The extraordinary power hidden within the Creed we profess each Sunday

Filed in Catholic by on November 4, 2013 3 Comments

Image of Christ, origin unknown, photo by swang

Millions of Catholics do it every Sunday. In the middle of Mass, we profess our faith in the Creed. Now, maybe it’s just Brentwood Cathedral, but when I look out at my congregation reciting the Creed, I sense it is being done in a spirit of dutiful resignation and without much thought being given to the remarkable things we are saying. Maybe the words have not caught fire in the majority of our lives?

Instead, when we say the Creed we need to realise that we are doing something extraordinary and counter cultural. In a world where so many people live atomised existences, we are actually doing something as a community. In an age that shies away from commitment, those people in front of me are committing themselves to a set of convictions and to each other. The Creed is our symbol, the way we recognise each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s a sign of our common membership. It is our Catholic identity.

Where novelty is the order of the day, we hold fast to words written by others centuries ago. In a society where social fads and intellectual fashions shift daily, we claim to have found universal truths that reveal the meaning and destiny of every man and woman. We stand together, week after week, and recite them in public. We live together under these truths, in the hope that our individual “I believe” is taken up and strengthened by the Church’s “we believe”. In an environment where so much is disposable, we prefer to live within an ecology of tradition.

In the third week of Lent, as part of the RCIA, the catechumens are given a copy of the Creed, with the words:

My dear friends, listen carefully to the words of that faith by which you will be justified. The words are few, but the mysteries they contain are great. Receive them with a sincere heart and be faithful to them.

Powerful words. Maybe we should start to use a form of them as an introduction to the recitation of the Creed at Mass? Maybe they would help wake us from the inertia of familiarity? Maybe they would provide us with a reminder that the origins of the creed are to be found in the profound, life-changing experience of baptism?

It is this that brings us together on a Sunday, that we have been baptized into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. When I look out at my congregation on a Sunday, the feature that binds us together is that we – in baptism – have taken on the name of Jesus Christ as our own, and we are now living in the person of Christ, in persona Christi. There has been a rupture with one’s old life and our solitariness is transformed into communion – as we live in genuine relationship with the community of the faithful. Now, we live by a new name. We call ourselves Christians and proclaim that fact with pride when we recite the Creed. The Catechism (Para. 197) puts it like this:

As on the day of our Baptism, when our whole life was entrusted to the “standard of teaching” (Romans 6:17), 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:

The Creed is the spiritual seal, our heart’s meditation and an ever-present guardian; it is, unquestionably, the treasure of our soul. (St Ambrose)

Is the creed the treasure of our souls? We may be willing to profess our faith on a Sunday in a safe environment, surrounded by like-minded people, but would we stand up in our workplaces, before friends and colleagues, in the roads we live in, in our conversations with non-believers, and say with confidence, “I believe in one God…Father, Son and Holy Spirit”? Or would we be afraid that we might be ridiculed, shunned or even killed as those many Christians who proclaim the Creed in Syria and Pakistan are today?

The Creed is the story of our redemption and, unlike any other story, it has a power that bears constant repetition. It’s a story that we speak together as a community in the face of a society that is either indifferent or hostile to Christ.

And the more Christians can truly claim and live by the Creed’s counter cultural perceptions, the more powerfully can our profession of faith be prophetic in our world – proclaiming God, the Almighty One’s presence and power within creation, and thereby calling into question those cultural and intellectual forces that deny God’s presence and power.

It’s too early to characterise the pontificate of Pope Francis, but I’d tentatively suggest that there’s a back to basics feel about many of this Pope’s statements. Creedal Catholics, Pope Francis seems to be suggesting, are able to offer – to a world desperate for significance and direction – a unique vision of the world’s origin, meaning and destiny. In the Creed, we are not just offering the world an alternative view. We are offering what we believe to be the truth about the world.

So, no more muttering the words of the Creed. No more complacency when living it. We need to say the words of the Creed with pride and live it as a public profession of a living community – not for our own sake, but for our world.

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Fr Martin Boland

About the Author ()

Fr Martin Boland is a priest in the Diocese of Brentwood. He is currently Dean of Brentwood Cathedral. Some of his articles here were first posted on his personal blog The Invisible Province. They are used with permission. See:

Comments (3)

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  1. This is a powerful reminder for what we stand for as Catholics:- ‘ Instead, when we say the Creed we need to realise that we are doing something extraordinary and counter cultural’. This truth moved me as I read it.

  2. Very powerful words Father Martin about even more powerful words. It has certainly made me think more about what I say in Mass.

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