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Clergy Corner: Creed

Posted: November 23, 2011

As we prepare to implement the new Roman Missal on the first Sunday of Advent (27 November), we now turn to look at changes in the Creed. This explanation of the Creed comes from an article by Bishop Olmstead in Columbia, the Knights of Columbus magazine, from the book, What Happens at Mass, by Fr. Driscoll, from the USCCB website (http://old.usccb.org/romanmissal/samples-people.shtml), and from some great research done by Fr. Stuart.

The first change we will notice to the Creed, which we recite immediately after the homily, is that we no longer say “We believe” but “I believe”. Other places in the Creed where we used to say “we” are now going to be “I” statements. Why the change? First, this is a more accurate rendering of the Latin, credo, or “I believe”. In addition, it is helpful to recall what the Creed is. The Creed comes after the readings from Scripture and the homily, and serves as a summary of the way the Church reads the Scriptures, and thus is a summary of the Church’s faith. In addition, the Creed has its origins in very ancient Baptismal rites where adults, before being baptized, had to profess their faith in the Holy Trinity; this profession was usually of the form, “I believe in God the Father, in Jesus Christ his only Son, and in the Holy Spirit”. Even today, those to be baptized (or their parents) still respond, “I do [believe]” to the profession of faith recited by the priest or deacon. It is true that we profess our faith together with others, and that this is the faith of the Church, a community of believers. But it is also true that faith is a deeply personal response to God’s invitation to be in relationship with Him. Hence, the “I” of the Creed.

Two other changes in the Creed deal with the use of theological language. In the Creed, we will now say Jesus is “consubstantial with the Father” instead of “one in Being with the Father”. Both these translations point to the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., the source of our present-day Creed. This Council, writing in Greek, said that the Son of God is “begotten, not made, of the same substance (homoousios in Greek) as the Father.” The English word “consubstantial” is a more technical term, but one that points to the crucial meaning that the Son is a divine Person with the same divine nature (or substance) as God. In the face of widespread belief that Jesus, the Son of God, was not fully equal to God, the Council’s use of this term was of great importance. “Consubtantial” thus links our profession of faith to the Creed that was professed for 17 centuries. Another change concerns the use of the word “born”. Currently, we profess that the Word, the Son of God, is “eternally begotten of the Father” and also “born of the Virgin Mary.” Now we will profess that Jesus is the “Only begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages”, and that he “was incarnate of the Virgin Mary.” Jesus is not just “born of the Virgin Mary” but that his ultimate source is in the Father; the Son eternally proceeds from God while still being God. The Word took on flesh (and our human nature) not when he was born from Mary, but at Mary’s great Fiat, when she conceived Jesus in her womb. In addition the Word of God took his flesh, his humanity, from Mary. Mary’s pregnancy was not of a surrogate nature; she truly is the mother of the Son of God in every way. This is what we mean when we will say that the Word of God “was incarnate of the Virgin Mary”.

One other change in the Creed is that instead of saying Jesus “suffered, died and was buried” we will say Jesus “suffered death and was buried”. The greatest suffering for us as human beings is death. By becoming Incarnate, Jesus entered into the depths of human experience, even death itself, so that he might open for us the way to eternal life.

There are a few other changes that we will notice to the Creed, but I hope this brief explanation will help us all profess the ancient faith of the Church with greater understanding and gratitude.

May God Bless you. Fr. Lickteig