“And became one of us”?

Among the many voices that come together in a liturgical assembly to confess the Creed, you may hear some of the faithful pronounce that Jesus Christ “became one of us,” putting these voices slightly out of sync with the majority of the assembly that confesses that “he became man.” I myself, most often, confess that Jesus Christ became “human.” In the eucharistic assembly, I speak this confession by lowering my voice on the first syllabus – “human”, so as not to cause others around me to stumble as we all strive, together, to speak the heart of our faith.

My own confession is motivated, simply, by deep faithfulness to our tradition: I cannot bear to render the succinct beauty of the Creed’s “et homo factus est” with the English “and became man.” The Latin homo, after all (as distinct from the term for a male [vir]), means human. The same holds true for the original Greek in which the Nicene Creed was crafted: the root of the term enanthropēsanta, “and became human,” is the Greek word anthropos, i.e. human being. Any translation of enanthropēsanta should capture this truth at the heart of our confession of faith: The Word took human form in the incarnation, rather than maleness alone. Maybe this strikes me as so obvious because in my mother tongue, rendering the Creed faithfully never was a problem in the first place. The German language has two quite different words for “male” (Mann) and for “human being” (Mensch). The translation of the Creed into German thus is unequivocal and clear: “und ist Mensch geworden.” God became human. In contradistinction, English for the longest time used the same term, “man,” to mean both the “male” and the “human.” Because of this linguistic particularity, our confession of faith, in English, remains ambiguous. And unfortunately, the translation of the Creed we will begin using on Advent I, does nothing to address this ambiguity (despite its claim to greater faithfulness to the Latin original texts). Which means I will simply continue my present practice of prefacing the confession that God became “man” with the two little letters “h” and “u.”

But what about those who have chosen instead to confess that Jesus Christ “became one of us”? I do not know what they will do come Advent I, 2011. I want to suggest, however, that there is an unfortunate ambiguity in this rendition of “et homo factus est” also, which makes it quite problematic as an assembly’s confession of faith in the Incarnation. And no, I am not worried here about the fact that “and became one of us” puts the speakers seriously out of sync with the rhythm of the congregation. What I am worried about is the ambiguity of the “us” that Jesus supposedly became a part of. When spoken by an assembly of mostly privileged, educated, white, First World Christians, the collective “us” might seem to invoke a perilously narrow segment of humanity. Who would know that this collective “we” includes not only the small group of faithful who voice this confession (presumably as an act of protest against the ambiguity embedded in the English term “man”)? It seems to me that both ambiguities – the nature and scope of the collective “us” on the one hand, and the nature and scope of “man” on the other hand – fall short of the clarity of God’s own redemptive movement, in taking on human form in the Incarnation.


  1. Agree wiht you on the “one of us” thing — it can be very narrow. Why not the Scriptural “and became flesh,” since the new texts ae supposed to get us more in line with Scriputral imagery?

    1. Dear Lee,

      I believe there are two phrases in the Latin credo: ‘et incartus est’ and ‘et homo factus est’. The 73 ICEL version replaces the first with the ambiguous and very weak ‘was born’. I say weak because by taking the ‘flesh’ out the 73 version is more acceptable to different sects which specifically deny the Incarnation. I know there are not too many Albigensians hanging around but there are hard-core Mennonites who still own that tradition of denying the Incarnation. Why the 73 ICEL credo translators wanted to soft-pedal the Incarnation is a mystery to me. I suspect it might be:
      a. ecumenism with Mennonites
      b. some of translators doubted the veracity of the Bible….maybe even the existence of Jesus in the first place.
      Maybe you’ve heard the type. ‘It doesn’t matter if they find Jesus’ bones….or if Jesus even ever existed’ Hence the Incarnation was a matter of indifference to them.
      c. They thought ‘incarnate’ is just too big a word

      1. George Andrews,

        If you are serious about “b,” I’m here to tell you that this is slander and libel – and out of line on this blog. I’ve never seen any evidence that anyone working for ICEL doubted the Bible’s teachings on the incarnation, or doubted the existence of Jesus , and that this informed their translation. If you have evidence of this, please produce it. Otherwise retract your accusation.


