...And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord...
"I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ"
This line of the Creed packs a lot of titles for Jesus in a few short words. Indeed, these titles are important. Each word drips with theological significance. Jesus is Christ, an anointed one called to some service for God. He is the Son of God, a phrase commonly used across ancient religion to denote connection or service to a deity. But he is more, he is the only Son of God, incarnated as God put on flesh to dwell among humanity in all our troubles and drama and messiness so that we could in turn dwell with God. Jesus is our Lord, a person whose Resurrection places him above us in every way.
These words are theologically rich and timelessly weighty. As we repeat them each Sunday, it is ever too easy to lose their importance in the familiar. We should hold these names for Jesus with white-gloved hands, with the respect and deference that they deserve.
The same God who calls me to remember Jesus’ Lordship, Sonship, and status as Christ also calls me into deep emotional and spiritual intimacy. The God who deserves these titles also relates to me in the most common, quotidian aspects of life—even in Jesus’ own name.
I could write an entire essay on the origin of the name “Jesus Christ”—and in fact I did, until a rainstorm cut the power to my computer and I lost all my work! Here’s the short version: Jesus is what happened to the Hebrew name “Yeshua” when it got put through the wash a couple times with Greek (Ἰησοὑς) and Latin (Iesus). The name that Jesus would have gone by to his friends and family was Yeshua ben Yoseph—“Joshua, son of Joseph” in English.
I love to keep this in mind when I pray with the Gospels in Ignatian contemplation. It is there that I meet up with Josh, the guy who lives in a rural village and works with his hands—just like me. Josh wears a garment made of cloth that his mother, Miriam, wove at home (Miriam and I meet for tea sometimes, you know). Josh misses his adoptive father, Joseph, since he died. Josh has a way with children. He grew up in a couple different places, having been born in Bethlehem then moved to Egypt and finally to Nazareth; Bethlehem was just too hard to live in, since there weren’t any boys his age left to play with. Josh whittles. Josh makes his mom furniture. Josh makes friends of fishermen and tells parables and the odd joke. He gets dusty from the road and has body odor after a hard day’s work. You feel peaceful in Josh’s presence.
When I recite the words of the Creed, I want to bow down and worship God, who escapes all my human understanding. This instinct is important. But I also never want to lose sight of God in Josh, the guy from Nazareth who sits with me day in and day out. God is both. God is in both.