On Faith and Revelations

At stake in the church’s first general council was the simplest, yet most profound, question: Who is Jesus Christ?

July 4, 325, was a memorable day. About three hundred Christian bishops and deacons from the eastern half of the Roman Empire had come to Nicea, a little town near the Bosporus Straits flowing between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.

In the conference hall where they waited was a table. On it lay an open copy of the Gospels.

The emperor, Constantine the Great, entered the hall in his imperial, jewel-encrusted, multicolored brocades, but out of respect for the Christian leaders, without his customary train of soldiers. Constantine spoke only briefly. He told the churchmen they had to come to some agreement on the crucial questions dividing them. “Division in the church,” he said, “is worse than war.”

Nicea symbolized a new day for Christianity. The persecuted followers of the Savior dressed in linen had become the respected advisers of emperors robed in purple. The once-despised religion was on its way to becoming the state religion, the spiritual cement of a single society in which public and private life were united under the control of Christian doctrine.

If Christianity were to serve as the cement of the Empire, however, it had to hold one faith. So the emperors called for church councils like Nicea, paid the way for bishops to attend, and pressed church leaders for doctrinal unity. The age of Christian emperors was an age of creeds; and creeds were the instruments of conformity.

The Apostles Creed The Nicene Creed
I believe in God,
the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
and of all that is, seen and unseen.
I believe in Jesus Christ,
his only Son, our Lord.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
one in Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation,
he came down from heaven:
He was conceived by the
power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he was born of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell.
For our sake he was crucified
under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered died and was buried.
On the third day he rose again. On the third day he rose again
in fulfillment of the Scriptures;
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge
the living and the dead
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
Amen.
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the
Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son
he is worshipped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy
catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one
baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.
Amen.

Liturgy

Adjatay, of the Bwiti cult, was well known throughout the villages and even beyond. His fame rested on solid personal achievements. As a young man of sixteen he had brought honor to his village by killing Achi the cat with his bare hands. Achi, a black panther, the most elusive and strongest climber of all felines had terrorized the villagers with its uncommon hunger for human flesh. Adjatay, unusually tall and huge for his age, tracked the feline in the most hostile forest in the land and killed it.

In the traditional cults of the Bwiti; the individual is often submerged under the weight of his family. With the development of a trend of individualism, each man now wants to have his own ancestral relics and administer the rites of his cult apart from his brothers.  Adjatay is clearly cut out for great things. He is still young but he has won fame as the most notorious feline killer. Age is still respected among his people, but achievement is evermore revered. As the elders say, if a child washes his hands he can eat with kings.  It is now time for Adjatay to wash his hands through the initiatic rite of the Bwiti. Through dialogues with the ancestors, Adjatay will become Nganga, which means an initiated man. Adjatay will have developed a better understanding of himself and of the world with the aim to cure and guide others on the path of personal development.

The initiation:

In the heat of a December afternoon, in the heart of the Equatorial Forest, Adjatay’s village resounds with the call of drums. A towering figure covered with raffia palm leaves and topped with a finely carved wooden head is moving through the village. It is an embodied spirit. The rhythmic drums perpetually beat, and the flutes sing and the spectators hold their breath. The embodied spirit is surrounded by young men dressed in short loincloths, their bodies whitened with chalk. These men wield long switches witch keep the gathering crowed at a distance. The spirit sways with the music, and the men sing as they dash to and fro. After a while the spirit troupe disappears into the men’s meeting house. Once in the house, the novices ingest the Iboga plant which gives the young men visions and hallucinations allowing them to travel to the ancestors’ land. It is a rebirth initiation. Symbolically the young boys are killed and made born again. All through the day, performances such as these will continue: masquerades, singing, dancing, and every sort of festivity. It is a rite of passage celebrating the fact that a particular age set has officially gained recognition in the community as full adults.