When we profess the creed we are saying ‘I believe’

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.

The first major change to the Nicene Creed in the forthcoming retranslation of the Mass will be difficult to miss.
Currently it begins, “We believe in one God…”  This is repeated four times. The new translation will replace “we believe” with “I believe.”
The primary reason the English translation used “we” is that it was originally written that way in Greek. The creed’s authors wanted to show the solidarity of an authentic expression of faith in the face of growing misunderstandings about Christ and the church.
The original language of the Liturgy celebrated in Rome was Greek because it was what the people spoke. As the centuries passed, Latin became the common language so the prayers were translated. At that time it was not common for the Nicene Creed to be recited during Mass. It was a profession of faith made by those adults seeking the Sacrament of Baptism.
When the Liturgy was translated into Latin the “We believe” version became “I believe.”  In the centuries between, the church developed the understanding that attending Mass is an extension and expression of the faith entered into at baptism and so the creed was added to as a verbal expression of this understanding.
As St. Paul says in Romans 6, if we have died with Christ then we will share in His resurrection. Entering into the waters of baptism is like entering into the tomb and coming out of those same waters is like leaving it. Jesus sacrificed himself on the cross, entered the tomb, and rose again.
When we attend Mass we sacrifice other activities to attend the event that celebrates the memory of Christ’s death and resurrection. This makes attending Mass a sacrifice offered to God by each individual believer.
Christians belong to a community of believers, but the sacraments are received individually. Professing the creed is a chance to revisit the waters of baptism. Perhaps our parents did this for us when we were babies, but doing so at Mass gives us the chance to declare our own acceptance of this faith. In fact during a baptism each person is asked to renew their own baptismal faith with questions such as, “Do you believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ?”  and responding with “I do.”
In secular debates, some challenge the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. We never start the pledge with “we,” always “I” to show personal pride in our country. In fact the more people challenge the “under God” section the more my love of country and of God makes me want to say “I pledge allegiance” with emphasis on the “I.”
Professing our faith should not be any different. It’s not enough to declare what Christians believe by saying “we believe”.  It’s easy to hide behind a group. We need to take ownership of our faith by saying “I believe” to show personal acceptance in the heart, mind, and soul of the faith that has been given to us.
Father BRYAN Babick, SL.L., is the vicar for Divine Worship and the Sacraments for the Diocese of Charleston.