Questions Answered – July 2022

Roots of the ApostlesCreed

Question: In the Apostles’ Creed we profess: “On the third day he rose again from the dead.” What does it mean to say “again” in this context?

Answer: The Apostles’ Creed has a long and pious tradition behind it. It was developed as a general statement of the faith in Gaul in the fifth century and thus is comparatively late. It has however been accepted as an official statement of the faith and is even used in the present Catechism of the Catholic Church. The pious tradition is that when the Holy Spirit came on the apostles on Pentecost each expressed one of the twelve articles of the creed. There are references in the Apostles’ Creed which are not found in other creeds. The descent in hell or Hades is an example. Another is the reference which you have asked about to rising “again.”

In the Apostles’ Creed, according to English translation, one states that Jesus rose “again” from the dead. “To rise again” is the English wording of the Latin word resurgere. This Creed was originally written in Greek; the word anastasis (resurrection) literally comes from ana/histemi, which means “to stand again” or “rise again.” Since we do not believe in more than one resurrection of the dead, the term “again” used here must have another meaning.

In the Greek in which the creed was originally written, there are several words which can be translated as “again.” The most common one is palin. The less common is kainos. The Apostles’ Creed does not use either word. Instead, the “again” is in the prefix of the Greek verb ana-stemi (to rise again). This reflects a word Our Lord uses, which is translated under divine inspiration as the Greek adverb kainos. This use is in the address of Our Lord to the Apostles at the Last Supper: “And I say to you, I will not drink from henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I shall drink it with you new [kainon] in the kingdom of my Father” (Matt. 26:29). The same word is used in many other verses, for example, “And he that sat on the throne, said: Behold, I make all things new [kaina]” (Apoc. 21:5).

The word “again” can be understood in this meaning in the Apostles’ Creed. “And on the third day He arose anew from the dead.” This “anew” refers to the completely different relationship between the Lord and is soul and body before and after the resurrection of the dead. In the former, the soul comes to exist after the manner of the body. This is why it is natural in this life to have the source of knowledge in sense experience. After death the opposite is true and it is to this experience that the “again” refers. In the resurrection of the dead, the body comes to exist after the manner of the soul. If the soul is filled with light, so is the body. If not, the body is heavy and grave. In the same way, the Lord promised the Apostles that in the kingdom of His Father they would drink the “fruit of the vine” anew, in the state of glory, after the resurrection of the body at the Last Day.

Deacons and Homiletic Training

Question: Sermons given by permanent deacons do not seem as deep as priests’ sermon. Why not have deacons become CCD teachers for several years before they preach a sermon?

Answer: This question brings to mind the whole issue of training to give homilies on the part of both priests and deacons. For many centuries parish priests had to have some help in places regarding content to aid them to at least give a credible speech. Bishops used to send out canned homilies in some places which priests would merely read. Rhetoric is not easy for anyone, especially on a constant weekly basis with the same audience.

In some ways, the homilist has an almost impossible task. He is to be deep, but not too deep; humorous but not too humorous; short but moving; and on and on. Even Bishop Sheen used to talk for half an hour, something which is very rare today. Most people’s attention span is ten minutes at the maximum. Very few people today are sufficiently catechized. One is on the horns of dilemma as to whether to make the homily deep enough to really give positive doctrinal instruction or just give them some golden thought to make them happy to be in church. For the latter goal, homiletics instructors seem to be enamored of storytelling, especially personal stories which highlight that the priest is “just like folks.”

Though stories, of course, can be used and quite effective, they tend to draw attention to the priest’s personality and not doctrine, and, like all things, lose their effectiveness if used too much. Pastors often tell me as a preacher to bring the intelligence of the homily down. I point out that the Catholic faith involves all of human wisdom, the union of faith and reason. It is by nature the most intelligent of religions. One can only water down Catholic doctrine so much before it ceases to be the Catholic religion.

The qualities of a good homily should be intelligent, short and to the point. One should try to explain scripture as far as possible. I often say the least used word in a homily should be “I.”

Sadly, the state of seminary education today is sufficiently anti-intellectual that many priests themselves have not investigated deeply the nature of the Catholic faith. Some have simply been taught error. This is especially true in moral theology. Since this guides confession practice, it is imperative that future priests understand it well.

The Second Vatican Council restored the permanent deaconate, which had fallen out of use for many years in the Church. This was for pastoral reasons due to the dearth of clerics in some parts of the world. Since most countries have a clergy shortage, most enjoy the aid of permanent deacons today.

They are to go through a number of years of training but depending on the diocese, as is true of the seminary, this training can be faulty in places. Since they are normally working full time during this training, it is of necessity at times very short and not really deep. This affects their understanding of the faith and makes real homilies difficult. These deacons try to get along by reference to how much they have in common with lay people as they are involved in the world and professions.

I am not sure merely teaching CCD is really effective here, though it may be helpful. What would be more helpful is truly addressing the content and commitment of the diocese to provide proper instructions for these most important men who serve not just an individual parish but at the discretion of the bishop of a diocese.

Fr. Brian Mullady, OP About Fr. Brian Mullady, OP

Fr. Brian T. Mullady, OP, entered the Dominican Order in 1966 and was ordained in 1972. He has been a parish priest, high school teacher, retreat master, mission preacher, and university professor. He has had seven series on EWTN and is the author of two books and numerous articles, including his regular column in HPR, “Questions Answered.”

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