Wednesday 25th November 2015

Home » Our Catholic Faith » Currently Reading:

The Creeds

August 23, 2014 Our Catholic Faith No Comments


In last week’s column, we laid the groundwork to begin an in-depth exposition of what the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) teaches that we, as Catholic Christians, are called to believe: the one, true faith we profess in the Creeds of the Church. For it is in the formulas of the Creeds that, “through the centuries, in so many languages, cultures, peoples, and nations, the Church has constantly confessed this one faith, received from the one Lord, transmitted by one Baptism, and grounded in the conviction that all people have only one God and Father” (CCC, n. 172).
Why is this so absolutely essential? Precisely, it is because “communion in faith needs a common language of faith, normative for all and uniting all in the same confession of faith” (CCC, n. 185). In other words, it does not matter in what age, in what culture, in what circumstances and conditions one lives — the faith we profess is one and the same. It is that faith which St. Paul refers to when he says, “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
St. Cyril of Jerusalem, a fourth-century bishop and doctor of the Church, superbly explains this teaching about our faith as summarized in the Creeds: “This synthesis of faith was not made to accord with human opinions, but rather what was of the greatest importance was gathered from all the Scriptures, to present the one teaching of the faith in its entirety. And just as the mustard seed contains a great number of branches in a tiny grain, so too this summary of faith encompassed in a few words the whole knowledge of the true religion contained in the Old and New Testaments” (Catech. illum. 5, 12: PG 33, 521-524, as cited in CCC, n. 186).
Before proceeding, it would be good to define some terms. The word “creed” comes from the Latin credo, which literally means “I believe.” In his Modern Catholic Dictionary, Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ, defines credo as a “code of belief” (p. 137). The term creed, then, as applied to the Catholic faith, is a “profession of faith” that summarizes the faith that Christian Catholics hold to. The Catechism goes on to tell us that creeds may also be referred to as “symbols of faith” (CCC, n. 187). The word “symbol” comes from the Greek symbolon, which Fr. Hardon defines as “a token, pledge, [or] a sign by which one infers a thing” (ibid., p. 528). In The Faith, Father refers to symbolon as “a collection or summary” (p. 39). The Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed, then, are “symbols of faith” or summaries of the principal truths of the faith and therefore serve as the first and fundamental point of reference for catechesis (cf. CCC, n. 188).
Let us now consider the most ancient and first “profession of faith” that Christians make: the baptismal creed. Recall the words of our Lord: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). Just as “the truths of faith professed during Baptism are articulated in terms of their reference to the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity” (CCC, n. 189), so too, is the baptismal creed divided into three parts.
As expressed by Fr. Hardon, the three core elements of the faith we profess from the very initiation of our life in Jesus Christ are: 1) faith in God the Father and the creation of the world; 2) faith in God the Son and the redemption of the human race; and 3) faith in God the Holy Spirit and the sanctification of mankind (see The Faith, p. 39).
It is interesting to note that the CCC now makes direct reference to the 16th-century Roman Catechism (RC), a fruit of the Council of Trent, to explain further this truth of our faith. “These three parts [of the Creed] are distinct although connected with one another. According to a comparison often used by the Fathers, we call them articles. Indeed, just as in our bodily members there are certain articulations which distinguish and separate them, so too in this profession of faith, the name articles has justly and rightly been given to the truths we must believe particularly and distinctly” (RC, I, I, 4).
In other words, the articles of the Creed “are the individual truths of faith, each distinct from the others, like the separate members of our body that are united in one whole” (Fr. Hardon, The Faith, p. 39).
Is not the CCC’s usage of text from the Roman Catechism a fitting example of a principle expressed early in this series, namely, that the essential teaching on faith and morals as articulated in previous ages is unchanging? It shows, once again, that the purpose of the Catechism of Vatican Council II is not to redefine the faith, but to simply hand on the enduring truth in a way more accessible to modern man in the times and conditions in which he finds himself. When the language of prior teaching is clear for contemporary readers, the CCC simply incorporates and cites the exact words of prior magisterial documents.
Text in this section of the Catechism, in fact, acts to reinforce that very point: “Through the centuries many professions or symbols of faith have been articulated in response to the needs of the different eras: the creeds of the different apostolic and ancient Churches” (CCC, n. 192). Special note is made of several formulations of the profession of faith that have appeared since apostolic times. However, it goes on to say in very clear and exacting terms that “none of the creeds from the different stages in the Church’s life can be considered superseded or irrelevant. They help us today to attain and deepen the faith of all times by means of the different summaries made of it” (CCC, n. 193).
Is that not precisely why the CCC so often either directly includes or cites Sacred Scripture, teachings of prior ecumenical councils, Fathers and Doctors of the Church, papal encyclicals, and other earlier doctrinal teachings of the faith? Truly, we can be assured that during the two millennia of the Church’s history, the one true faith remains unchanged, but is simply more clearly illuminated by more contemporary teaching.

