Friday, July 22, 2011

I give my heart

Artist: Giovanni di Paolo

I remember many years ago when I first learned the true meaning of the word credo. It is tragic, really, that we seem to have forgotten this:

Credo is the word with which the great creeds of early Chistendom begin. “I believe. . .” we say. The Latin credo means literally, “I give my heart.” The word believe is a problematic one today in part because it has gradually changed its meaning from being the language of certainty so deep that I could give my heart to it, to the language of uncertainty so shallow that only the “credulous” would rely on it. Faith, as we have seen, is not about propositions, but about commitment. It does not mean that I intellectually subscribe to the following list of statements, but that I give my heart to this reality. Believe, indeed, comes to us from the Old English belove, making clear that this too is meant to be heart language. To say “I believe in Jesus Christ” is not to subscribe to an uncertain proposition. It is a confession of commitment, of love.

-- Diana L. Eck


  1. Thanks for this definition of "Credo." If it weren't for the fact that the Episcopal Church has "adopted" "Credo" as the name of its home grown "self-improvement" program I'd start using it right away to describe what I've said in sermons for years now, "Jesus didn't call us to believe things, certainly not propositions or creeds. He called us to follow him." I'm sorry to repeat myself but I sort of make Matthew 25:31-40 and Luke 4:18-19 my statement of faith because my heart, mind and spirit all agree that these passages are truth about the way things should be. "Faith," at least when translated as believing a proposition that defies reason, isn't an issue with these teachings of Jesus. What is most important anyway, "to love one's neighbor as one's self" or "to believe three things that defy reason?" I believe Jesus made the answer to that question quite clear.

  2. Needless to say, I agree with you about Matthew 25 and Luke 4.

    Also, why do the churchy self-improvement folks get custody of that word? I doubt that most people (outside of clergy circles) even know about the "Credo" program and the word has a long, long history. (Think of all the musical settings of the Mass that have been composed...)

  3. Yes Ellie, I agree with your point. However, on a slightly different line, a FB friend pointed out the "to give my heart to" is a non-standard definition of Credo and that the correct definition is something more like, "to trust in." I pointed out that there is no one or no concept in whom or in which I have implicit I have implicit trust to whom or to which I would not in some sense "give my heart to." But then I realized he is right that "to trust in" is better because parents "give their hearts" to children and children to parents in whom they have very little or no trust. We may even 'give our hearts" to friends in whom we have little or no trust. So, although Eck's view is a useful way of thinking of the meaning of Credo, it is not necessarily the best meaning in all circumstances. It is simply a distinction worth noting.

  4. Hmm. Well, maybe the "trust" business is more the connotation but I read somewhere (the reference is at home and I'm at the Center right now so I can't check it) that the root of credo is the same as that of cardio meaning, of course, heart.

    I'll check on that and get back to you.

  5. Here's a very interesting article that explores both the "heart" and the "trust" meaning:

    What is the etymology of “credo”?

  6. You've never been at the "center right" not now or any other time.

  7. I found this in the online Dictionary of Entymology.late 12c., from Latin, lit. "I believe," first word of the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds, first person singular present indicative of credere "to believe," perhaps from PIE compound *kerd-dhe- "to believe," lit. "to put one's heart" So Eck's definition works after all.

  8. "You've never been at the "center right" not now or any other time."

    Oh, that's funny, Tom! Well done!


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