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Parts of the Mass: Homily & Creed
Parishes, RCIA groups, RE teachers and others will hopefully find Liturgy Lines over the next few weeks a useful accompaniment to Archbishop Mark Coleridge’s multi part series on the Catholic Mass at https://brisbanecatholic.org.au/beliefs-and-works/mass/.
The readings from scripture at Mass are followed by a homily. The word comes from the Latin homilia, meaning ‘conversation’. The homily has its origins in the Jewish synagogue service where, after the readings from the Law and the Prophets, an explanation of their meaning was given by one of those present.
A homily was been part of the Church’s liturgy since the beginning but during the Middle Ages it changed from a breaking-open of the scriptures to an instruction on Catholic doctrine or morals, i.e., a sermon.
The Second Vatican Council restored the homily as an integral part of the liturgy, stating that ‘the homily is to be highly esteemed as part of the liturgy itself’.
The introduction to the Lectionary says that the homily must be ‘truly the fruit of meditation, carefully prepared, neither too long nor too short, and suited to all those present, even children and the uneducated’.
Like the readings at Mass, the homily is a two-way process. The preacher prepares and delivers the homily but members of the assembly play their part by listening attentively to the readings and to the words of the preacher, keeping an open mind to the insights which are being presented, and applying them to their own personal circumstances.
The homily is followed by a short silence.
On Sundays and solemnities we respond to the word of God by reciting the Profession of Faith or Creed, a statement of the fundamentals of the Christian faith. In early Christianity, the Profession of Faith was primarily associated with baptism. The Renewal of Baptismal Promises which replaces the Creed at the Easter Vigil has the same question/answer format that was used for catechumens at their baptism. The Profession of Faith first became part of the Mass in the late 5th century as a safeguard against heresy.
A different creed cannot be substituted for the two approved versions – the Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds – because it expresses the foundational belief of the whole Church, not only of the people gathered at a particular time and place. The traditional creeds have a long history and their texts have been carefully worded over the course of many Church councils to express Christian faith accurately.
It is important, however, to keep in mind that proclaiming the Creed at Mass is not about reciting a long list of what we believe but rather a vibrant glorification of God, and of God’s love for us. Its structure, its every word, is a proclamation of God’s goodness.
As a communal prayer, the profession of faith is said as one voice by all the people. It needs to have a certain pace and rhythm to be an effective communal statement. Like singers in a choir, members of the assembly need to listen to each other and keep together when proclaiming the creed and other communal prayers.