      2. Also, what is your source for Mennonites and incarnation? Menno Simons was ‘monophysite,’ which the Council of Chalcedon condemned, but this is far from denying the Incarnation. The Holy See is in dialogue for reunion with the churches of the East who rejected Chalcedon, and hopes are high for reunion since they are so close to us in their Christology. For all that, the Mennonites have generally accepted Chalcedon since the 18th century.

        So where did you get the idea that Mennonites deny the Incarnation? And what source indicates that ecumenism with Mennonites informed the ICEL translators? I’ve never seen anything like this in print.


      3. George Andrews,
        On behalf of Mennonites,
        what in the world are you talking about?
        Adam Tice

  2. Enanthropesanta….

    “One of us” is very weak indeed, precisely for the reasons mentioned. It has no basis in either the Latin that LA would have as the master text, or the Greek original that was used as the master text under the days of Comme le prevoit. (I realize there are some who would not have the text be based on any ancient master text, but that’s a different argument for a different day; right now, it is an argument that would most likely be fuel for reaction rather than progress.)

    The Greeks, IIRC, are very emphatic about another aspect of this phrase: that is be rendered with active, rather than passive, verb forms. So “became” is much preferred to “was made”.

    “And became human” would probably now qualify as acceptable idiomatic English, but “became man” is not yet unidiomatic in the English tongue except in certain circles. (Personally, I would choose the former over the latter.) We are at a point in the development of the language where usage is still evolving: we cannot predict with certainty the outcome in the future, only the past, even though many of us would like to assert confidence about the future. And liturgical translation in the vernacular will tend by its nature to lag by some time (perhaps even unto a few generations) the evolution of idiomatic usage, to reflect what has become more stable. If we saddle the translation process with the burden of prescribing the future development of idiomatic usage, we may find the cure is worse than the disease.

    As for rendering our own texts in the pews, if we are to take that for ourselves, we would perforce have to acknowledge no less right to those among us who would render things very differently from us if and when we have the upper hand. (I am thinking of all those times I witnessed glares and worse from members of a congregation towards others therein who failed to keep up with the inclusive renderings that had become what I would call a new custom (something one might see in a bestiary of problematic phrases, I guess).) What I would not give to those to who strongly disagree with me I should be wary of taking for myself, in other words. Likewise, if we wish to model what coming to, and submitting to, the consensus of the community would look like, we have to be most open to it when the consensus might work against what we think is correct. Otherwise, consensus just becomes another way to get what we want, for which we already have abundant (bad) examples in front of us.

  3. “…I will simply continue my present practice of prefacing the confession that God became “man” with the two little letters “h” and “u.”

    Today’s readings reference humility. We should be humble enough to accept the texts that Holy Church gives us. If one is hard pressed to celebrate with the English version currently approved, one could assist at Masses celebrated in Latin in the ordinary or extraordinary forms or in one of the Eastern rites rather than subject one’s fellow believers to one’s personal idiosyncrasies.

    1. JN,
      Telling other people what they should do to act in accord with your understanding of religion doesn’t seem too humble to me. In fact, if I may be honest, your comments come off rather condescending.

      1. When approached by a parishioner facing the crisis in conscience this author suggests, a priest would be wise to recommend the parishioner begin attending the parishes’ Latin celebration. If the parish does not currently offer Mass in Latin, this would be yet another reason to begin doing so.
        The status-quo given here by which the troubled parishioner changes the texts on her own initiative in such a way that others are impacted by it does not work pastorally or canonically. It will only prove to be divisive.
        To seriously address this issue, the author should consider Canon 846 §1. Additionally, because the practice she seems to advocate has been declared reprobate by RS #59, that concern would seem to warrant some attention in the post. Lastly, she is suggesting something seemingly incompatible with Vatican II, SC #22: 3. One might say that the author is simply trying to recite the prayers according to her own translation while still following the original Latin text but that still runs contrary to V2’s 22: 1, the role of the bishops in regulating the liturgy and approving translations, and does not address the divisive nature of her public action.
        Worshiping in Latin avoids the discord suggested by the author’s choice, gives her the comfort present in a seemingly more inclusive text, while also helping to remain consistent with Vatican II’s teaching on the liturgy. The Latin alternative seems to be the most pastoral approach to the problem the author presents to us.

