The Apostles' Creed


During a recent school Mass in the parish church, the liturgy coordinator was approached by a parishioner and loudly quizzed about the Creed that was being recited. Where did this new Creed come from? Had Rome given approval for it to be used?
I was absolutely stunned when I heard the story. Not so much by the tactics - liturgists get used to people being very rude and unchristian when defending the faith- but by the ignorance behind the comment.
The 'new' creed that was being recited was in fact the Apostles' Creed, which, in a slightly simpler form, was the official baptismal creed of the Church of Rome from the end of the second century. Not exactly a recent composition! The title 'Apostles' Creed' arose because of a legend that it had been composed by the twelve apostles.
The Apostles' Creed is shorter and less theological than the form normally used on Sundays and solemnities, which is known commonly as the Nicene Creed. Actually, it is not the Creed from the Council of Nicea in the year 325, but a summary of the faith expressed by that council and the Councils of Constantinople in 381 and Chalcedon in 451. Its correct nomenclature is 'Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed'. 'Nicene' is much easier to say and remember, even if not strictly historically accurate!
The Creed was first used only in the celebration of baptism and was later added to the prayers of the daily office. The first instance of its use in the celebration of Mass was in the eastern church in the late fifth century. The practice gradually spread but it did not become part of the Roman Mass until the eleventh century.
"The symbol or profession of faith serves as a way for all the people gathered together to respond to the word of God proclaimed in the readings taken from Sacred Scripture and explained in the homily." (General Instruction 2000 # 67).
Since it is a response of faith on the part of the whole community, the Nicene Creed which begins "We believe" (not "I believe" as a recent Leader correspondent claimed) is particularly apt for use in Mass. However, it is very long and complex, and The Directory for Masses with Children states: "The Apostles' Creed may be used with children, especially because it is part of their catechetical formation" (#49).
I wonder how many other people are ignorant of this ancient profession of faith:

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.


Elizabeth Harrington