In this series we will be having a simple catechesis on the ‘Creed’. We profess or rather we recite this after the homily every Sunday or at solemnities. What exactly is the Creed? What is the origin? What are we expressing when we recite it? These are part of the questions we have received and wish to make clearer because the contents of the Creed is such a huge topic that has gone through so many debates and contention in the history of the Church so much so that we may not be able to give an exhaustive explanation here. It is possible to become so familiar with the Creed that we end up losing sight of some of its unique qualities. It is not merely words to be recited, but a confession made in faith and an act of worship. This profession of faith begins with God, for He is the First and the Last, the beginning and the end of everything. He is the first divine person of the blessed Trinity. Also it touches the creation of heaven and earth, which is the beginning and foundation of all the works of God.
What is a Creed?
The word “Creed” is from the Latin word Credo which means ‘I believe.’ A creed is a statement of faith or a list of beliefs. The Christian Creed is therefore the summary of the Christian Faith. This is why when we recite or sing the Creed, we say we are professing our Faith – it is a profession of Faith, a proclamation of all what God has revealed to us. And the Catechism of the Catholic Church says “whoever says I BELIEVE is automatically saying I pledge myself to what we believe.” The Creed therefore can be regarded as the anthem of our faith – the faith in which we were all baptized. It is the Faith of the Church as handed to us by Christ through revelation and through the Apostles.
Traditional Definitions of the Creed
Over time, the Creed has been defined as:
a. A profession of Faith: That is, the Creed reveals the main or primary content of our faith.
b. A Rule of Faith (Regula Fidei): This points to the way the creed provides a measure or norm for Christian identity. And this is particularly applied to how Christians should read their sacred writings and how they should live.
c. A Definition of Faith: “Definition” is from the Latin word definitio. To “define” means to draw a line around something, setting the limits between it and everything else. The creed similarly defines the boundaries of Christian belief.
d. A Symbol of Faith: The word “symbol,” comes from the Greek word symballein which describes the act of binding two parties to a treaty with a seal. This term points to the way the creed provides a sign of reception and membership, how one Christian is bound to the faith of the church, and a way of affirming the community’s shared story.
Functions of the Creed
a. Confessional Function: the creed says “We Believe”, not in some gods or objects but “in God”, it helps one profess and confess one’s believe in God. The way the confession is phrased asserts some form of exclusivity and identity. It is a confession in the one true God, who is three persons: God the Father, Jesus Christ the only begotten Son, and the Holy Spirit. The creed is our vocal response to God who has chosen to reveal himself to us.
b. Liturgical Function; the Recitation or Singing of the Creed expresses an act of worship. It is prayerful recitation, a prayer of submission to God’s plan to save us right from creation to the second coming of Christ. It is a prayer of Trust and consent to God’s plan of Salvation.
c. Functions as a Symbol of Unity; It is the symbol of Catholic faith. Meaning, it is the outlook of the Christian Faith. If you want anyone to know you are Catholic, recite the Creed. It also unites all Catholics all over to the same Faith.
d. Normative Function; It functions as a law. As such, anything contrary to it or outside of it, is not lawful within the ambience of the Church.
e. Didactic (teaching) Function; It teaches and reminds us of something about God, about the Trinity, about the works of the Father, the redemption by the Son, and our sanctification by the Holy Spirit. It equally teaches us about the Communion of saints, the Church and the end times.
f. Historical Function: It teaches the history of man from creation to redemption. It is the summary of the entire bible. It reminds us that we originated from God, and we journey back towards God.
The principle truths in the Creed
The Creed is fundamentally Trinitarian. We profess our faith in one God, who is three persons. The first three stanzas are dedicated to each of the three persons of the Blessed Trinity.
The Creed confirms both the divinity and humanity of Jesus – that is Jesus is one person with two natures. He is fully human and fully divine. Also we profess that his life, passion, death, and resurrection are all “for our salvation.”
We affirm in the Creed that the Church has four “marks”: “One, holy, catholic and apostolic.” These are characteristics of the Church. And we also recognize the importance of our baptism, forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the dead, and the life eternal. At the end we proclaim “Amen” which means “It is so”. We profess as the people of God our common belief in the Creed which includes some important principle truths of the Church’s teaching and what we believe. We recommend you spend time and reflect further on the words and content of the Creed; and Pray with it. We will continue in the next edition. God bless