I’ve been looking at the changes in the Mass coming in Advent . One change is a small one concerning the creed we use at Mass. There are two different creeds, or statements of faith, that have come down through the centuries.
The oldest creed is The Apostles’ Creed, which is a summary of faith given to men and women who were being baptized in the early church. It summarized what ordinary people learned when they became Christians and, as you may guess from its name, it summarized a faith taught by the apostles.
I’ve always liked that creed because it’s so simple. The new instructions say we can use that creed during lent and at other times in place of the Nicene Creed, and I hope we do.
Today in the Office of Readings there’s a sermon preached by a master 4th century catechist, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, preparing people for baptism. He told them why he was teaching them the creed and what was its connection with the scriptures and the rest of the things in church.
“Although not everyone is able to read the Scriptures, some because they have never learned to read, others because their daily activities keep them from such study, still so that their souls will not be lost through ignorance, we have gathered together the whole of the faith in a few concise articles…
“So for the present be content to listen to the simple words of the creed and to memorize them; at some suitable time you can find the proof of each article in the Scriptures. This summary of the faith was not composed at man’s whim, the most important sections were chosen from the whole Scripture to constitute and complete a comprehensive statement of the faith. Just as the mustard seed contains in a small grain many branches, so this brief statement of the faith keeps in its heart, as it were, all the religious truth to be found in Old and New Testament alike. That is why, my sisters and brothers, you must consider and preserve the traditions you are now receiving. Inscribe them in your heart.”
The creed sums up all we believe, Cyril says. Like a small searchlight it gives us power to see so much more, it invites us into the most profound mysteries, and at the same time in its simplicity it helps us find our way through an often bewildering world. The creed is something we can fall back on as well as use to go forward.
Here’s the new translation of the Apostles’ Creed:
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
and in Jesus Christ, his 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 into hell;
on the third day he rose again
from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and is seat at the right hand
of God the Father almighty;
from there 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 life everlasting. Amen