The Nicene Creed, the profession of faith that we recite during Mass on Sunday, was adopted in the city of Nicaea (in modern day Turkey) during the first ecumenical council in 335 AD. It was used by the early Church as a rule or standard for Christian belief, and acted as a summary statement of the early Church.
The Creed is more than a checklist of doctrines that we must believe and then continue to reaffirm Sunday after Sunday. Contained in this marvelous string of statements is God’s overarching plan of salvation history for humanity. As Dr. Edward Sri says in his book A Biblical Walk Through the Mass, “The Creed presumes that there is a narrative framework to human history. In other words, the Creed assumes that there is a plot to life, and that we are here for a reason.”
The Creed is God’s story in miniature form or as one theologian stated, “What the Scriptures say at length, the Creed says briefly” (Nicholas Lash, Believing Three Ways in One God: A Reading of the Apostle’s Creed [London: SCM,1992], p. 8).
The Creed affirms the truth from creation to Christ’s birth, death and resurrection, to the sending of the Holy Spirit, to the acts of the Church and finally the second coming of Christ.
For those who are rediscovering Catholicism, the Creed is more than a checklist, more than a declaration of what we believe, and continue to believe. The Creed is a weekly reminder that our lives are part of a much larger cosmic drama. We are participants in the greatest story the world has ever known.
So why do we recite the Creed every week starting with, “I believe?” The Creed doesn’t change and the likelihood that we have changed our mind concerning the Creed, week after month after year is slim.
So why repeatedly say, “I believe?”
Christ reveals through his Church that there are two aspects of belief.
First, belief is something intellectual. It is “a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed” (CCC 150). In other words, we agree with all that the Church officially teaches.
Secondly, and what will prove to be more life transforming is “a personal adherence… to God.”
The word that we say many times in the Mass, “amen,” comes from the Hebrew word for belief. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger taught how the word “amen” can be understood as meaning to take one’s stand on something else. (Introduction to Christianity, San Francisco: Ignatius press, 1990, p. 39)
When we recite the Creed we are not simply stating that we intellectually believe something the Church has taught us. It goes beyond this, it involves both reason and will by acknowledging both what the Church has taught concerning salvation history and the act of personally entrusting our life to God. In short, by reciting the Creed, we are affirming in the statements that we make that we are totally entrusting our lives to Christ.
For example when we say, “I believe in one God…” we are making a personal statement and not simply a theological declaration. We do believe that God exists, but we are also saying that our entire life is entrusted to God who created us and has a plan for our lives.
Both elements of “believe” are realized in the relationship between a husband and wife. The husband certainly believes that his wife exists. But his relationship with his wife goes beyond believing in her existence when he says, “I believe in you.” There is a certain fullness to our faith when we go from believing that God exists to entrusting ourselves to him on a weekly basis (Tweet this).
This next week during Mass when you recite the Creed be aware that you are not simply agreeing with a check list of beliefs but you are entrusting more and more of your life to God. Entrusting ourselves to God is the admittance that God’s story is the true story of the universe and that you will follow his will by doing all that he has commanded.