      2. Dreaming, JN, you’re dreaming. You think that people who change English texts for reasons of inclusive language are ready to attend Latin Mass to solve their difficulties? Yeah, right. You think that adding Latin Mass and worshiping in Latin will avoid discord? I heard just last week from the nurse who cleaned my teeth at the dentist how upset her mother is that their young priest is putting more and more of the Mass into Latin against the will of the parishioners.

        If you like Latin, that’s fine. So do I. I do my lectio in Latin and I pray in Latin when I’m on the road. But if you think that everyone else wants to pray in Latin or is ready to do so, and if you think the introduction of Latin will avoid discord, you’re simply out of touch with those many people who think differently than you.

        As one born in 1963 I don’t always realize, until I hear about it yet again, just how liberating and life-changing it was for many people when the Mass went into English. You and I can quote documents and canon law at people all we want, but that is futile and also not relevant to the reality: a few people in our Church want more Latin, but many, many more people really love vernacular and feel quite strongly – negatively – about the reintroduction of Latin.


      3. Fr. Ruff,

        You are arguing against a different point than the one I made. The topic at hand is the discomfort one woman feels relating to the vernacular Mass. She has her own preferred vernacular different than the approved text of the Mass. Church tradition, Church law, and common courtesy (should) precludes her from introducing her own text when she makes her responses. The pastoral answer is the normative Latin text that she already refers to when creating her own preferred vernacular translation. Inclusive language is not an issue in a Latin Mass. It also would be a good pastoral option for all those priests who find the new ICEL vernacular missal a crisis for their consciences.
        I don’t believe that introducing more Latin in the Mass, in keeping with the call of Vatican II, would avoid all discord but it would preclude some. I also don’t presume that everyone wants to pray in Latin, but I also don’t imagine that everyone loathes it either. I am generally pleased with the new vernacular missal but I also recognize the call of the council to utilize Latin often enough that it becomes highly familiar with church-goers, a part of their religious vocabulary and sense of liturgical prayer. There is precious little evidence that the majority of pew sitters share the disquiet that some ecclesiastical professionals & NCR readers have with the introduction of Latin ordinaries in weekly worship. Perhaps a certain Latin-phobia is reflective of something deeper that pastors of souls would be wise to address.

  4. Wait, so Jesus wasn’t a man, i.e., a male member of the species homo sapiens with a Y-chromosome and male sexual organs?

    He was some sort of hermaphrodite human instead?

    1. Just to be clear: There is no need to deny that in Jesus of Nazareth, God became human and a male, or, more precisely, God became human in the gendered particularity of maleness. But theologically there are important reasons for distinguishing the two, as I have argued elsewhere (see my “Fragments of Real Presence,” pp. 127-34)

    2. “Et homo factus est” does not mean he became a man but he became a human being. A man would be vir (or andros in Gk) not homo or anthropos.

      1. I have been taught that “human being” as a descriptor of the Incarnation is inadequate to the point of being misleading about the divine person Jesus.

      2. I’m not sure the distinction is as clear as some would like to suggest.

        The OED says this under “man” regarding the Latin (my emphasis):

        There is a parallel between semantic developments in English represented by senses 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 [that is, male specific “man” –SJH] and semantic developments in post-classical Latin homo and Old French hom(om, home, ome). In classical Latin homō primarily meant ‘human being’ or ‘person’ (in contrast to vir‘adult male human being’); it also had the sense ‘member of a military force, crew, or other body’, where the contextual reference was normally to a male. In post-classical Latin, homodeveloped the senses ‘adult male human being’, ‘armed retainer’, ‘servant, retainer’, and ‘vassal’ (8th cent. or before; all found in British sources by 12th cent.). The reflexes of classical Latin homōin the Romance languages have the dual senses ‘human being’ and ‘adult male human being’. Both senses are attested for Old French homin the earliest sources (end of 10th cent.); the Old French word also has the senses ‘husband’ (11th cent.), ‘fighting man’ (12th cent.), and ‘vassal’ (12th cent.).”

