I woke up early on a Wednesday morning in mid-August and went into our living room with a Bible, my cell phone, and a rosary. I had never prayed a rosary before, and found an app the previous night that would show me what to do or say. I felt a little nervous. I felt as though I was imposing on a sacred tradition that was not my own, thereby disrespecting the place that the Rosary holds in the hearts of actual Catholics for the sake of my own curiosity. I was hoping my husband wouldn’t wake up to go to the bathroom or anything, because he surely would have asked me what I was doing and I know I would have felt awkward explaining it.
I sat down on my couch and, as I am a head-covering Christian, pulled a small scarf over my head. My cat jumped up onto the couch, curling up beside me and I rubbed his ear with my left hand as my right hand pulled up the rosary app on my cell phone. The first step, said the app, was to make the sign of the cross and recite the famous refrain, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…” That was easy enough. In all honesty, I’ve made the sign of the cross plenty of times in my life and have never felt uneasy about doing so.
The second step was to say the Apostles’ Creed. I have been familiar with the Apostles’ Creed for a few years, but I grew up in a church that – to the best of my knowledge – never mentioned it. I learned about it through my self-directed study of Christian history in my early and mid twenties, and had not ever heard of it before then. I went to my first mass at twenty-seven years old, and that had been the first time I’d ever heard the Apostles’ Creed (1) recited aloud and (2) recited as a prayer in a church. It certainly isn’t something that I had ever been taught to memorize or had taken the time to memorize. I had to read the words from my cell phone in order to know what to say. As I read, I was reminded of Romans 10:9, which says that “If you confess with your mouth that ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” I thought that the recitation of the creed is probably supposed to serve as a confession to God and before others of your faith in Christ, and also as a reminder to yourself of what you stand for as a Christian. It sets the tone for prayer to Christ by affirming your faith in Christ.
But the Apostles’ Creed also set the tone for my prayers in another way.
My husband and I have been attending a church whose morning worship has, lately, consisted of a lot of songs about having hope in the Lord. I have also been coming across this theme of hoping in the Lord in my Bible reading. Sometimes the words of these songs and verses of scripture baffle me. I enjoy thinking abstractly when the topic of my thoughts is one that requires no action from me, but I hate abstractions when I am being instructed to do something. In other words, I don’t like being asked to hope in the Lord without being told how to do so. Sometimes it is so hard to have hope when we don’t know the outcome of our personal circumstances. It is even harder to have hope when we are constantly bombarded with all of the tragedies of our lives and the lives of those around us. I am always inwardly asking what it means to put our hope in God. That’s probably another post all together, but my answer came from the Apostles’ Creed.
“He (Jesus) descended into hell. On the third day He rose again. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.” It reminded me of when Jesus said “…take heart, for I have overcome the world (John 16:33).” Jesus has already overcome the world. Somehow I had forgotten that, and the Apostles’ Creed brought that truth back to my memory. Nothing that could ever happen to me or anyone else is something that has not already been overcome by Christ. He overcame evil. He overcame sorrow. He overcame death. I am not supposed to be hoping that Jesus will somehow fix something later on the the future – it’s already been dealt with! Perhaps this is a terrible analogy, but I liken it to thunder and lightening. We see the lightning long before we hear the thunder, although they are both part of the same event. Jesus is the lightning, way ahead of us – and we are the thunder, struggling to catch up.
I thought about this while I was praying the Rosary and felt grateful that I had come across this. For me, it gives an entirely new meaning to scriptures like, “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord (Ps. 31:24).” I realized that hope is not so much about pleading for a future outcome as it is about knowing that even if the outcome sucks, God is already there and His son has already overcome it.
As I continued to pray through the Rosary, I felt like God was reminding me of things that I had forgotten, and was helping me to see certain parts of the Bible in a different light. Next time, I’ll talk about the Hail Mary and how a non-Catholic accidentally wraps her mind around the idea that someone who is not physically present could hear or pray for her.
What are your insights on having hope in God? What has been your experience with the Apostles’ Creed?