The Creed Of
Our Life-Giving Faith

As touched upon in last week’s column, two Creeds among all that have emerged throughout the history of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church hold a special place in expressing the unity of all her faithful: the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed.
The Apostles’ Creed is “so called because it is rightly considered to be a faithful summary of the Apostles’ faith. It is the ancient baptismal symbol of the Church of Rome” (CCC, n. 194). It is, as expressed by Fr. Hardon, “a formula of belief, in twelve articles, containing the fundamental doctrines of Christianity, whose authorship (in substance if not in words) tradition ascribes to the Apostles. . . . At a very early date the Western Church required catechumens to learn and recite the Apostles’ Creed before admission to Baptism” (Modern Catholic Dictionary, p. 34).
The Nicene Creed gets its name from two fourth-century ecumenical councils, Nicaea I in AD 325 and Constantinople I in AD 381, and was written to address a great heresy of the time. Arius, a priest of Alexandria, denied the divinity of Christ — the Arian heresy taught that Jesus was not the eternal Son of the Father, but “only a creature, made out of nothing, like all other created things” (ibid., p. 41).
The Fathers of these two early councils added more explicit and detailed language to the foundational truths contained in the Apostles’ Creed so as to better explain the nature of the Trinity and the only begotten Son of God who is coeternal with the Father. It is “common to all the great Churches of both East and West to this day” (CCC, n. 195).
A comprehensive explanation of the Creeds, which will be the topic of this column for the next several weeks, will, like the CCC, follow the Apostles’ Creed but often draw upon references to the more detailed Nicene Creed. As the Catechism exhorts us, “let us embrace the Creed of our life-giving faith” (CCC, n. 197) and so enter into closer union with Jesus Christ.

+    +    +

(Don Fier serves on the board of directors for The Catholic Servant, a Minneapolis-based monthly publication. He and his wife are the parents of seven children. Fier is a 2009 graduate of Ave Maria University’s Institute for Pastoral Theology. He is doing research for writing a definitive biography of Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ.)

Share Button

Comment on this Article:

How did heterodox prelates try to change doctrine at synod?

In this address delivered at the Catholic Voice conference Faith of Our Fathers, Matthew McCusker of Voice of the Family discusses three key elements of the “progressive” strategy deployed at the Ordinary Synod: arguing for changes in the Church’s language,…Continue Reading

Bishop Defends Against ‘Vicious’ Bill Donohue Attack

by Church Militant • • November 24, 2015 65 Comments Bishop Rene Henry Gracida is criticizing the Catholic League The bishop emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas is defending against what he calls the “vicious attack” by Catholic League’s…Continue Reading

Pope Francis to German Bishops: Your Church is a mess! Fix it and … GO TO CONFESSION!

The German bishops are making their ad limina visit. Every few years diocesan bishops have to go to Rome to meet with offices of the Roman Curia and, usually, the Pope. Pope Francis gave an address to the German bishops…Continue Reading

Germany’s bishops discuss decentralizing the Church in meeting with Pope Francis

ROME, November 23, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) — The German bishops, sixty-seven of them, recently visited Rome together for their obligatory Ad Limina visit with the pope from November 16-20. This Ad Limina visit, which is obligatory for all bishops of the…Continue Reading

In Australia, Catholic Bishops Face Court Action, Huge Fines Over Traditional Views on Marriage

Australians have always viewed America’s litigious culture with suspicion. Our “no worries mate” approach to life means we tend not to rush off to court at the drop of a hat. So last week when a state government commissioner ruled…Continue Reading

Cardinal Wuerl’s Embassy Row Penthouse

Walking through the posh neighborhood of Embassy Row in October, I stumbled across a scoop: that Washington, D.C.’s Cardinal Donald Wuerl lives in a penthouse atop a mansion priced north of $40 million. That Embassy Row mansion is the Our…Continue Reading