      3. Also, the OED notes that the “became man” construction is very old in English and a specific way of referring to the incarnation:

        OE Ælfric Homily (Corpus Cambr. 162) in J. C. Pope Homilies of Ælfric (1967) I. 256 He‥wæs man geworden þa ða he sylf wolde for ure alysednysse.
        c1200 Serm. in Eng. & Germanic Stud. (1961) 7 61 God wold mon bicumen al for ure sake.
        a1225 (1200) MS Trin. Cambr. in R. Morris Old Eng. Homilies (1873) 2nd Ser. 199 He bi-com man for us.
        1357 J. Gaytryge Lay Folks Catech. (York Min.) 26 Iesu crist‥toke flesh and blode and bicome man.
        c1400 (1378) Langland Piers Plowman (Laud) B. v. 493 Þi sone‥bicam man of a mayde.
        1483 (1413) Pilgrimage of Soul ii. xlii. 48 Thou man bycome thy selfe, for mannes nede.
        1549 Bk. Common Prayer Euensong, Athan. Creed f. vii, Our Lorde Jesus Christe the sonne of God, is God and man. God of the substaunce of the father, begotten before the worldes: and man of the substaunce of his mother, borne in the worlde.‥ For as the reasonable soule and fleshe is one man: So God and man is one Christe.
        1574 J. Whitgift Serm. before Queene sig. B2v, Whether the Pope be God or man, or a meane betwixt both?
        1607 T. Rogers Faith, Doctr., & Relig. 19 We altogether dissent‥from the Germaine Vbiquitaries‥saying that Christ as man, is not onely in heauen, but in earth too at this instant.
        1607 T. Rogers Faith, Doctr., & Relig. 11 Those men which held‥that, Christ‥was man in appearance onely.
        1649 J. Ellistone tr. J. Böhme Epist. ii. lvii. 30 It was for the soules sake that God became man.
        1769 H. Brooke Fool of Quality IV. xvii. 273 God was never made man, my Harry. God cannot be debased.
        1866 J. H. Newman Let. to Pusey 36 He‥became man, that by what way the disobedience arising from the serpent had its beginning, by that way also it might have an undoing.

      4. And all that is to say that this:

        Because of this linguistic particularity, our confession of faith, in English, remains ambiguous.

        Is really not true. Language is not a logic system and if you are using language correctly (in a playing the common game Wittgensteinian sense, not in a prescriptivest sense), it’s not ambigious.

  5. Father R– you have evidence of this, please produce it. Otherwise retract your accusation.–

    I meant to put in the word ‘or’ inbetween my a, b, and c.
    Does that help? In other words: logically it could be a or b or c, not that it is all three. There could be a d,e,f.

    In defense of ‘b’ I was once told by a priest friend of mine that it wouldn’t matter to him if archaeologists actually found Jesus’ bones. It wouldn’t affect his Faith. I’m not going to name names.

    He is a good friend but definitely way out on the edge of the progressive spectrum. Since he wasn’t on the ICEL, I retract .

    Certainly the neo-orthodox protestants, have had an influence in intellectual Catholicism. Barth and Bultmann thought the Christ of Faith was way different from the historical man Jesus.
    –The resurrection of Jesus is certainly supremely real. However, not everything that is real either exists in time and space or is empirically verifiable by historical means.–

    the above words come from MSGR Joseph Meier

    That seems to open the door to the idea that the Resurrection never ‘existed in time and space’.

    1. GA, I mean this as friendly advice: I would encourage you to be very cautious in your accusations. I think you might be in over your head. One of the problems plaguing the Catholic Church today, including the blogosphere, is that ‘conservatives’ feel empowered to judge and critique others without always having enough theological background to understand accurately the people they’re critiquing. Further, an attitude of suspicion, sometimes even paranoia, causes some people to attribute fringe opinions to people in the center – which can be not only inaccurate, but also slanderous. One of our biggest current pastoral challenges is to reastablish some basic trust to counteract all the harm done to the Body of Christ by uninformed, judgmental voices.

      To take up the Resurrection: this is a mystery! It is a supernatural event at the boundaries between this world and the world to come in which Christ’s resurrected Body already is. Entirely orthodox writers speak of the Resurrection being at the borders between the space and time of this world and the spacelessness and timelessness of the coming world. The Resurrection doesn’t exist “in time and space” as you and I understand these terms. To say it does is to reduce it to our level, to try to control what is an incomprehensible mystery. Note that such orthodox authors could well be exploring such topics because their faith is deeper than that of the conservative critics (who don’t understand the topic), and they wish to be open to the fullness of what is mysterious.

