April 12, 1998
Brother John Raymond
Easter is the time we renew our Baptismal promises and it is also the time people are received into the Church. An important part of being a Catholic is making an act of faith in what we believe as Catholics. The Creed or Profession of Faith is an important part of the Mass. It is the summary of all that Christ has taught us.
The Creed was not drawn up for use at Mass. In ancient times, a profession of faith was absolutely necessary for being baptized. From this usage in the baptismal liturgy the Creed later became an instrument to stop heresies that threatened the principles of our Faith. The need arose to state these principles in precise and definite terms that could then be affirmed. However, the Apostles' Creed was not adequate for this degree of precision. So, a more amplified statement of belief or Creed was drawn up at the Council of Chalcedon (year 451). It combined the truths of the faith professed by the two earlier councils, one held in Nicaea (year 325), the other at Constantinople (year 381). It is this Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, basically, that we find in our Sunday Masses.
The early Church was challenged by heresies to more clearly define her teaching on the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity. In the climate of doctrinal unrest in the fourth century, a heretic could easily find his way into an assembly of the faithful during the Liturgy and wreak havoc. How could the Church protect herself from such people? Perhaps only by compelling the whole congregation to state the Catholic Faith and affirm their adherence to it.
This use of the Creed in the liturgy began in Antioch and Constantinople. Then it spread to Spain, where the Council of Toledo (year 589) embraced it. This council specified that the Creed should be recited before the Lord's Prayer. They said, "Let the Creed resound so that the true faith may be declared in song and that the souls of believers, in accepting that faith, may be ready to partake, in Communion, of the body and blood of Christ." (Canon 2, Mansi IX, 993)
So the Creed became, together with the Our Father, a preparation for Holy Communion. From Spain, it spread to Western Europe, where it was moved to after the Gospel. The Church in Rome did not adopt it in the Mass until the year 1014.
We can distinguish three parts in the Creed:
First, a profession of faith in God, the Father, our Creator, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen.
Next, a profession of faith in Christ, Our Lord. He is God, who by the power of the Holy Spirit became incarnate from the Virgin Mary and was made man. At these words, all bow as a sign of reverence for the mystery. Then we focus on Christ's passion and death on the Cross, His Resurrection, Ascension and His judging us at the Final Judgment.
Finally, a profession of faith in the means of salvation, supplied by God, the Holy Spirit, the giver of supernatural life. We declare how He works through the Church.
This Church, we profess to be One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. The Church is one because God is one and She is one with Him. The Church is also unique in that Christ founded no other Universal Church, which is what "Catholic" means. The Church is Holy in that she comes from God and her doctrine and Sacraments are Holy. The Church is Apostolic because She traces her origins back to Christ through the College of Apostles who are succeeded by the College of Bishops.
Meditating on the Creed would make a good preparation for the renewal of our Baptismal promises this Easter. Take the Catechism of the Catholic Church and go through it so that you may really pray and profess what you truly believe.