At Mass each Sunday, following the homily, we are invited to stand and profess the Creed. In Canada, it is customary to recite the Apostle’s Creed – the shorter, older form of the creed which is thought to be the summary of faith of the Apostles. This Creed is professed in many other Christian Churches (including the line “I believe in… the holy catholic Church” – the word ‘catholic’ means ‘universal’) – and even inspired a Rich Mullins song. The longer from, the Nicene Creed developed over the first four centuries of Christianity with the major councils – helping to clarify Christian beliefs we take for granted about the Trinity and the Divinity of Christ.
What these Creeds do is take the story of our faith – unfolded with love and care throughout the Scriptures – and unfolds them as a clear, condensed formula of our faith. We are able in turn to take these Creeds and “contemplate, express, learn, hand on, celebrate, and live out [the reality of our faith]” (YouCat 25). They also act as an instrument of unity between the faith we live today and that of the early Church, because what we profess to believe echoes precisely what those early Christians lived and died for.
Saying this – and posting links to the text of the Creeds you may already know very well – that covers one part of this… telling you WHAT the profession of faith is. Understanding WHY we profess our faith involves stepping a little deeper. I think the late, great Rich Mullins summed it up well in the refrain of his song Creed, which I mentioned earlier:
And I believe what I believe is what makes me what I am
I did not make it no it is making me
It is the very truth of God and not the invention of any man
What people believe should have a profound impact on the way in which they live their lives. For some religions, their faith has a direct impact on the food they eat, their daily schedule (stopping to pray at particular points in the day), who they marry, what career they might take on, etc. This isn’t a question of fanticism – but of authentic witness to one’s faith. If someone professes to be of a certain faith without believing and living those things which are meant to make their faith distinctive, they are missing the point.
Christian faith, likewise, is meant to have a real and actual impact on our day to day living: what we believe is what makes us who and what we are. Knowing we were created by God tells us we are loved; knowing that Jesus came, died, and rose again gives us hope in every circumstance; knowing the Holy Spirit remains active in our Church and in raising up Saints as examples for us remind us that God is still very near to us, helping us become what we could not become on our own. These are essentials truths of our faith: that we are loved, that we have hope, that God is still with us… and to believe them is to take a perspective on life that is particularly Christian. To know you are loved is to want to make others know that they, too, are loved. To have hope is to embrace everything that comes at us – even the worst life has to offer – with God’s perspective, knowing that He is in control of all things, and trusting that He will make it right in the end. The ongoing action of the Holy Spirit is precisely what holds our Church together, what makes human beings capable of the heroic virtue demonstrated by some of the saints, what gives us the opportunity to start anew when we fall short of this heroic virtue… in essence, it continues to make us what we are meant to be: God’s own sons and daughters.
The next time you get up to profess your faith, remember this: these aren’t arbitrary formulas we believe, but rather they put us shoulder to shoulder with the apostles and martyrs who have gone before us, and help set out for us the truths of our faith which should guide our living.
Let the Creed be like a mirror for you. Look at yourself in it to see whether you really believe all that you claim to believe. And rejoice every day in your faith. -St. Augustine