The Symbol of Faith – The Creed

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The Creed is called “The Symbol of Faith of the Three Hundred and Eighteen Bishops” by the Chaldean Church.  By the 5th century, persecution of the Church of the East had subsided, and its isolation from its Western brethren within the Roman Empire was ended.  The Western bishop, Mar Maruta, the bishop of Maypherkat {in Modern Turkey}, had managed to gain access to our Church fathers through the Persian King Yazdegerd.  In 410 AD, Mar Isaac {Mar `Ishak}, the cathalicos in Seleucia-Ctesiphon was able to convene the first official council in which Mar Maruta presented “The Symbol,” which was accepted along with sweeping reforms, standardization, and the canons of the Church.
The Mesopotamian Church had until then used various creed formulations, but now would use the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed formulation.  Interesting enough, the Creed as recorded and recited in the Synod records did not match what was in the Roman Empire after the councils of Nicea, 325 AD, and Constantinople, 381 AD.  The Creed also evolved to take on more uniformity with the West by the 6th Century {cf Synod of Mar Isho Yahb I}.  An person familiar with the Creed in the West will realize a few points of difference in the currently recited form.

The Symbol of Faith
We believe in one God, the Father almighty, Maker of all that is visible and invisible;
and in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God and First-Born of all creatures, who was begotten from his Father before all the ages and was not made: true God from true God, of the same substance as his Father, by whose hands the world was ordered and everything was created, who, for us men and for our salvation, descended from heaven, betook a body [lit. was incarnate] by the power of the Holy Spirit, was conceived and born of the Virgin Mary and became man, who suffered and was crucified in the days of Pontius Pilate, who died, was buried and rose on the third day, in accordance with the Scriptures, who ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father, and who will come again to judge the dead and the living;
and in one Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, who proceeds from the Father: the giver of life; and in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. We confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.
The Creed was the stamp of orthodoxy.  One could not be a Christian without believing in what the fathers had believed since the time of the apostles.  It was the shield in response to heresies that had raged throughout the world… the Symbol of Faith.
Our bishop, Mar Sarhad, explains the belief in the three Persons/Qnome in his lecture on the Creed.  He writes:
In One God: The Father Almighty, and in our Lord Jesus Christ his only begotten Son, and in the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father through the Son.*

a) We believe in God consisting in one divine nature, possessed by three persons, or three distinct “Qnome” (i.e. distinct individuals, distinct but never separate), as expressed in the eastern theological terminology; which means that God revealed himself to us as a transcendent and dynamic being:

  • The Heavenly Father, the fountain and ultimate source of every being and existence;
  • His own internal image, the only Son or the Word of God sent to the world in human nature to accomplish our redemption; and
  • The Holy Spirit who is the divine energy that animates and sanctifies every spiritual being, applying and distributing the effects and graces of redemption.

b) Because the term “Person” is used with a specific meaning referring to human individuals or legal institutions, we may be justified in theology to prefer the term Qnoma, to express the transcendent reality of the divine Persons.

* Cf. the Synod of Isho Yahb: We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, and in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and in one Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father.

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One Response to “The Symbol of Faith – The Creed”

  1. Ian Says:

    Wonderful to see you posting again! Informative and interesting as always, and interesting to see the differences in the Creed. We not-so-far-Easterners 😉 tend to more have differences of translation of certain words compared to our Western brothers and sisters…always tripped me when I visited churches and loudly exclaimed “of one essence with the Father” rather than “consubstantial with the Father” or similar… I’ve learnt to recite it quietly when visiting now. 😉

    I will have to research [i.e. google] Mar Maruta; I do not recall the name. I just read about Mar Isho Yahb and Isho Yahb II — exceptionally challenging times in terms of the political situations. God bless and protect all bishops, priests, deacons, monastics and people in all times.

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