The Profession of Faith
Every Sunday and on all liturgical celebrations with the rank of “solemnity”--the highest ranking celebration, we profess our faith following the homily. Why do we profess our faith each week? The General Instruction of the Roman Missal says:
“The purpose of the Creed or Profession of Faith is that the whole gathered people may respond to the Word of God proclaimed in the readings taken from Sacred Scripture and explained in the Homily and that they may also honor and confess the great mysteries of the faith by pronouncing the rule of faith in a formula approved for liturgical use and before the celebration of these mysteries in the Eucharist begins” (no. 67).
There are three forms of the Profession of Faith which can be used at Mass and they all stem from the Trinity in whose name we were baptized: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Thus the Creeds are divided into three parts: “the first part speaks of the first divine Person and the wonderful work of creation; the next speaks of the second divine Person and the mystery of his redemption of men; the final part speaks of the third divine Person, the origin and source of our sanctification" (Catechsim of the Catholic Church, 190). The forms of the Profession of Faith which can be used at Mass are:
- The Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed (Nicene for short)
- The Apostles’ Creed
- The Renewal of Baptismal Promises
Why the different options, how do they differ, and when are they used?
- The Nicene Creed was first written at the Council of Nicæa (325 AD) which was the council which condemned Arianism – a belief that Christ was created by God. Doctrine of this council asserted that Christ was “begotten, not made.” The Nicene Creed was revised at the Council of Constantinople in 381, expanding the theology and doctrine which all the great Churches of both East and West profess to this day. If someone were to ask you what you believe as a Catholic Christian, you could recite the Nicene Creed!
- The Apostles’ Creed is drawn from New Testament theology (gospels and epistles) and is considered to be a faithful summary of the apostles’ faith. It is known as the “ancient baptismal symbol of the Church of Rome (CCC, 194) and is especially appropriate during the Seasons of Lent and Easter. Being an older form of the Roman Creed and due to its early development, it does not address some of the Christological theology addressed in the Nicene Creed.
- The Renewal of Baptismal Promises is a profession of faith which utilizes a question and answer format. Fr. Poggemeyer used this form last weekend to highlight our baptismal call and mission as “priest, prophet, and king” in union with Jesus. As on the day of our baptism when we or our parents and godparents professed the faith, we first renounce Satan and “his empty show” and then profess our faith in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We use this form each year at the Easter Vigil and on Easter Sunday, and it is also used whenever there is a baptism during Mass. The three aforementioned are instances when it is required, but this form can be used on any given week - in fact, I do not think we use this form enough! Professing and living our baptismal call is of the utmost importance, especially in today’s society. It is from this call where we receive strength to be sent forth into the world like the disciples in today’s Gospel.
As the Catechism notes in no. 170: “We do not believe in formulae, but in those realities they express, which faith allows us to touch. All the same, we do approach these realities with the help of formulations of the faith which permit us to express the faith and to hand it on, to celebrate it in community, to assimilate and live on it more and more.”
As we gather each week as community to celebrate the Sacred Mysteries, “let us embrace the Creed of our life-giving faith. To say the Credo with faith is to enter into communion with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and also with the whole Church which transmits the faith to us and in whose midst we believe: This Creed is the spiritual seal, our heart's meditation and an ever-present guardian; it is, unquestionably, the treasure of our soul” (CCC, 197).