      Misunderstanding is one problem. The deeper problem here is an attitude of fear and suspicion and judgmentalism, and we Catholics have to talk more about how to counteract it – it’s doing so much harm to the Church.


      1. “One of the problems plaguing the Catholic Church today, including the blogosphere, is that ‘conservatives’ feel empowered to judge and critique others without always having enough theological background to understand accurately the people they’re critiquing.”

        I don’t think I would limit this admonition to conservatives. Consider what was said about or to Cardinal McIntyre years ago or those who prefer the EF today. We see it frequently when progressives advocate women’s ordination, seemingly not realizing that, from an RC or E. Orthodox perspective, it would involve the simulation of the sacraments nor do they seem to understand that the matter has been decided definitively. Additionally, liberals often infer the most broad interpretations of theological points while clouding their assertions in ambiguity when challenged. Ten years of invalid baptisms in an Australian parish comes to mind (2004). In addition, today’s thinking lay Catholic has the right, even the duty to critique those who challenge the faith in charity. In Brisbane, for example, lay people complained about unusual baptismal formulas for a long time only to be told they were fundamentalists & that they did not understand the nuances of the matter; the words don’t really matter they were told. Only after videotaping one of these inclusive language baptisms and uploading it on Youtube did the Archdiocese intervene to admonish the priests. The Holy See also judged the improper baptisms to be invalid, all ten years of them, clearly indicating that the laity, not the experts, were correct in the first place. Sr. Joan Chitister, OSB remarked on this lay obligation, canon 212, calling it a “ticking time-bomb” for the establishment in the Church (see NCR 11/18 2010 ). Newman argued that the simple lay faithful have a consultative role within the Church, no STD required.

      2. Jack, I would add my word of caution here.

        There are liberals and conservatives both who betray a serious lack of depth in theology. Contrasting an incompetent liberal with a knowledgeable conservative, or a conservative out of her or his depth with a theologically sound progressive doesn’t really do the issues justice.

        As for the right/duty/responsibility to admonish, I tend to agree. Yet such people are going to be wading deep into theology from time to time. It would be good to enter those waters well-prepared, and assume one’s opponents are competent.

    2. His name is John P. Meier, not Joseph, and he is so orthodox that the Pope quotes him. “The resurrection of Jesus is certainly supremely real. However, not everything that is real either exists in time and space or is empirically verifiable by historical means.” This indeed seems to be what critical study of the New Testament suggests.

      1. Father O!

        you are right! His name is John! Your quote is MSGR Meier’s and not the Pope’s. Some people might get confused from the way it was presented.

        Thank you for the correction. It is possible to quote someone when they agree with you, yet still not be at all of their ‘stripe’. I’ve never read -help me out here!- where the Pope says it’s OK if the Resurrection never happened in time and space.

  6. At least I’m happy that if a person speaks a part of the Mass in a different way than what the translation allows, that they are doing it quietly, discreetly. I had a parishioner who has happily gone to her reward, who would say as loudly as she could at a daily Mass where she could be heard loudly, “May the Lord receive the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of GOD’S Name, for our good and the good of all GOD’S Church.” My blood pressure was kept low through medication, but others seem to nearly have a stroke at morning Mass. It was rather divisive and down right unhealthy for some.

    1. If you’re happy she’s gone to God, just imagine how happy she is. And I’ve always been amazed at the low tolerance for human weakness so frequently demonstrated by people who spend so much time in church. And keep up with the meds, Father. The news is full of stories of people who didn’t. Sometimes it doesn’t take much …..

    2. My community of elderly nuns in Japan also use that phraseology. It is a wholesome corrective of the non-inclusive language of the text.

  7. Father–Also, what is your source for Mennonites and incarnation?–

    I used the term ‘hard-core Mennonites’. I have a Mennonite buddy who tells me his grandfather was ‘hard-core’ in this way. Menno Simons seems to have adopted some of his Christology from the albigensians. perhaps some were still in existence into the 16th century…

    I’m pretty certain most modern day Mennonites do not object to the doctrine the way their founder did.

