The Roman Missal: The Creed (Part I)

Imagine that you had to draw a map of St. Peters.  I know it’s not the most interesting thing, but think of how you would sum up St. Peters, Missouri in one small sheet of paper.  Sometimes maps are more or less detailed.  If you’re giving directions, you might just right the road names, or you could go further and mark where Mid Rivers Mall is, or you could even be super-detailed and mark even where key stores are in the mall itself.

Well, think of the Creed as a sort of map of our Catholic faith.  If someone asked you what Catholics believe, how would you sum it up?  Well, it’s hard to do a good and complete job in one minute or so, but we try to do as best we can, and the Creed presents our beliefs in a very concise manner.  We hit all our major beliefs in the Creed, not just that we believe in God: that the Father is creator of heaven and earth, that Jesus is both God and man and how he lived his life, that the Holy Spirit works throughout history, that the Church is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, and that we believe in baptism and heaven.  That’s a lot to process for just one minute!

But that’s what we call the Creed – a definitive statement of what we believe as Catholics.  Actually, it’s technically called the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed because it was developed at the Councils of Nicaea (325 AD) and Constantinople (not Istanbul, 381 AD).  People had always made short creedal statements, as we might see in the writings of St. Paul, but these councils tried to establish a specific statement to be a definitive response to a variety of heresies that were confusing people and dividing the Church.  For Nicaea, it was the people who said that Jesus was a little less than God, and for Constantinople, it was people who said that Jesus wasn’t really a man.

But this is important!  People used to get in fights and riot in the streets arguing over the humanity and divinity of Jesus!  I’m not meaning to advocate violence, but if only we had people who were so enthusiastic about this!  The Creed we profess every Sunday took us hundreds of years of thinking and praying and working to define, and most of the time, we (myself included) rattle it off while thinking about what breakfast cereal we’re going to have.

Well, here’s your chance to say what you believe.  The first big change to the text is from “We believe” to “I believe”.  Not only is this the correct translation (Credo is a 1st person singular Latin word, not plural, for all you Latin and English scholars), but it offers us an opportunity to personally and individually lay claim to our beliefs.  These beliefs are not just the collective understanding of you, me, and the person falling asleep two pews up, but it’s a statement of what you believe as an individual disciple of Christ!

But it’s hard for us to profess what we don’t even understand, so stay tuned over the next few weeks as we talk about the other changes in the Creed.  It might take a while!

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