The Christian spiritual journey has two large consecutive periods of growth. Each one is triggered by a specific Call and a Conversion and each has its own creed and teaching content. The formation that belongs to the first period is called Catechesis and it follows immediately after Baptism. One of the main elements of Catechesis is the Creed: a summary of the fundamental and vital elements of Faith that enable us to be saved. In former times, the formation that belongs to the second period was called Mystagogy. Sometimes it immediately followed Baptism, but often it occurred a while afterwards. It is often triggered by “Second Conversion”. Mystagogy is more than just a deeper understanding of the mysteries present in the Sacraments. It is an enlivening and deepening of the life of the Faithful, a unique, personal and immediate experience of the Risen Lord and following Him in the Power of the Holy Spirit.
St. Athanasius of Alexandria
In the early centuries, Mystagogy, this new stage of growth, developed and became more apparent through the quest for God in the Desert: monasticism. A baptised person would hear the Lord’s call to go deeper into the faith and seek perfection. He would actually leave the world and go into the Desert to search for Union with the Lord and live for Him only. (See the Life of St. Anthony written by St. Athanasius, who is also the author of the Nicene Creed.) If we look at the Church as a whole we can say that she has three functions represented in three different bodies, perfectly united and interrelated: the Kingly function (Pope and Bishops), the Priestly (Parish and Parish Priests) and the Prophetic one (Monks, all who have heard the Call to follow Jesus and the Spiritual Masters).
It is important to understand that within the “Universal Call to Holiness” that originates in Baptism, there is a significant distinction between “knowing that we are all called” and actually “hearing the Call and starting the journey” (see Article). The first period of growth belongs to the Baptismal life in the Parish: living Catechesis to the full. While the second period belongs to the “call of the desert”, “call for perfection” or simply “Jesus’ personal call to follow Him” – a deepening of Baptismal life. The Call for perfection is emblematically mentioned in the Gospel story of the rich young man (Mark 10:17-31) who asks Jesus to tell him how to reach Perfection.
“17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth.” 21 And Jesus looking upon him loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.” (Mark 10:17-31; see also Matthew 19:16-22; Luke 18:18-30)
As we can see from the text, the Lord divides his answer into two stages:
1- the necessity to practise Moses’ Commandments first
2- to go and sell everything, give the money to the poor and go and follow Jesus.
We may consider that the first stage ensures Salvation, while the second offers Union with Christ and full realisation of the “Gift of God” (John 4:10).
At this juncture in the life of the Faithful, something new is started: a Call to follow Jesus from close up, to plumb new depths of Baptism. It is true that being baptised gives us potentially the capacity to follow Jesus! But, significantly, at a certain point in our life, hearing Jesus’ Call, is something different and vital. The new journey as of now has its own “rules” and its own “set of beliefs” or “Creed”! This “new” Creed is not opposed to the common Creed, on the contrary, it proceeds from it and deepens it. If we consider that the Creed as we know it is the creed of the Catechumens and the recently baptised and confirmed, we can then consider that there is another Creed that serves as a framework for this new period of growth.
The elements that constitute this Creed are twelve as in the first Creed. They are the main vital truths that command the entire vision of the new period of Spiritual Growth. In fact, the second conversion introduces us to a new world and this Creed – our new contemplative eyes – allows us to contemplate it in its entirety. Without these vital truths one would not be on the orthodox path. Thus, one should now be able to say:
“I believe in * Jesus’ Call, in time; * Jesus’ Promises; * the stages of Growth of Spiritual Life; * the different levels of the Action of the Holy Spirit in us; * Our Lady’s role in our spiritual life; * the necessity of the assimilation of the Sacraments; * the Full Development of the Virtues; * the necessity of determination, perseverance and the Pascal dimension of the Cross; * the need for appropriate Formation; * union with Christ’s Mystical Body; * a different level of Apostolate; * the Eternal Father’s Providence, Love and Mercy. Amen.”
Saying this Creed often, strengthens the belief in the elements of the commitment to answer Jesus’ Call.
Here follow short indications regarding each article of the Prophetic Creed. It goes without saying that each one of these deserves a long explanation and presentation.
1- Jesus’ Call, in Time
Second Conversion. Entering into a personal relationship with Jesus.
Hearing the Call. Following Him closely. Jesus is the Groom. Jesus is The Everything.
|2- Jesus’ Promises||Jesus Promised us:
1- Union with Him / Acquisition of the Holy Spirit.
2- Fullness of Love.
Life is: becoming one with the Son, being embraced by the Father, breathing the Holy Spirit.
|3- The Stages of Growth of Spiritual Life||
Union of will. Deep purification. Betrothal. Spiritual Marriage.
Flares of the Holy Spirit. To love God as we are loved by Him. Participation in the Lord’s Passion. Dying out of Love.
|4- The Different Levels of the Action of the Holy Spirit in us||
Inner Master of the sanctification. Personal and direct action in us. General vs. Particular Help of the Grace of God. How to be in Synergy with the Holy Spirit. Human vs. Divine Modality.
Necessity for Transformation. The Transformative line of our journey.
A deeper understanding of the Scriptures.
|5- Our Lady’s Role in our Spiritual Life||
It is under her care and maternity that the journey is achieved.
Necessity for a total and constant entrustment to Her. Her Faith is transmitted to us.
|6- The Necessity of the Assimilation of the Sacraments||
There is a necessity to assimilate the Sacraments: the sacramentality of the Word of God (Lectio Divina) and the Eucharist (Prayer of the Heart). Living in the presence of God.
|7- The Full Development of the Virtues||
Virtues (Faith, Hope, Love), the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit need to grow in us. Two types of Contemplation (Lectio Divina, Prayer of the Heart). Participation in the Lord’s Passion. Humility – Detachment – Love, practised heroically.
|8- The Necessity of Determination, Perseverance and the Pascal Dimension of the Cross||
How narrow is the door and the Path! Necessity of courage, endurance and resilience. Meaning of suffering. Learning to unite it to the Cross. Temptation. The different types of ‘nights’.
|9- The Need for Appropriate Formation||
Necessity of: Formation – Spiritual Direction – Spiritual Friendship.
|10- Union With Christ’s Mystical Body||
The Whole Christ is Head and Body (the Church). We can’t divide up Christ. We need to be united to both.
|11- A Different Level of Apostolate||
New Modalities of Apostolate develop throughout the journey of growth. Being united with Jesus’ Mystical Body engenders a new dimension of apostolic zeal. Transformed by the Holy Spirit into a living flame, our spirit, together with Him, sends out flares toward others, giving them the Holy Spirit in turn.
|12- The Eternal Father’s Providence, Love and Mercy||
Everything works for the good of whomever commits to this path. God’s Providence embraces us: the help of the Angels, the Communion of Saints, St. Joseph’s vigilant help.
Note: The Prophetic Creed could be also called “Mary’s Creed” because Mary, Jesus’ Mother, presides in a specific and direct way the Prophetic branch and function in the Church.