I often find myself returning to the Apostles’ Creed. There are two different creeds, or statements of faith, that come down through the centuries. The Apostles’ Creed is the oldest still in use today. It’s a summary of faith given to men and women who were being baptized in the early church to help them remember what they learne when they became Christians. As you may guess, it summarized a faith taught by the apostles.
I like that creed because it’s so simple. In the Catholic church is can be used in the liturgy during lent and at other times in place of the Nicene Creed. It’s traditionally said at the beginning of the rosary. Prayer books recommend we say it at the beginning of prayer.
In a sermon preached in 4th century to prepare people for baptism, St. Cyril of Jerusalem told them he was teaching them the creed because it was connected to 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 searchlight it gives power to see so much more, it leads 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 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