Practicing Catholics are familiar with the Nicene Creed, the profession of faith (also known as the symbol of faith), that we recite at Sunday Mass. It is a summary of faith expressed by the Councils of Nicaea (325 A.D.) and Constantinople (381 A.D.). Reciting the Creed at holy Mass allows people an opportunity to respond to the Word of God proclaimed in the Scriptural readings. It also calls to mind the mysteries of our faith celebrated in the Sacred Liturgy.
A few unfamiliar terms in the new translation of the Roman Missal includes “consubstantial,” which professes that Jesus and the Father are of one substance; One God. Another word is “incarnate,” which means that Jesus, the Son of God, was given a human body through the motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Finally, when we begin the Creed, we now use the singular pronoun “I” instead of “We,” calling us to a more personal encounter with God.
The Apostles Creed begins, “I believe,” and is most familiar to those who pray the holy rosary. It is also an alternative profession of faith or Creed that may be used at Sunday Mass.
The Athanasian Creed is another creed of the Church which is also a great gift to the Church and the People of God. Often described as a full-fledged theology lesson, containing a detailed meditation on the Blessed Trinity, it is the longest of the Christian creeds and, although an official Creed of the Church, it is not presently used at Mass.
Those who complain that Sunday Mass is too long might reconsider when they realize how accommodating the Church really is by limiting the choices of the Creed at Mass to the shorter Nicene Creed or Apostles Creed. Next time you hear anybody complain, give them a copy of the Athanasian Creed and tell them to count their blessings that the Church has not used the Athanasian Creed at Mass.
The Athanasian Creed reads:
Whoever wishes to be saved must, above all, keep the Catholic faith.
For unless a person keeps this faith whole and entire, he will undoubtedly be lost forever.
This is what the Catholic faith teaches: we worship one God in the Trinity and the Trinity in unity.
Neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the substance.
For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, another of the Holy Spirit.
But the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit have one divinity, equal glory, and coeternal majesty.
What the Father is, the Son is, and the Holy Spirit is.
The Father is uncreated, the Son is uncreated, and the Holy Spirit is uncreated.
The Father is boundless, the Son is boundless, and the Holy Spirit is boundless.
The Father is eternal, the Son is eternal, and the Holy Spirit is eternal.
Nevertheless, there are not three eternal beings, but one eternal being.
So there are not three uncreated beings, nor three boundless beings, but one uncreated being and one boundless being.
Likewise, the Father is omnipotent, the Son is omnipotent, the Holy Spirit is omnipotent.
Yet there are not three omnipotent beings, but one omnipotent being.
Thus the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God.
However, there are not three gods, but one God.
The Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Holy Spirit is Lord.
However, there as not three lords, but one Lord.
For as we are obliged by Christian truth to acknowledge every Person singly to be God and Lord, so too are we forbidden by the Catholic religion to say that there are three Gods or Lords.
The Father was not made, nor created, nor generated by anyone.
The Son is not made, nor created, but begotten by the Father alone.
The Holy Spirit is not made, nor created, nor generated, but proceeds from the Father and the Son.
There is, then, one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three sons; one Holy Spirit, not three holy spirits.
In this Trinity, there is nothing before or after, nothing greater or less.
The entire three Persons are coeternal and coequal with one another.
So that in all things, as is has been said above, the Unity is to be worshipped in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity.
He, therefore, who wishes to be saved, must believe thus about the Trinity.
It is also necessary for eternal salvation that he believes steadfastly in the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Thus the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is both God and man.
As God, He was begotten of the substance of the Father before time; as man, He was born in time of the substance of His Mother.
He is perfect God; and He is perfect man, with a rational soul and human flesh.
He is equal to the Father in His divinity, but inferior to the Father in His humanity.
Although He is God and man, He is not two, but one Christ.
And He is one, not because His divinity was changed into flesh, but because His humanity was assumed unto God.
He is one, not by a mingling of substances, but by unity of person.
As a rational soul and flesh are one man: so God and man are one Christ.
He died for our salvation, descended into hell, and rose from the dead on the third day.
He ascended into heaven, sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
At His coming, all men are to arise with their own bodies; and they are to give an account of their own deeds.
Those who have done good deeds will go into eternal life; those who have done evil will go into the everlasting fire.
This is the Catholic faith. Everyone must believe it, firmly and steadfastly; otherwise He cannot be saved.
Amen.
Father John G. Hillier, Ph.D., serves as Assistant Chancellor to the Bishop and the bishop’s liaison to persons with disabilities.