The Nicene formulation of the church as One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic comes as a reminder especially at a time when major denominations have split or are at the verge of splitting over some very hard and contentious moral questions before the church. Hard as it is, the Nicene marks of the church is a call for the Church to stay committed to each of those four formulations.
What does it mean to be One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church?
- Apostolic: [Sent commissioned with a task— rather than a genealogical understanding of papacy]. Every Christian is an apostle rather than someone ‘more formed.’
- To be apostolic is our ultimate invitation to mimesis, to be imitators, to be in the likeness of Christ who was sent. He left for us the incarnational model of being in the world.
- Catholic [Kat – according to; Holon – entire /whole] — The gathering of the whole towards the love of the Father through Christ’s work of redemption.
- To be Catholic is an invitation to move towards the core, which is the love of the Father to whom both the Spirit and the Son point us.
- Holy: [Set apart for God’s purpose—despite our ordinariness]; signifying availability /usefulness to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit for training to be in the likeness of the nature of the Lord.
- To be Holy is the invitation to become useful to the Holy Spirit whose transformative presence within the Christian community orients us to be a communion.
which brings us to the term “ONE”,
- One: [United /unfragmented]; signifying the need to practice the art of Christian arguing where we learn to disagree while staying united.
- To be One is a call to reflect the perichoretic unity within the community of the Trinity in the Church in a manner where the many can be One.
Without sounding obsessive (which I am) about formalization, let me explicate this within a Trinitarian framework. Each of the marks– One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic–may be aligned to function in the likeness of a particular member of the Trinity. Let me summarise: Invited to imitate the ONEness exemplified in the perichoretic unity of the Trinitarian community, each believer is drawn to the CATHOLIC core held together by the love of God the Father, made HOLY by the transformative and indwelling fellowship of God the Holy Spirit within each individual as well as the Church corpus making it a communion, we are empowered to imitate God the Son in His APOSTOLIC mission in the world.