If an outsider knowing nothing of Catholics were to walk in during the creed. He might think we are pretty smart. After All we say some pretty sophisticated stuff: Begotten not made, one in being with the Father and so on... We can sound pretty smart. But truthbe told there is often a lot of day dreaming going on during the Creed and many a Catholic would be hard pressed to say what the phrase above really means. But we ought to shake off the daydreams and pay attention to what we are doing. We are confessing our faith, a faith that many died for. The creed stands at the center of the Liturgy and fundamentally declares: I believe what we are celebrating here. I believe what we have just heard proclaimed in the readings and the homily. I believe in God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I believe what God has done for me and that it is possible for me to be saved, sanctified, and share in God’s glory. I standing here declare that I believe these things which we declare and celebrate.
The history of the Nicene Creeditself is a bit complex. The basic outline of the creed as we know it today was given at the Council of Nicea(325 AD). This does not exactly coincide with our present Credo. The text we have today was actually formally approved by the Council of Chalcedon(451 AD With one exception: the word, “filioque” which was added by the Council of Toledo in 589. The Eastern Church never accepted the insertion of this word ). Until this time there were slightly different versions in existence. With the approval of Chalcedon, the one version that we have today gained wide acceptance and use. Hence the creed at mass is a summary of faith expressed by the Councils of Nicaea (325) and of Constantinople (381) as ratified by the Council of Chalcedon (451).
The use of the creed was originally associated primarily with baptismal liturgies. At first it was in the form of questions. Later the whole creed was memorized and recited just before baptism. (One vestige of this is that the Creed is recited (at least in the Latin) in the first person singular: Credo (I believe)). It entered the Mass first in the East in the early 6th Century at least indirectly due to difficulties with heresies. It was ordered recited at every liturgy by the Timotheus, Patriarch of Constantinople between 511 and 517. This example was copied everywhere in the East.
Its entrance into the western Church came through Spain which was strongly influenced by Byzantium. It was recited just before the Our Father so that, before the Body and Blood of the Lord were received, the hearts of all might be purified by faith. Thus, with the Our Father, it was considered a prayer of preparation for communion. By the 8th Century is appeared in the Gallican (French) liturgy. Once again, a struggle against heresy seems to have been behind its adoption. Charlemagne obtained permission form Pope Leo III and introduced the Creed into the Mass at his palace and, largely through its influence, its use slowly spread throughout the Carolingian empire. From here it spread to England and Ireland, slowly.
Still, by this point it was not in the Liturgy at Rome. This greatly surprised the Emperor Henry II who, in 1064 heard Mass in Rome without the Creed. The Roman priests explained that, since heresy had never been a problem in Rome, it was not necessary to profess the Credo so often. But for some reason, Henry pressured to have the Credo included and Pope Benedict VIII directed it be included but only on Sundays and certain feasts.
The creed was recited by the whole congregation at first. But the text came more and more to be sung. Even so, simple melodies were employed. But they grew in complexity and gradually slipped from the people; especially as polyphony came more into use. Today, the preference is expressed in the norms that the people ordinarily be able to recite the Creed together. But, this does not forbid it’s being sung; even elaborately. However, as we have seen with other texts, a balance between congregational participation and preserving the rich musical heritage of the Church is presumed.
Pastoral Reflections. –
In contrast withthe Apostles’ Creed (in which the faith is asserted simply and forthrightly) the NiceanCreed is a characterized by its theological clarity and richness. It is a theological and polemical profession giving orthodoxy a clear exposition. But it must be recalled that the Creed’s purpose is not so much to oppose heresy as it is to unfold the contents of our faith. Hence the Creed, occurring as it does at the end of the Liturgy of the Word is seen as the joyous “yes” of the congregation to the message they have received. Tapering with this text, a text that martyrs died for is surely uncalled for.
The profession of faith is said by the priest and the people. At the words: “By the power of the Holy Spirit, etc” all bow. On the feasts of the annunciation and Christmas all genuflect. Despite this rather clear directive, this is not often done in the average parish. Once again, it is good to appreciate that the mystery of the incarnation is so wonderful that we, in reverence are to bow. Until the recent past, a genuflection was always called for, now a bow is the directive. Nevertheless, we are to indicate by our posture our awe of the mystery.
The English translation is basically pretty good but there are a few problems. In particular, the English translation seems to imply that Jesus became man only at his birth (which is not what the Latin says). This is no small error in an age which allows abortion.
Notice the basic structure of the Creed: We believe in One God:
The Father Almighty
In Jesus Christ
In the Holy Spirit
This structure shows figuratively how the Church under-girds the teaching about the Trinity. The Church is an object of faith! It is through the Church that the faith is given and hence she is the foundation of and the safeguarder of the Faith.
This Video is the Creed sung in Latin (Creed Setting V)