Music Notes

September 2011 Archives

Mass Revision

September 22, 2011 12:16 PM

This excerpt is taken from Our Sunday Visitor (

In-depth look at revised parts of Creed

The Catholic Spirit, the diocesan paper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, has published the second part of a column on the Nicene Creed by Father John Paul Erickson, who heads the archdiocese's Office of Worship. (Read what he had to say about the change from "we believe" to "I believe" in the Creed.) Here is what Father Erickson writes about the switch from "one in Being" to "consubstantial":

One change that will certainly be noticed right away when reciting the new text is the translation of the Latin term "consubstantialem" as "consubstantial" rather than "one in Being." To be sure, this new word is not familiar to us and will perhaps never be used by us outside of the Sacred Liturgy, unless of course we are professional theologians. All the same, it is an incredibly important expression, the truth of which many a martyr hath made.

One of the central mysteries of the Faith is the belief in the divinity of Christ. Jesus Christ, who is like us in all things but sin, shares with the Father the divine nature. "Consubstantial" is a word derived from the scrupulously precise terminology of philosophy and metaphysics, and was devised by the early Church Fathers to defend this saving revelation against those who denied the divinity of Jesus Christ. It is perhaps best here to quote the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 464 and 465:

"The unique and altogether singular event of the Incarnation of the Son of God does not mean that Jesus Christ is part God and part man, nor does it imply that he is the result of a confused mixture of the divine and the human. He became truly man while remaining truly God. Jesus Christ is true God and true man. During the first centuries, the Church had to defend and clarify this truth of faith against the heresies that falsified it.

"The first heresies denied not so much Christ's divinity as his true humanity (Gnostic Docetism). From apostolic times the Christian faith has insisted on the true incarnation of God's Son 'come in the flesh.' But already in the third century, the Church in a council at Antioch had to affirm against Paul of Samosata that Jesus Christ is Son of God by nature and not by adoption. The first ecumenical council of Nicaea in 325 confessed in its Creed that the Son of God is 'begotten, not made, of the same substance (homoousios) as the Father,' and condemned Arius, who had affirmed that the Son of God 'came to be from things that were not' and that he was 'from another substance' than that of the Father."

One may complain that this new word "consubstantial" is complex and unnecessarily cumbersome for the average person in the pew. There is no doubt that the new word will require thoughtful pause and intelligent explanation. But let us remember what it is that we are trying to enunciate with this word -- an awesome mystery that is impossible to fully comprehend by the human mind. Perhaps it is for the best than that the word used to describe the divinity of Christ is perplexing and mysterious.

Father John Paul Erickson is director of the Archdiocesan of St. Paul and Minneapolis Office of Worship.


We're interested in your feedback! Please email Nina if you have any comments or ideas about the website.

Email Nina Ricci