On Different Creeds...


A few people have asked me why we have changed from the Niceno‐Constantinopolitan Creed to the Apostle's Creed during Lent and Easter.

The rubric found in the Roman Missal for the Order of Mass, 19, stipulates that:
Instead of the Niceno‐Constantinopolitan Creed, especially during Lent and Easter Time, the baptismal Symbol of the Roman Church, known as the Apostles’ Creed, may be used.
The reason this option is recommended particularly for Lent/Easter Time is because of its close relationship with Baptism. The Apostles’ Creed is the basis for the baptismal promises made by the elect before they are baptised. It is also used for the renewal of baptismal promises at Easter and by parents and Godparents when bringing a child for Baptism.

Throughout history the Church has used a kind of shorthand to enable members to summarise all the important elements of their faith in unity with each other. These syntheses are called “Professions of Faith” because they contain a summary of the faith a Christian professes. Another name they are known by is “Creeds” from the Latin Credo which means “I believe”, and tends to be the first line of such professions. They are also known as symbolon or “symbols of faith” (CCC 187) from the Greek symballein which means ‘to come together’. A symbolon was used as identification, a token broken in two which, when reunited with it’s other half provided indelible evidence of the provenance of a document or tryst or that a person was who they were supposed to be. So, a symbolon is something that points to its complementary other half and thus creates mutual recognition and unity.

In this way, we can see how a profession of faith- a creed- is part of a symbolon, an item which unites believers in communion (CCC 188). In the same way, we can see that every man holds the faith as a symbolon also; a broken, incomplete piece, it can only attain unity and completeness when it fits together with the other parts of itself forming a unity of faith, a Church. The Christian faith demands a unity of confession and worship. This also speaks of our need for worship in community: our relationship to God and our fellow man cannot be separated from each other.

Over time, many different professions of faith have been inspired by the demands present at that era. The Nicene Creed, the Athanasian and the professions of faith of the councils such as Toledo, Lateran, Lyons and Trent are all examples. None of these symballien are considered irrelevant or superseded by the Church (CCC 193). Closer study of the motivation and situations that are the creative influence behind these professions of faith can only serve to deepen our understanding of the whole of the faith. This is the hermeneutic of continuity and development. The Church is unable to reject the tradition on which it was founded; instead it chooses development over discontinuity.

We use the Apostles Creed in order to help to draw the connection between baptism and Lent/Easter Time. The origins of the Apostles’ Creed are believed to predate the Nicene Creed. It is universally recognised by many Christians as a shared statement of our faith in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As we recite the Apostles’ Creed, it will stir up in our hearts our commitment to Christ which was first made at our own baptisms and prepare us to renew our promises this Easter. 

Comments

  1. Yes, all well and good, but...

    I have a real concern at the ease with which the liturgical traditions we have inherited - time-proven, and one might say, time-hallowed - are cast aside.

    Of course I have nothing whatsoever against the Apostles' Creed: I say it daily at the start of my Rosary. However, from time immemorial we have used the Nicene Creed at Mass. That is the Creed for which we have a body of Chant; it is the Creed we naturally sing together.

    I think we need more liturgical stability; so I question this change. I also worry about the looseness of the rubric: it may result (and I am sure, in some parishes will result) in the shorter Apostles' Creed being said every week, and the Nicene Creed, the Creed traditionally said at Mass, falling into disuse.

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    Replies
    1. I think that's an excellent point Ben, I would love to know when and the reason for this change. I suppose it could also be an attempt to stimulate discussion as to why there are different Creeds as well. We don't use the others hardly at all, do we? The Apostle's Creed is the only other one I knew before I started studying, and I was amazed to find how many others here were and what they were actually all about!

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  2. I have a sneaking suspicion that some priests have gone for the Apostles' Creed- outside of Lent and Eastertide- because, like Eucharistic Prayer 2, it constitutes a shorter option.

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    Replies
    1. Yes I have no doubt you're correct! It's also worth pondering why it hasn't been explained. Surely things like this, if you are going to implement them, constitute opportunities for evangelisation which should be capitalised on?

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