Australia investigating archbishop for distributing pamphlet defending true marriage

TASMANIA, Australia, November 13, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) — An Australian Catholic archbishop is facing legal action after recently distributing a pamphlet to local Catholic school children that supported Catholic teaching on marriage being between a man and woman. “Dear Friends, I…Continue Reading

A ‘most powerful woman’ – National Geographic’s major hat tip to the Virgin Mary

Washington D.C., Nov 10, 2015 / 03:45 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Our Lady. Blessed Mother. Virgin Mary. Queen of Peace. Theotokos. Handmaid of the Lord. Mother Mary. These are just some of the titles used to describe the young woman to…Continue Reading

At Al Smith Dinner, Former Mayor Bloomberg Honors Vets

Speaking at the Al Smith Dinner on the eve of Veterans Day, former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg took time from his humorous political remarks to remind guests “there are a lot of places around the world where…Continue Reading

Bishop Rebukes Catholic College for Allowing Massive Planned Parenthood Display on Campus

A Catholic bishop in Indiana is calling out a Catholic college for promoting Planned Parenthood and abortion this week. As LifeNews previously reported, Saint Mary’s College, a Catholic school in Notre Dame, Indiana, hosted the large pro-Planned Parenthood display in…Continue Reading

Former Planned Parenthood abortion clinic reopens as pro-life pregnancy center

BRYAN, TX, November 12, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – The former Planned Parenthood abortion facility where Abby Johnson once worked as director is now a pro-life haven for women in crisis pregnancy. The facility is now aptly named, “Hope.” It celebrated its…Continue Reading

Supreme Court agrees to rule on birth control insurance mandate

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court agreed Friday to settle a widespread dispute between the Obama administration and religious non-profits over insurance coverage for birth control, which is sure to elevate issues of religious freedom and reproductive rights in next year’s…Continue Reading


Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our new website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for over 145 years in our weekly print edition. Now we are introducing the online daily version of our print journal.

  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 145 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

A Powerful Weapon: 15 Quotes on the Holy Rosary

We live in evil times. I hardly need elaborate the multitude of crises that fill the globe. Sadly, many are being swept away by this flood of evil and are succumbing to an overwhelming anxiety and discouragement. But no matter how tempting it is, we must not shrink back. We must pray and fast with a living faith and a firm confidence—and there is no better way to…Continue Reading

12 Ways to Become a Committed Catholic Man

There is a Catholic “man-crisis.” Large numbers of men who were baptized Catholic have left the Church and the majority of those who remain are “Casual Catholic Men”, men who do not know the Catholic faith and don’t practice it. This large-scale failure of Catholic men to commit themselves to Jesus Christ and His Church has contributed to the accelerating…Continue Reading

Today . . .

Pope’s Q-and-A on the Challenges of Education

“To rethink the works of mercy, the 14 works of mercy; to rethink how to do them, but in education” Rome, November 23, 2015 ( Staff Reporter On Saturday, the Holy Father received in audience participants in the World Congress “Education Today and Tomorrow: A Passion that Is Renewed” (Rome, November 18-21, 2015), organized by the Congregation for Catholic Education (of the Institutes of Studies) to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Gravissimum Educationis (Declaration of…Continue Reading

“One who looks at the cross cannot help but see the surprising gratuitousness of love”

Here is a translation of the address Pope Francis gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square, on this solemnity of Christ the King and also the feast of St. Cecilia. * * * Dear brothers and sisters, good morning! On this last Sunday of the liturgical year, we celebrate the solemnity of Christ the King. And the Gospel of today brings us to contemplate Jesus as…Continue Reading

U.S. Bishops clash as Pope Francis appointees push to downplay battle for life and family

LifeSiteNews/ Lisa Bourne and Patrick B. Craine  Nov 20, 2015 – BALTIMORE, Maryland, November 20, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) — A group of Pope Francis’ episcopal appointees and other like-minded prelates provoked an open clash at the American Catholic bishops’ fall meeting in Baltimore this week as they pressed the conference to rewrite its election guide for 2016 to downplay the importance of the battle for life and family. Ahead of a vote on a revision to…Continue Reading

Pope Francis: the Church must not worship “holy bribery


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis said that the Church must not be obsessed by money or power, nor worship “holy bribes”. Instead her strength and joy should come from the words of Christ. He was speaking at the morning mass at Casa Santa Marta on Friday. The Holy Father reflected on the reading from Maccabees, which tells of the people’s joy following the reconsecration of the Holy Temple, which had been destroyed by pagans and those…Continue Reading

