For us, and for our salvation, he came down and was incarnate and was made man. He suffered, and the third day he rose again ... (from the Nicene Creed, 325 A.D.)
For us, and for our salvation, he came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and was made man. He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried, and the third day rose again ... (from the Nicene creed as expanded at Constantinople, 381 A.D.)
These have been the words in which Christians the world over have declared our faith since the 300's A.D., and the words in which the majority of Christians confess our faith to this day. This united proclamation of faith has been part of the common ground of Christian thought and devotion through the ages. Even those recent Protestant groups which do not accept or confess the historic Christian proclamation of faith still typically share the beliefs which are proclaimed here: the basic facts of Jesus' life and death, and that these were for us, and for our salvation.
Today I am looking through the first hymnal I used in my first church. Most of the hymns are still in use in our newer hymnals. The hymns for Lent, and particularly for Good Friday, take up that proclamation, that meditation:
Glory be to Jesus, Who, in bitter pains
Poured for me the lifeblood from his sacred veins. (1700's, Italy)
There is a green hill far away without a city wall
Where our dear Lord was crucified, who died to save us all. (1800's, Britain/Ireland)
Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee.
'Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee:
I crucified thee.
(From "Ah Holy Jesus", early 1600's, Germany)
Thy grief and bitter passion were all for sinners' gain.
Mine, mine was the transgression -- but thine the deadly pain.
(From O Sacred Head Now Wounded, Attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux, though questionably. Seems to predate the Reformation solidly; European.)
It's difficult for me to wrap my mind around the thought: what Jesus did was for us. Of all the truths we proclaim about Jesus, that may be the most humbling, and the most uplifting.