    –It became for him an essential part of his concept of the church. Christ in the Incarnation passed through Mary’s womb like a ray of sunshine through a glass of water without taking on any of her “sinful flesh.” Only thus, he claimed, could the Saviour be perfect, and only because of this can the work of His salvation, the church of Jesus Christ, be perfected.–



      1. George,
        It is worth pointing out that as lovely as Menno was, he was not our “founder” nor does his writing or theology have any particular authority for Mennonites today. Just because your Mennonite buddy’s grandpa believed some screwy things doesn’t mean you should libel the rest of us in order to make a very speculative (and bizarre) point about creed translation. There are plenty of other reasons that eccumenical relations are difficult–don’t complicate things by inventing new ones!

      2. from the global anabaptist mennonite encyclopedia


        -Menno and Dirk asserted that Jesus’ humanity (flesh) was nourished in Mary, but that it originated in heaven and did not receive its substance from Mary. They based this position partly on John 6 and 1 Corinthians 15, and partly on the
        Aristotelian view that the mother’s seed is entirely passive.-

        Your quote never affirms that Christ took his Flesh from Mary. Simons would say Christ became man, but did deny the former. Being constantly persecuted, I am sure Simons new how to choose his words carefully.

        That error is not monophysitism as I understand mono -p’ism denies that Our Lord had two distinct natures but accepts that Christ was incarnate ‘out of Mary’.

        And Adam! (responding to post # 20) I cannot apologize since I never libelled anyone, and I have already said that modern Mennonites do not rigorously follow Simons’ teachings.

        But since I do have your attention, do you all use the 1973 ICEL creed?

      3. “Being constantly persecuted, I am sure Simons…”
        Dangling modifier there, I’m afraid. Unless if you mean to tell us that you’re constantly persecuted.

        This all started when you threw out hypothetically that perhaps the ICEL translators were influenced by (your understanding of) Menno’s understanding of the incarnation. They weren’t.

        So let’s drop this line of inquiry, and we can spare my Mennonite friend Adam of having to spar with you on what Mennonites really believe.


  8. When Bishop Roche was first elected head of ICEL, I wrote to him & Mgr Bruce Harbert asking that consideration be given to using gender inclusive language in the new mass translation.

    My purpose was a simple one: i am neither a liturgist nor theologian. I am a father of two young daughters and have felt awkward each Sunday reciting the creed: “for us men and for our salvation…” In addition the 4th eucharistic prayer is full of unnecessary “man”, “men” even though for me it is the most beautiful of the EPs.

    I received replies from each thanking me but little else. Mgr Harbert wrote quite humorously that he was like the “tailor” for the English speaking bishops: he would make what ever “suit” they asked for however outrageous it might look (the example he used was something like “skin tight lycra with a pink tutu”.)

    When the final translation revealed that gender inclusive language was not included, i wrote again to Bishop Roche lamenting this: he wrote (quite patronisingly i thought) saying “serious theological issues are at stake”. My next reply was although i may not understand these “serious theological issues”it was apparent for everyone to see that the English speaking bishops had the spine of an invertebrate when it came to dealing with Roman bullying.

    1. For us human beings is the correct trans. For us men indeed raises serious theological issues; it is theologically misleading.

  9. I feel we are straining a bit here. Jesus was a man. I am rather liberal in most of my theology, but he maleness of Jesus is beyond question. Also, of all the things in the world the Church is facing, just exactly where on the pole of importance does this fall? Pretty far down, I would say.

    Stop arguing, we need to pray for the oppressed Christians around the world, the sick and the suffering, not over what word we use.

    1. What is important is not that Jesus became man as opposed to woman, but that he became human (or “man”, if by that one means “human”).

    2. The maleness of Jesus is irrelevant to the doctrine of the Incarnation, which focuses exclusively on his humanity. Now we see how non-inclusive language is leading people into positive theological error.

    3. Precisely what is at stake is the assertion of St. Gregory Nazianzus ” That which was not assumed is not healed; but that which is united to God is saved” (to gar aproslepton, atherapeuton ho de henotai to theu, touto kai sozetai). In this situation, to affirm that Christ assumed humanity, is the theological statement about what God redeemed (humanity). To insist that what Christ assumed was maleness then the implication would be that female humans are not saved. Clearly, this is not the intention of the creed, and any careful translator should attend to the intent of the authors, no?