Pope Francis at Audience: Door to God’s Mercy never closed

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis held his weekly General Audience on Wednesday, during which he focused his catechetical reflections on the upcoming Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, which opens on December 8th, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. In an impassioned address to the thousands of faithful pilgrims and tourists on hand, in which he departed frequently from his prepared text to emphasize his points, Pope Francis said, “If the door of God’s mercy is always…Continue Reading

Cardinal Burke . . . Marriage Catechesis Should Be Priority For Catholic Schools

By ADAM CASSANDRA (Editor’s Note: This article is reprinted from the November 16 Catholic Education Daily, an online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society. All rights reserved.) + + + Sound catechesis on marriage is “a great, great responsibility” for Catholic schools and colleges, Raymond Cardinal Burke told a representative of The Cardinal Newman Society…Continue Reading

Drug Smugglers Flow Across Our Border, Syrian Christians Don’t

By TERENCE P. JEFFREY (Editor’s Note: Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor-in-chief of Creators Syndicate provided this column. All rights reserved.) + + + Whom should Americans see as worthier candidates for entering our country? Syrian Christians fleeing persecution — and possible beheading by the Islamic State — or smugglers moving drugs across our…Continue Reading

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn: A Forgotten Beatitude

By JAMES MONTI When reflecting upon the sacredness of all human life, a cemetery is probably not the first thing that comes to our mind. And yet a Catholic cemetery is actually one of the Church’s most profound expressions of this truth by affirming in practice that every human life is so sacred that even…Continue Reading

Escape From Cynicism

By DONALD DeMARCO Cynicism results when a person believes that he has conquered hope. Since it is a conquest of sorts, though surely a negative and counterproductive one, it can endow the cynic with a certain amount of pride. In a similar way, a younger brother can take pride in knocking over the tower of…Continue Reading

Paris And Freedom

By ANDREW P. NAPOLITANO The tragedy in Paris on November 13 has regrettably been employed as a catalyst for renewed calls by governments in Western Europe and even in the United States for more curtailment of personal liberties. Those who accept the trade of liberty for safety have argued in favor of less liberty. They…Continue Reading


Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

A Leaven In The World… Defenseless Europe A Lesson For Defending Faith

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK While recently on retreat in New York, you might say I celebrated the Church’s year of consecrated life as I prayed daily Mass for the sisters who kindly hosted me. I invited them to kneel at the Communion rail to receive our Lord as I do at every Mass at my home parish. They all…Continue Reading

An Apologetics Course… “Sola Scriptura” — The End

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Here is a simple question for those people who believe in sola Scriptura: If every Christian had the ability — a God-given ability, of course — to interpret Scripture on his own, why is it that there are so many contradictory doctrines held by those who espouse it? Bible interpretation is not an easy thing…Continue Reading

Forms Of Consecrated Life Within The Church

By DON FIER Part 3 The majority of last week’s column dealt with the third form of consecrated life outlined by the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), that of religious life. Generally recognized as the most familiar and visible form of consecrated life in the Church, religious life encompasses many different expressions: from nuns or monks who devote their…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. Regarding a recent reply about the steps to be taken by a man who wanted to return to the Catholic Church after having been a Mormon, I have a similar question, and I wonder if your answer would be the same. Someone close to me, who was a practicing Catholic, now denies the existence of God. If this person…Continue Reading

The Parable Of The Talents

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER First Sunday Of Advent (YR C) Readings: Jer. 33:14-16 1 Thess. 3:12-4:2 Luke 21:25-28, 34-36 In the Gospel reading today our Lord instructs us to “be vigilant at all times and to pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.” In the context…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… Blessed Maria Virgo

By CAROLE BRESLIN When I visited my aunt in St. Louis, Mo., we would visit the basilicas, the museums, and other places of interest. She had many sites near her that were particularly special to her, such as her parish, The Little Flower, in Richmond Heights. In addition, she described a place where she frequently went for eucharistic adoration at…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Raphael Kalinowski

By CAROLE BRESLIN There are many terms we use in our language which are clichés. We hear people say that somebody “kicked the bucket,” meaning that he has died, or “I’ll send you to outer Mongolia,” meaning that they will ship you so far away no one will find you. Fr. Kalinowski not only went to a place just north…Continue Reading