Often the Creed can seem like a list of strange words and statements that we recite each week, but there are reasons for the specific words of the Creed. While I cannot address the meaning of all the words in the Creed here in this article, I do want to outline the meaning of at least a few of them.
► When we profess our Faith in Jesus Christ why do we say, “born from the Father before all ages” and “consubstantial with the Father”?
To explain this, I need to give explain some theology, some history, and a little bit of Greek and Latin. But stick with me I will do my best to summarize all this clearly!
The short answer is that these sayings in the Creed refer to the reality that Jesus truly is God, the Second Person of the Trinity. He was “begotten” from the Father before time or creation began, John’s Gospel says “He (Jesus) was in the beginning with God (the Father),” meaning that the Son of God exists eternally with the Father as His Son. The words “born” and “begotten” are essential here; the Son of God was NOT “made” or “created” by the Father. Since Jesus is “begotten” by the Father, He shares the Father’s nature (i.e., He is God just like the Father is God).
In the early Church there was a group of Christians who wrongly believed that Jesus was a created by the Father (and therefore a creature). They held that Jesus was the greatest of all creatures (like a highly elevated angel or a demi-god) but not actually God. In response to this controversy (Arianism) the Church gathered together in the city of Nicaea (Greece) and affirmed that Jesus is “God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God… Consubstantial with the Father.” In other words, Jesus is of the same nature/substance as the Father from whom He has His own existence.
The word “Consubstantial” comes from this Council as well. At Nicaea the bishops realized that Jesus could not be “created” or “made” by God the Father (otherwise Jesus wouldn’t be God, which contradicts the Gospels). So, they declared that the Word of the Father (Jesus) was “begotten” before time or creation began (i.e., eternally begotten), making Him “homoousion” with the Father (“homos” meaning “the same”, and “ousia” meaning “essence” or “nature”). Because something that is begotten shares the nature of its origin, whereas something that is made does not.
Consider this example to help explain the difference:
I am begotten by my parents (Steve and Janet), so I share their nature (I am human). My Dad is an engineer who designs roads. Those roads are made (in part) by my Dad, but they are not of the same nature as me or my father. So too with Jesus, the eternal Son of the Father. He is Begotten not made and therefore “Consubstantial with the Father.”
This Greek word “homoousion” (ὁμοούσιος), was later translated into Latin (“consubstantialem”), and now every Sunday we use the English word “Consubstantial” to mean the same thing that the early Christians in Nicaea declared about Jesus’ nature: that Jesus (the Word of the Father) is of the same nature/essence as the Father, which makes Him truly God and eternal just as the Father is (and therefore not a creature).
► What do we mean by “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church?”
When Jesus came, He called Apostles and disciples to follow Him, they formed the Members of His Mystical Body –the Church (aka those who are called out of the world to follow Christ into “the life of the World to come”). This is why we speak of the Church, because Jesus founded a Church and sent It into the world.
The Church is “One” because she is united under the headship of Jesus Christ. We see this unity concretely in the office of the Holy Father (Pope Francis), as well in the Sacraments we all receive and profess, and in the one Deposit of Faith we all believe (i.e. the Revelation of God through Scripture and Tradition).
The Church is Holy because Christ is Holy, and He has sent the Holy Spirit to consecrate all of us who are the members of His Mystical Body. We are united to Christ, and because He is Holy we share in His Blessed Life of Grace.
The Church is Catholic because it spreads throughout the whole world and until Jesus comes again. The word “Catholic” literally means “universal,” meaning that this Church is meant for all people.
The Church is Apostolic because Jesus founded the Church on the Apostles. All that we know (the Deposit of Faith) is handed on to us through the Apostles and their successors (the bishops), as St. Paul says, “Faith comes from hearing and hearing from the word of Christ” and this word of Christ is given to us by the Apostles and their successors so that we too may be saved through Faith in Jesus Christ.