      1. I feel this is a purposeful misreading of my statement to make your point. I insist still that we have many more important things to worry about than what words stands in the creed. It’s been there for more than 1500 years.

        Answer this, is it more important than the attacks on Christians worldwide? Or the condition of the lower to middle class in the United States?

  10. Responding to George,
    I must say I’m entirely confused by your point. Why include your comment about Mennonites at all and in particular your point (a) above if you really mean a belief held by a couple of early founders and someone’s grandpa? I would venture to say you would be hard pressed to find any contemporary Mennonite literature that takes that “hard core” position. (And calling it “hard core”, to me, implies that it is a strong version of a mainstream doctrine–which I assure you it is not.) I appreciate your disclaimer that you aren’t talking about modern Mennonites. So what in the world ARE you talking about? Why bring it up? You haven’t demonstrated any plausible relationship to the creed translation.
    I had to dig into the back of my hymnal to find it the attribution–it looks like we use the ELLC 1988 translation of the Apostle’s Creed. See the MCUSA Confession of Faith (1995) for our current affirmation about the humanity of Jesus–especially paragraph 4:


  11. That’s interesting. I’ve been to Mass in many places – mostly in the Midwest, but also in and around DC – and never heard “…and became one of us.”

  12. George:

    The 1973 Creed is not an ICEL text. ICEL adopted the 1970 ICET text, produced by an ecumenical body of scholar-liturgists. They knew exactly what they were doing, and published a rationale for it. It is worth reading.

    It’s also of interest to point out that many people do not in fact say “and became human” but “and became a man”. I don’t think anyone can seriously object to that, even if it does not follow the Latin which, strictly speaking, would be translated clunkily as “and was made a [male] human being”. (But then of course the entire new Missal is clunky….)

    1. Paul-produced by an ecumenical body of scholar-liturgists-

      aha! Paul, I made you say the E word! (which rhymes with free which stands for free mason!) You Brits are lucky, you got to keep the Incarnation!

      Thanks for reminding me not to oversimplify and overgeneralize things! This string has been quite humbling for moi!


    2. And became a man is not the doctrine of the Incarnation; and became a human being is closer, but and became human is best. The trouble is that the Creed’s way of telling the story of the Incarnation with the eternal Son as subject is misleading; the eternal Sonship means the divinity of Christ, his ultimate meaning, and it is not the sort of this that is an agent in a story line.

  13. So I go back to my original response that got lost in all the in-between blogging, bickering and ultimately off the point tangent — “and became flesh” is very Scriptural and very Traditional.

    1. +JMJ+

      But homo factus est is not about the flesh so much as the humanity: Jesus wasn’t simply God walking around in a body of flesh, He took on human nature to the fullest.

      incarnatus est could be “was made flesh” or “took flesh” or “became flesh”.

      1. Yes, the “flesh” relates to the sarkothenta of the Greek, rather than the enanthropesanta of the Greek. The latter clarifies the former – the Second Person of the Holy Trinity not only took on a body, but a specifically human body. While there is an allusion to the prologue of the Gospel of John, there is more here than that.

  14. I, too, say my own version of the Mass. The “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you” etc. comes out in French. I have no problem saying it in French sotto voce while everyone around me says it in English. It’s not that I don’t like the English, but that the French is more meaningful to me for this particular prayer. If we start saying “I believe” rather than “we believe” in the Creed, for that prayer I might also revert to French, my language for personal prayer. Rather than change the text that you object to, why not use German to say the few words that you don’t like in their English version?

    Meanwhile in my corner of the church everyone around me talks about the “glory of God’s name” and the “good of God’s church” while I continue talking of the “glory of his name” and of the “good of his church”. I am not bothered by them, and they don’t seem to be bothered by me. One person raises his hand slightly whenever we say: “And also with you”. I, most Sundays, find myself striking my breast during the Agnus Dei, which no one in the US does. We each have our lifelong habits, and there are many variations, but our differences really do not seem to matter.

    1. I, too, say my own version of the Mass.

      Decades ago I used to give the Latin responses (sotto voce) in places where I found the English too repugnant. More recently, I have forced myself to use the English, having come to believe that my sentiments, no matter how well founded, are not entitled to overturn the sign of unity that the liturgy is intended to present.

