Today is Trinity Sunday, and so it is appropriate to review the Athanasian Creed, which arose at a time of bitter confusion and discord in the Catholic Church, much like today, actually. The Creed arose from the Council of Alexandria in or about the year 361 which was presided over by St. Athanasius.
The Athanasian Creed is a perfect example of how the Holy Spirit inspires the Church to strengthen and clarify, but never change, its teachings in response to the various heresies that break out from time to time. The Arian heresy had nearly destroyed the Church and Athanasius himself was persecuted for simply holding to the truth. But eventually, God purified His Church and the truth prevailed. The Athanasian Creed is thus a clarification of the eternal, unchanging dogma of the Faith.
THE ATHANASIAN CREED
Whoever wills to be in a state of salvation, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith, which except everyone shall have kept whole and undefiled without doubt he will perish eternally.
Now the Catholic Faith is that we worship One God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the Persons nor dividing the substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, another of the Holy Spirit. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, is One, the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal.
Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit; the Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated; the Father infinite, the Son infinite, and the Holy Spirit infinite; the Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal.
And yet not three eternals but one eternal, as also not three infinites, nor three uncreated, but one uncreated, and one infinite. So, likewise, the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty; and yet not three almighties but one almighty.So the Father is God, the Son God, and the Holy Spirit God; and yet not three Gods but one God. So the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord; and yet not three Lords but one Lord.
For like as we are compelled by Christian truth to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be both God and Lord; so are we forbidden by the Catholic religion to say, there be three Gods or three Lords. The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone, not made nor created but begotten. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and the Son, not made nor created nor begotten but proceeding.
So there is one Father not three Fathers, one Son not three Sons, and one Holy Spirit not three Holy Spirits. And in this Trinity there is nothing before or after, nothing greater or less, but the whole three Persons are coeternal together and coequal. So that in all things, as is aforesaid, the trinity in Unity and the Unity in Trinity is to be worshipped. He therefore who wills to be in a state of salvation, let him think thus of the Trinity.
But it is necessary to eternal salvation that he also believe faithfully the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. The right faith therefore is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man. He is God of the substance of the Father begotten before the worlds, and He is man of the substance of His mother born in the world; perfect God, perfect man subsisting of a reasoning soul and human flesh; equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, inferior to the Father as touching His Manhood. Who although He be God and Man yet He is not two but one Christ; one however not by conversion of the Godhead in the flesh, but by taking of the Manhood in God; one altogether not by confusion of substance but by unity of Person.
For as the reasoning soul and flesh is one man, so God and Man is one Christ. Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again from the dead, ascended into heaven, sits at the right hand of the Father, from whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies and shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life eternal, and they who indeed have done evil into eternal fire.
This is the Catholic Faith, which except a man shall have believed faithfully and firmly he cannot be in a state of salvation.
Most copies of the Athanasian Creed today represent the term, “Catholic Faith” uncapitalized in order to stress that it refers to the universal Christian church. This is incorrect. There was no protestant “faith” at that time. There was only the one, holy Catholic Faith and that is a fact not open to dispute. Today, more than ever, we need to reaffirm the beautiful old creed of our Church.
Extra ecclesiam nulla salus. Outside the Church there is no salvation. This dogmatic statement is based on the closing statement in the above Athanasian Creed, “This is the Catholic Faith, which except a man shall have believed faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved.” It is a good antidote to those voices stridently claiming that as long as one “does good”, they will be saved. In diverse places recently, some have opined that anyone who states that non-Catholics are not saved is lacking in charity. In the light of the Athanasian Creed, However, it is a serious lack of charity to deny the truth of the Faith. Unless we teach the fulness of the Faith, how can others accept it and be saved?
At this morning’s Mass for Trinity Sunday, our Gospel is from Matthew 28, 18-20:
“At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: All power is given to Me in Heaven and on earth. Going therefore, teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.”
Thus, with a minimum of words, Our Lord states some essential items of the faith:
† He clearly establishes His divinity: “All power is given to Me”.
† “Teach all nations”, that is, He establishes the teaching magisterium of the Church. Note that He is not instructing them to print Bibles and distribute them for each man to interpret themselves.
† “Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost”. In this, He establishes the first and most essential sacrament and also states the foundation of our Catholic faith, belief in the triune God.
† “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” This reinforces the teaching authority of the Church, and also proof that faith alone is not sufficient for salvation.
† “I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.” Christ will be with the Church through all ages. This is the basis for our hope, even in perilous times like these. He is with us and will never leave us.
Father Leonard Goffine, in his book, The Church’s Year, has this lovely prayer for Trinity Sunday;
O incomprehensible, Triune God! O abyss of wisdom, power, and goodness! To Thee all glory and adoration! In Thee I lose myself; I cannot contain Thee, do Thou, contain me. I believe in Thee, though I cannot comprehend Thee; do Thou increase my faith; I hope in Thee, for Thou art the source of all good; do Thou enliven my hope; I love Thee, because Thou art worthy, of all love; do Thou inflame ever more my love, that in Thy love I may live and die. Amen.
Today, the Feast of the Holy Trinity is an excellent time to start a new Rosary Crusade. We need to carry our Rosary Crusade through to October 13th praying for Our Lady to intercede for the Holy Trinity to enlighten our Pope and Bishops to repent, turn from their sins, stop the scandals and renew their faith so that they can once again be the true shepherds they were consecrated to be.
Won’t you please join me? And please, spread the word! Our hierarchy need prayers and reparatory sacrifices above all else that we can do for them.
Pray the Rosary and confound the devil!
~ evensong ~