Friday, June 19, 2009

What Do Catholics Believe? An Explanation of the Apostles Creed

Catholics are known for their strange beliefs. Many people think that they pray to saints and worship Mary. Misconceptions about what Catholics believe are wide and diverse. A simple explanation is often dismissed in heated discussions. Yet, there is a very honest declaration of what Catholics believe, and it is renewed every time Catholics pray the Apostles Creed.

The Creed opens with a clear statement. “We believe in God, the Father Almighty”. Catholics worship God. They do not claim another as their head, only God, the Father Almighty. They acknowledge God as creator in the next line of the Creed as they pray, “Creator of Heaven and Earth”. Catholics openly admit that God alone created our world.

The next part of the Creed expresses belief in Jesus, recognizing Him as the Son of God, and acknowledging how He came into the world, “and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.” Catholics admit that Jesus is the Son of God. They claim him as the savior of the world.
As the Apostle’s Creed continues, it expresses how Jesus became man. The following line, “who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,” expresses how Catholics recognize that Jesus was not only divine, but human.

Everyone knows that Jesus was crucified. The Apostle’s Creed states that Jesus “suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried.” Catholics not only acknowledge what took place, but they openly admit who sentenced Jesus to death.

Catholics claim that “He descended into Hell, on the third day He rose again from the dead.” Jesus went to Hell to subdue the demons. He went to break the chains of sin on the world. His death conquered sin, so by this act, people were freed from the bondage of evil. His rising from the dead offers hope to all of us who fall into sin.

Jesus death was not an ending, but a beginning. Catholics proclaim that Jesus goes before them. “He ascended into Heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.” This affirmation of Jesus, Son of God, who died for the salvation of all states that Catholics not only understand who Jesus is, but believe that He is one with God, the Father Almighty. The Creed goes even further as it states, “From thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.” Catholics submit to the authority of Jesus who is God.

“We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church,” shows that Catholics believe in the Trinity, as well as the teachings of the Catholic Church. They accept the teachings of their church, and adhere to the demands of faith. The Creed continues expressing beliefs of Catholics, “the Communion of Saints.” Catholics have hope, not only in the resurrection of Jesus, but in eternal life for all people. They believe that those who have died continue to live in community with each other. Their purpose is the same as when they were alive on earth, to love and serve God.

Saints are sinners who choose to follow Christ. They abandon their sinful ways to lead holy lives that will promote the love of God. Everyone can be a saint, if true conversion takes place. The Creed recognizes “the forgiveness of sins, resurrection of the body, and life everlasting,” in its conclusion.

The Apostle’s Creed is the foundation of belief for Catholics. It is from these core beliefs that they developed a moral standard. By acknowledging belief in Jesus birth of a virgin, they recognize the uniqueness of the individual chosen. Someone very special had to be visited by the Holy Spirit in order to conceive the Son of God. Not just anyone could be the Mother of God.

It is therefore easy to recognize the supremacy of Mary, when one contemplates the gifts she received in being chosen to fulfill her destiny. Mary is special, not only by nature, but by design. God the Father Almighty claimed and prepared her for her destiny, not only as His daughter, but also as the Spirit’s spouse and Son’s mother. Catholics understand that Mary is special, but they do not worship her. Worship is for God alone, as they proclaim so clearly in their creed.