  15. Ultimately our faith in the Incarnation is witnessed more by how we treat other people, (whatsoever we do to the least of these we do to Jesus) than the words we say in Church.

    For people who are unhappy with prayers or hymns, silence and interior communion with God during them may be the most eloquent response.

    In the movie, Thomas More said that silence signifies consent before the law, but in life people have to use their wits to figure out what it means.

    Jesus used silence very effectively when he was faced with the assembled political and religious powers of his day.

    The tradition of the desert solitaries is full of counsels for silence when we are disturbed by the words and behavior of others, no matter how justified we might think speaking out would be.

  16. Todd F. –As for the right/duty/responsibility to admonish, I tend to agree. Yet such people are going to be wading deep into theology from time to time. It would be good to enter those waters well-prepared, and assume one’s opponents are competent.–

    Right Todd! I assume you are competent. I don’t assume that for myself, therefore I have to ask questions. The one in particular that furrowed my brow has to do with priests who accept with equanimity the possibility that the Resurrection never really happened in ‘time and space’.

    If Christ’s bones were discovered, without any shadow of doubt, would that have an effect on your Faith? I’m not on a witch hunt here. I truly do not understand that attitude. If anyone would care to explain. What’s more, if that take it or leave it attitude applies to the Resurrection, then why not ditto for the Incarnation?

    Is it not essential to the Incarnation that God entered ‘time and space’? Do not the Incarnational elements of ‘time and space’ necessarily carry over to the Resurrection? Sorry for going ‘over my head’!

    1. George,

      I think I and others have already tried to sketch out how the Resurrection might be outside time and space. We’re into heavy-duty theology, so more than this probably can’t be negotiated in a commbox.

      I do not believe that it wouldn’t matter to my faith if the bones of Jesus were found. But out of fairness to those who have held this – it was a deeply held conviction after much though. Your term “take it or leave it” is dismissive and unfair to these people.


  17. “One of the problems plaguing the Catholic Church today, including the blogosphere, is that ‘conservatives’ feel empowered to judge and critique others without always having enough theological background to understand accurately the people they’re critiquing. ”

    Anthony Ruff:
    I have been reading your blog for a year. I have never posted here. I doubt I will again. But your comment above must be the most elitist, supercilious, and condescending that I have read ever. Can you please re-read what you wrote? Substitute the word “liberal” for conservative — would you have allowed that? One problem with the entire Catholic Church is ignorant conservatives? Do you realize how much credibility you have just lost? You’re lucky that the real conservatives who could make intellectual mincemeat out of some of the arguments here don’t waste their time blogging…..anywhere. Is this a wise, pastoral comment for a charitable priest and healer to be writing? And as for a culture of suspicion — who keeps spreading the conspiratorial theory of Benedict’s supposed “systematic dismantling of Vatican II?” (to use Fr. Michael Ryan’s phrase). Have you read some of the paranoid comments coming from “liberal” bloggers here who believe that Benedict wants to restore the Church to 1948?

    Isn’t this just a bit puffed up? I’m so disappointed, but you have said what most liberals really believe inside.
    Maybe you should take the blog out of your own eye.
    Peace and Blessed Candlemas

    1. Dear Ms. Hughes,

      Thank you for writing and sharing your thoughts with our readership.

      I stand by my judgment. There are some conservatives of the sort I describe at loose in our dear Church. This I know, for I encountered them quite regularly.

      If you ever change your mind about posting, know that you’re always welcome to submit a comment here.



  18. On the importance of the theological discussions regarding the humanity — vs. the maleness — of the Incarnation — to downplay this is basically to downplay the “imago Dei” of roughly half of the human race.
    In some ways, it is not such a good thing that we ignore the historical texts that questioned the humanity and the redemption of women. It is demeaning to tell women in theology that their legitimate, historical concerns are unimportant.

  19. I understand the error in reciting “and became one of us” but what is the issue with stating “and became man”. By saying this you are both affirming the incarnation of Christ that he became “human” (as all men are human, there is no way around this) and you are affirming the fact that God took the form of a male.

    What is the issue with this?

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