One of the books I’m currently reading, in anticipation of a Mid-Day Reflection I and my friend and colleague Mark Osler will be offering at the University of St. Thomas next month on the subject of creeds, is Joan Chittister’s In Search of Belief. I have benefitted from several books written by Chittister and so was interested in her effort to explain what the various clauses in the Apostles’ Creed mean to her.
In the chapter titled, “I Believe in Jesus Christ…”, Chittister observes that Jesus asked his disciples two questions on this subject: “Whom do others say that I am?” and “And whom do you say I am?” Distinguishing the two, Chittister writes: “The first question is the substance of theological seminars, and someone should go on asking it, of course. But the second question is the one meant for me that no one but I can answer.”
The distinction is an important one. As Chittister recognizes, the theological question needs to be asked and it is helpful for us to have some understanding of the answer to that question. But ultimately, each of us has to answer for ourselves: Who do I say Jesus is? Who is Jesus for me? If we don’t reflect seriously on that question, saying “I Believe in Jesus Christ” becomes little more than intellectual assent to a theological proposition.
As I’ve observed before, the literal translation of “credo” is “I give my heart.” We don’t give our heart to an intellectual proposition. Chittister writes that for her, “It is the Jesus of my own life and the life of the world around me that I have come to confess in the Creed. It is that Jesus that I follow…It is that Jesus who captivates me completely.”
What is it that you affirm when you recite in the creed, “I believe in Jesus Christ.” Who is Jesus for you?