ON BEING CATHOLIC
“One canon reduced to writing by God himself, two testaments, three creeds, four general councils, five centuries, and the series of Fathers in that period, the centuries that is, before Constantine, and two after, determine the boundary of our faith.”
-Lancelot Andrewes | Theologian and Court Preacher | 1555 –1626 AD
Every Sunday in reciting the Nicene Creed, Anglicans declare, “I believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church……” These are the four so-called “Notes,” or distinguishing marks of the Church, without which the Church cannot be the Church: One because there is no other, and because the faithful who form the Church are united to one Head, Jesus Christ; Holy because of the indwelling presence of the Holy Ghost, who sanctifies her members by uniting them to the Head; Apostolic because her origin can be traced to the Apostles of Jesus Christ, she is governed by their successors, and she believes, preserves, and teaches the Apostle’s doctrine; Catholic because she is a church for all people, all times, and in all places. Anglicans draw their ideals and definition of Catholicity from the ancient and undivided Church when Catholicity was a living reality, when it was a word freshly applied to the new and vigorous Church of Christ.
Since the word “Catholic” is not found in Holy Scriptures, we must go back to Greek culture to find its origin. The church fathers of the second century A.D. apparently were seeking a word that would make clear that the Gospel was for the whole world and not just for those of the Hebrew religion. In the Greek language katholikas meant “general or universal, for all, the entire.” Translated into English, it is rightly defined as “universal, holding earnestly the Faith for all time, in all countries, and for all people.”