New Words for Worship Part 8: The Creed

New Words for Worship Part 8: The Creed
The first and most notable change in the Niceno-Constantinopolitan (Nicene) Creed in the revised Missal translation is a shift from the use of the first person plural “we” to the singular “I”. The translators here have followed a directive in Liturgiam Authenticam, the 2001 Instruction outlining the rules of vernacular translation of the Roman liturgy, which stipulates: “The Creed is to be translated according to the precise wording that the tradition of the Latin Church has bestowed upon it, including the use of the first person singular.” (LA 65)
All well and good, except that using the first person singular (“I”) in the Creed is not consistent with the tradition of the Roman Rite. The original and official Nicene Creed promulgated by the first Ecumenical Council of Nicaea in 325 said “We believe” in both the Greek and Latin versions.
The Spanish Rite uses the plural “We believe” in its revised translation as it did in the earlier one. This means that in the many bi-lingual parishes in the USA, the Creed will now begin “We believe” at Masses where Spanish is used and “I believe” at English language Masses.
Why does it matter whether the Creed begins with I or We? Liturgy is always a communal activity; we gather at Mass to offer prayer and praise to God as the people of God, the body of Christ, not as a disparate collection of individuals. Using “we” in the Creed emphasises the unity of the assembly in praying this symbol of our faith together. In addition, the Creed expresses the foundational belief of the whole Church, so the “we" includes those beyond the people gathered at a particular time and place.
Other alterations in the wording include:
· “all that is, seen and unseen” becomes “all things visible and invisible”.
· “only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father” becomes “the Only Begotten Son of
God, born of the Father before all ages”.
· “of one Being with the Father” becomes “consubstantial with the Father”.
· “by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary and was
made man” becomes “and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and
became man”.
· “We acknowledge one baptism” becomes “I confess one baptism”.
· “We look for the resurrection of the dead” becomes “and I look forward to the resurrection
of the dead”.

Whilst I can accept that revisions, like “consubstantial” for “of one Being” have been made to ensure theological precision, others such as “rose again on the third day “ instead of the present “on the third day he rose again” and “adored and glorified” for “worshipped and glorified” look like changes for the sake of change that will cause needless confusion .

The most notable aspect of the revised translation of the Apostles' Creed is the change from “He descended to the dead” to “He descended into hell”. The meaning of the latter is explained in the Catechism: “By the expression ‘He descended into hell’, the Apostles’ Creed confesses that Jesus did really die and through his death for us conquered death and the devil ‘who has the power of death’ (Heb 2:14). [#636]

The rubrics of the new Missal encourage wider use of the Apostles’ Creed, especially during the seasons of Lent and Easter. It is possible that implementation of the revised translation will bring with it a shift from the Nicene Creed to the Apostles’ Creed as the norm for the Profession of Faith at Mass.


Elizabeth Harrington