?. It is only by comparison (when the fish is taken out of water) that a consciousness of what kind of a world surrounds us is possible.

So the use of other authorised forms of creed is only useful against the background of one or two comprehensive statements.

You recall that when I wrote about the Eucharist as a ‘bed time story’ or a ‘football game’, the distinction I was making was between something that comforts us before we go to bed, and something that is ‘at stake’: what happens to us when we fall into the hands of the living God! What this period of sanctioned experiment is designed to do is to safeguard and keep the power of the Eucharist to bring us into the presence of the living God: to help us to look and feel more like the Body of Christ in the power of the Spirit. It is not legitimate to keep a form of the creed that sends us to sleep, rather than one that wakes us up to what it is we might be prepared to die for.

Here is a true story about why I think it is important that we keep and use the Nicene creed from time to time.

I was participating in a seminar on ‘Faith Development’. The teacher had, for the duration of the semester invited a Jungian Analyst to participate as a co-teacher for this course. One of the big ideas in Jungian thought is that of ‘Archetype’. An archetype is a ‘..model of people, behaviour or personality. Jung suggested that these models are innate, universal and hereditary. Archetypes are unlearned and act to organize how we experience certain things.’ OK. So the Jungian at one point, speaking about Jesus says ‘Well the ‘Christ’ is an archetype of the ‘Self’. I was shocked. I said ‘Surely the ‘Self’ is an archetype of  ‘The Christ’? She replied ‘Does it matter?’ I replied ‘It does. Because if the Christ is an archetype of the Self, when we pray to Christ we are still only talking to ourselves! But if the Self is an archetype of the Christ, when we pray to Christ, we are connected with the Word of God, which set the whole universe up! “ That’s why for my money we need the Nicene creed!

So although there are a number of possible legitimate creeds that we can say, the Nicene creed is a foundation document that we really need. My story tells you why this is so for me.
Here is a challenge for you: The Nicene creed was also written to guard and keep something very special in the life of the whole Church (Church Catholic). What was it? Specifically, What is it about the Nicene creed that is important for you?


About frpaulsblog

Paul Dalzell is now a semi-retired priest living in Alexandra, Australia
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