The new English translation of the Mass, introduced last Advent, invites Catholics to take a second look at the Nicene Creed. Phrases such as “consubstantial with the Father” and “incarnate of the Virgin Mary” replace more familiar words we’ve been using for decades.
Early in Christianity our creed was born in fierce debates about what we believe. The ancient words invite our “Amen” to this faith forged by the early Church. It’s like a handshake across the centuries — “a sign of recognition and communion between believers” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 188).
As Lent begins, we hear the words in the first reading for Ash Wednesday: “Rend your hearts, not your garments.” Folks used to tear their clothes when they were upset or sad. (A sign to others of how bad it was? A cry for help?). But the Prophet Joel wants them to “rend their hearts.” Something inside, presumably where God alone sees it.
This description strikes me as rather violent. The prophet refers to people tearing an otherwise good garment. And he says we should do that to our hearts! Why? Why such a forcefully violent action?