Editor’s Note: On the first Sunday of Advent 2011, Catholics will use a new translation of the Roman Missal. This column explains some of those changes.
In the creed of the Mass all stand to recommit themselves to the fundamental doctrinal truths of our faith revealed in the Word of God just proclaimed.
Most frequently we profess the Nicene Creed, so named because it was first formulated at the first Council of Nicea, modern Turkey, in 325 A.D.
Many non-Catholic Christian denominations profess this same creed. It was formulated so early in Christian history that it does not contain points of Catholic doctrine to which other faiths object.
For instance, no mention is made of the real presence of Jesus Christ — body, blood, soul and divinity — in holy Communion.
The main reasons for this are historical. The real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist was not called into question until centuries later.
The Council of Nicea was convened in part to resolve an early church heresy known as Arianism. This false teaching was proposed by Arius, a priest of Alexandria in Egypt, who believed that at some point Jesus was created by God.
Besides conflicting with the witness of the Scriptures — such as Jesus’ testament that “the Father and I are one” in John 10:30 and “before Abraham came to be, I AM” in John 8:58 — the Arian teaching denies Jesus’ divinity since, as Arius taught, Jesus was not of the same essence as God.
If Jesus is not God himself, then how does his death redeem humanity? If faith is placed in a false, or non-divine Christ, then how can he save humanity?
If Jesus was merely a supreme being, as Arius taught, then how could he take our humanity into God’s Kingdom?
What sets Christianity apart from other religions is that we believe God himself came among us not as a prophet, but as a tangible experience of the truth, which only comes from God.
Many now argue that matters of religion like this are of no importance. Skeptics view these teachings as outdated, or medieval. For believers we recall the words of the Letter to the Hebrews in 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
What was true is true now because God is eternal. The Liturgy of the Church must express this properly and professing the creed each Sunday at Mass is an opportunity for each participant to affirm their acceptance of these eternal truths.
Words such as “consubstantial” and “incarnate” will be employed in the creed in the forthcoming revisions.
Prayer is always to be molded by accurate expressions of faith. The new translation of the Nicene Creed may make use of some unusual words, but this is so our communal celebration, which participates in the worship of heaven, will better reflect on earth the eternal truths of God.
The creed doesn’t mention the Eucharist because it is celebrated in the actions of the Mass that follow it. Why profess faith in something that you are about to do — do not actions speak louder than words?
We can never manifest Christ sharing in the essence of the Father each week any better than his coming among us in the bread and wine.
After all, if Christ were not consubstantial, or one with the Father, then how could He transform the bread and wine into his body and blood through the hands of an unworthy priest?
Father BRYAN Babick, SL.L., is the vicar for Divine Worship and the Sacraments for the Diocese of Charleston.