fatherpatrick

The Symbol of Faith: continuation of series on the Divine Liturgy

In Commentary on the Divine Liturgy for laity on October 28, 2008 at 11:25 am

“Let us love one another that with one mind we may confess…” How can we dare to confess the holy dogmas of our faith, while we harbor hatred or unforgiveness in our hearts? The Church’s liturgy examines us carefully in this regard. So, the exchange of the “kiss of peace” is our guarantee of Christian charity and reconciliation, each person with his neighbor. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God… and thy neighbor as thyself.” Each rank of clergy and the laity, as necessary, then exchange a fraternal greeting before we confess our faith together. St Paul tells us, “faith…worketh by love” (Galatians 5: 6) and “greet each other with a holy kiss” (2 Corinthians 13: 12).

The Symbol of Faith, or the creed (credo, Latin, “I believe”), consists of very specifically composed words which were authorized by the First Oecumenical[1] Synod held in the city of Nicaea in A.D. 325, augmented by the Second Oecumenical Synod held in Constantinople in A.D. 381, and sealed with divine authority by a synodal decree at the Third Oecumenical Synod held in Ephesus in A.D. 431. The exact wording is so important to the maintenance of the faith, that even the addition of a single word is cause for ceasing to be Orthodox. This is exactly what took place over the Roman Catholic Church’s addition of the word, filioque “and the Son,” thus introducing a distortion of the dogma of the Holy Trinity.  Imagine a compass heading for a large ship sailing the Pacific Ocean. A mere one-degree error of heading by the compass would yield a massive error in sailing, by the time the ocean was crossed. The ship’s pilot would miss his port by hundreds of miles! Thus, we carefully preserve “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3).

Before the common recitation of the Creed begins, we hear the diaconal exclamation, “The doors! The doors!” This is a call to secure the doors between the nave and the narthex, in order that no unworthy person, heretic, or persecutor, or unbaptized, be allowed in. During the recitation of each of the twelve articles of the Creed, the church annunciation bell is struck once, if such a bell exists in the parish. This striking of the bell underscores the sobriety and seriousness of our confession. The Creed is truly the flag of the Church. As the recitation continues, with the voice of the whole of the people, not merely the reader, the priest takes up and waves the aer (the covering cloth) over the diskos and chalice. Such actions, as this waving or fluttering of the aer, are amenable to a very great many interpretations of a fine spiritual nature. For example, many see in this a depiction of the hovering of the Holy Spirit, Who is about to descend upon the gifts. “And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” (Genesis 1: 2). At the words, “and He ascended into heaven,” the priest folds up the aer and resumes waving it in a circular motion over the gifts. From the beginning, many liturgical actions arose from very practical purposes, such as to keep any flying insects from alighting upon the prepared holy things, now uncovered (see Apostolic Constitutions, Book 8, which is the text of the ancient Clementine Liturgy). Unlike those who see only exterior meaning to things, we Orthodox see both: the waving of the aer to keep off flies as well as symbolizing the earthquake which occurred at Christ’s resurrection or the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost, among many other meanings, as with all holy things.


[1]  the classical style of spelling is employed here to avoid confusion with the word, “ecumenical,” which refers chiefly to relations between the Orthodox Church and heterodox Christian communities.

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