“The Spirit comes gently and makes himself known by his fragrance. He is not felt as a burden for God is light, very light. Rays of light and knowledge stream before him as the Spirit approaches. The Spirit comes with the tenderness of a true friend to save, to heal, to teach, to counsel, to strengthen, and to console.”
—St. Cyril of Jerusalem
In Greek Orthodox services, priests often punctuate their actions with the (sung) declaration:
This is wisdom; let us be attentive.
And while I’ve never been Greek Orthodox myself, this phrase has always struck me as something at once tremendously useful and profound. After all, it isn’t often when Wisdom is pinpointed and called out for us in everyday life.
Last Wednesday evening (3/18), my husband, Evan, and I joined fellow Old St. Paul’s member Steve Tollefson to participate in a celebration of The Feast of St. Cyril of Jerusalem at The Church of the Redemption (led by The Reverend Jim Perra, former member of Old St. Paul’s). And, reflecting back on it now, I feel as though the entire night could’ve been punctuated with a great big exclamation point: THIS IS WISDOM; LET US BE ATTENTIVE. I’m not normally one who keeps quiet in a conversation, but in this group, I found that all I wanted to do was be attentive and listen.
First, we learned some of the history of St. Cyril, born in Jerusalem around 315 and made bishop of Jerusalem in (approx.) 349. As the bishop of Jerusalem, Cyril had a particular influence on the early liturgical forms of Holy Week for Christians, as thousands of believers made their annual pilgrimage there. Because of this and how those believers then returned home to spread news and practice of these liturgical forms, many of these decisions and practices continue on as our Christian inheritance today (such as the palms of Palm Sunday, for example). Cyril also had an important hand in helping to shape and vote on our Nicene Creed.
This history led us into a terrific discussion regarding not only the Nicene Creed but the possibilities and beauties of other Christian creeds, including one I’d never heard of before: the Maasai Creed.
“The Maasai Creed is a creed [that was] composed in about 1960 by Western Christian missionaries for the Maasai, an indigenous African tribe of semi-nomadic people located primarily in Kenya and northern Tanzania. The creed attempts to express the essentials of the Christian faith within the Maasai culture.”
–On Being, “The Maasai Creed,” Jaroslav Pelikan
And there’s a lot to appreciate about the Maasai Creed. For example, consider the phrase: “We believe that God made good his promise by sending his son, Jesus Christ, a man in the flesh, a Jew by tribe, born poor in a little village, who left his home and was always on safari doing good, curing people by the power of God, teaching about God and man, showing that the meaning of religion is love.”
One of my personal favorite elements, however, is the line: “live the rules of love,” as in, “All who have faith in him [Christ] must…live the rules of love….”
This is wisdom. Let us be attentive.
It makes me wonder, if we were to create a creed that “attempted to express the essentials of the Christian faith within the [Baltimore] culture,” what would it look like?
**A great big Thank You to The Church of the Redemption, Steve Tollefson, and to The Reverend Jim Perra. And a special thanks to 4th Century Spanish nun, Egeria, without whose journal we would not know near as much regarding the practices of those original liturgical Holy Week practices as we do today.