Some language has changed in Profession of Faith
What is the Creed? Where did it come from?
On Sundays and solemnities, after the homily, the congregation stands for the Creed or Profession of Faith. The name “Creed” comes from its opening word in Latin – “Credo,” meaning “I believe.” This beautiful prayer is a summary statement of our faith that was developed as a result of two great ecumenical councils of the church: Nicaea I (in the year 325) and Constantinople I (381).
Why were these councils called?
It is an oversimplification to say these first two councils of the church were called simply to combat the Arian heresy, but it is not false to say that this was the primary reason for both councils. The Arian heresy – a theological teaching espoused by an Egyptian priest named Arius – was a particularly difficult heresy for the church to combat and forced the church to clarify its theology, especially with regard to Christ. The Arian heresy held that Jesus Christ was created by God and, therefore, was not of the same essence of God the Father. It can be summed up by Arius’ famous statement about Christ: “There was a time when he was not.” Because Arius was gaining a large following, the Council Fathers drafted a profession of faith that articulated the essential beliefs of the true faith. The eventual result of this profession of faith is the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, which we profess at the Mass. Keeping this in mind helps us to understand why such technical language is sometimes found in the Creed and also helps us to take pride in the faith that we profess since it has grown out of much difficulty and strife. While not expressly biblical, the Creed summarizes the beliefs we find in Scripture.
Why have the words changed in the Creed?
In the new translation of the Roman Missal, the Creed undergoes considerable changes in the English vernacular. Among the most noticeable are the opening words, which have changed from “We believe” to “I believe.” The new translation is the direct translation of the Latin, and it suggests the internalization of the words that we profess, so that it becomes a personal profession of faith. Some may argue that by reciting the Creed so often, it becomes difficult to make it personally meaningful each time we say it. In response, we must make an extra effort at full, conscious, active participation by interiorly engaging the Creed. We must remind ourselves that simply because we say things often does not mean that we are insincere. We tell our loved ones that we love them with considerable frequency; but just because that is second nature, does it mean that we do not mean those words? They become meaningless only if we do not regularly bring its meaning to mind.
Another very noticeable change is the introduction of more technical language into the Creed. The phrase “… begotten, not made, consubstantial, with the Father” is now translated correctly. It means “of the same substance” in reference to Christ being of the same substance as God the Father – a particular note of contention in the Arian controversy. This is important because in the former translation, it merely said “begotten, not made, one in being with the Father.” This is true, but only Christ is of the same substance with the Father.
Why do we bow during the Creed? Why do we stand throughout the Creed?
The use of the word incarnate in reference to Christ helps to clarify the doctrine that his Incarnation occurred at his conception, not his birth. In connection to this great mystery of the Incarnation, the church asks us to unify our verbal expression with our bodily gesture as we make a profound bow of the head and shoulders while we say, “he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.” The only exception to this is on the feast of the Annunciation and at Christmas, when we genuflect during these words since it is on these two feasts that we, as a church, particularly celebrate this great mystery. However, the importance of the entire Creed is indicated by our standing during its recitation, just as we stand at the proclamation of the Gospel to indicate our acknowledgment of the important of this great liturgical action.
What is the difference between the Nicene Creed and the Apostle’s Creed?
Both versions of the Creed are options available in the new translation of the Roman Missal, as they were in former translations. Often, we wonder about the difference between the two. The church has many different versions of the Creed – the Nicene, the Apostle’s and the Athanasian creeds are just some examples. All are expressions of the same Catholic faith with different emphases and different histories. In this way, they are similar to the Gospels. There are four different Gospels that tell the same story of Christ with different histories and different emphases. The same is true of the Nicene and Apostle’s Creed.
This is not an exhaustive study of the entirety of the faith that is expressed in the Creed. Much like the Gloria, the Creed takes us through the story of salvation history, reminding us of pivotal moments and the meanings they have for us as Christians. These few examples help to illustrate that on the whole, the new translation of the Creed helps to express and articulate the faith in a more precise and richer way. It is important for us to use this opportunity to re-explore the doctrines expressed in the Creed so that we may more fully engage the Creed at Mass and truly make it our own personal expression of faith.