Friday, 3 August 2012

The Lumber-room of the Apostles' Creed

I believe in the Holy Ghost;
the holy catholic Church;
the communion of saints;
the forgiveness of sins;
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.

The Apostles' Creed (so-called because it wasn't written by the apostles) is like the little brother of the Nicene. And for years, when I've seen it or, on our annual "Festival of trying not to be so heterodox" I've had cause to read it, I've always thought the end was just kind of the lumber-room of the Creed. Further up, all is neat and tidy and worked out. But in the last section are thrown together a bunch of doctrines with no working-out, seemingly as an afterthought.

Until today, sat quietly in the Beaker Library, surrounded by the works of the saints of the past - Augustine, Lewis, Betjemann, Julian. We really are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. Some of them still speak to us, though most are silent.

And then the stanzas come together. There is no Communion of Saints without forgiveness of sins. The thing that makes saints is not their work - no mention of good deeds in that creed. The thing that makes saints is forgiveness.

And the One who mediates the assurance of forgiveness, and then the One who keeps saints saints, is the Holy Spirit. But to possess that living, dynamic Spirit is not to stand still, resting in a permanent state of spiritual stasis. Because the body doesn't stand still. Struggling against the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (Time's Arrow, before which all must fall) the body grows and then, recognising its destiny, falls. Yet the human spirit hangs on, hearing something new. Though decay is real, the Spirit still calls beyond - there is more than this.

And so beyond this, in the working of the Spirit, the resurrection. Eternal life in this body, with these failings, in this doomed world is meaningless. But eternal life in the World of the Trinity, in a new heaven and earth - what joys will we see? What new struggles will we undertake? What new pains will we endure? - but pains sweeter than the sweetest joy this short-lived, dying planet can offer?

And to come full circle - in that resurrection and new life we are caught up again in the Communion of Saints - in the Holy Catholic Church that enacts again and again, and yet joins in once and eternally that Supper of the Lamb.

Ah me, things are connecting and making sense. There really is Jerusalem, glimpsed bright and gold behind and yet within this green and pleasant land. I'd better go off and get ready for the Holiday Club. That should give me a better idea of the True Nature of Things.


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